In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, how does Brutus justify Caesar's assassination?

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Brutus and the conspirators kill Julius Caesar because they believe he is bent on tyranny and is set to dissolve the senate (and thereby dissolve the republic of Rome). When Cassius speaks to Brutus to convince him that Caesar must be killed before he can be crowned emperor, Brutus acquiesces and compares Caesar to a serpent.

And therefore think him as a serpent's egg,
Which, hatch'd, would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell

The preemptive action proposed by Cassius and agreed to by Brutus and the other conspirators is meant to defend the voting power of the senate and thus protect the republic of Rome against potential tyranny from a single ruler. 

In explaining the murder to the crowd, Brutus cites this political motive clearly. 

If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer,--
Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.
Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all freemen?
(III, ii)

Thus the murder of Caesar is justified by Brutus as a way of defending the integrity of the state. If Caesar lived, according to Brutus, then all of Rome would have been subject to the whim and the will of Caesar. The voting power of the senate would have been nullified. The people's interests then would have had no representation in the government. 

What we should note is how carefully Brutus delineates the actions of the conspirators from the ambition of Caesar. Having violently deposed the leader of the senate and now standing as the next in line to leadership, Brutus is compelled to suggest that he is not ambitious. He goes to great lengths to paint Caesar as the ambitious figure and to depict himself as a humble servant of Rome. 

Should we trust Brutus in his self-avowed humility? 

The play lets us believe that Brutus, by and large, is a true patriot. Yet he is sly. He accepts advice from those he agrees with and rejects advice from others, thereby making himself seem open to suggestion while he may actually be simply keeping his own council. Brutus is certainly troubled by his actions and we might wonder just how best to understand his character and his motives. 

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In his speech to the Roman crowd after Caesar's assassination, Brutus emphasizes first that he was Caesar's dear friend, but that he had to kill him for the good of Rome. In short, he claims that his action demonstrated "not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more." It was out of a sense of duty to the Roman Republic, which Brutus argued was under threat due to Caesar's ambition:

As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.

He concludes his speech by offering the citizens of Rome a stark choice, essentially arguing that had Caesar survived, he would have deprived them of their status as citizens of a free republic, and because none wanted to see that happen, Brutus says, "none have I offended." The crowd agrees with Brutus, but of course is then swayed by Antony's oration, which drew heavily on pathos.

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Why does Brutus decide to assassinate Caesar in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

Brutus is the primary character in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Cassius knows that he needs to have Brutus as a member of the conspiracy.  He is popular with the Roman citizens and the other senators as well. 

With his sensitivity and logical thinking, Brutus is troubled by Caesar’s rise to power.  He has been a trusted friend of Caesar’s; but now, Brutus has pulled away from everyone.  Cassius tells Brutus that his friends have noticed that there is something wrong with how Brutus is acting.  Brutus explains that he is at war within himself.

In Act I, Scene ii, Cassius explains his feelings about Caesar to Brutus.  Cassius does like Caesar.  He thinks that he is weak, no more worthy to be the emperor than is Cassius, and he has had to save his life on two occasions.  This infuriates Cassius that now Caesar is like a god to the people. 

Brutus tells Cassius that he will think about everything that he has said with regard to Caesar being crowned.  Then, he asks Cassius to come to his house at another time to discuss things further.

Act II, Scene ii, begins with Brutus in his garden.  He asks Lucius to tell him with the date is.  Lucius tells him that it is the Ides of March.  It is obvious that Brutus has not slept. 

Unlike Cassius, Brutus has nothing against Caesar personally.  It is the possibility of Caesar becoming more powerful that worries Brutus. Brutus uses the idea that the assassination of Caesar must be for the good of the Roman citizenry. In a soliloquy, Brutus gives three analogies to explain why he believes that Caesar should be killed. 

These  analogies explain Brutus’s reasoning  for killing Caesar:

It must be by his death, and, for my part, 
I know no personal cause to spurn at him, 
But for the general...

  1. The first analogy that Brutus uses concerns a venomous snake that a person may come upon while walking. A man must avoid the serpent since the snake can be dangerous.  If the crowd wants Caesar to be king, then this might spur him to be crowned. As the snake given the opportunity to bite someone, Caesar may become too powerful. 
  2. The second analogy replicates the scene of a man climbing the ladder of success. 
    As the man climbs, he needs the support of other people to help him up.  When attains the top and becomes successful, he forgets about those who gave him aide as he ascended.  Caesar may do this as well. 
  3. The last example is a nest of serpent eggs.  The serpent inside the egg is harmless. It is not until he comes out of the egg that the snake then has the potential to sting a person. To prevent this from happening, kill the snake while it is the egg, he does not have the opportunity to hurt someone.  This is why Caesar should be assassinated.  Kill him like the serpent’s egg before he can become too powerful.

Unfortunately, Brutus has made an unusual decision: Murder  Caesar based on possibilities, rather than on things that he has actually done.  When Cassius, Brutus becomes a part of the assassination to kill Caesar. 

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What justification for Caesar's assassination does Brutus give to the people in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is so very relevant today, especially when the reader examines the characters as representative of personality types. Brutus is, of course, the ideologue and his counterpoint, Cassius, is the practical-minded man; however, in order to solicit the aid of Brutus in the conspiracy, Cassius knows he must feign the ideologue because rarely does an ideologue stoop to doing what is practical or exigent. 

Therefore, even though he has been swayed by forged letters thrown over his orchard wall, even though his wife has had premonitions in her dreams the night before, and even though Brutus has little or no empirical proof that Caesar does want to become emperor, in his mind previously praised by Cassius, he wonders if Caesar will continue to be just and honorable (as he has been) if he should be given the power of an emperor. Finally, then, based solely upon his personal perceptions and ideology, which have been clouded by Cassius's machinations, Brutus decides--objectively, he believes--that Caesar must be killed on theory. He feels Caesar might become tyrannical:

...think of him as a serpent's egg
Which hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous. (2.1.32-33)

In his idealism Brutus also fails to comprehend the warnings of Cassius about Marc Antony and his practical advice to slay him. Nor does he listen to Cassius's most practical advice that Antony can do irreparable damage to them and to Rome and he should be immediately killed. Instead, the idealistic Brutus trusts Antony to be honorable, too. Of course, Brutus makes a grievous mistake and Antony in his personal revenge, initiates a civil war, the worst condition which a country can suffer.

Antony, who understands people, creates the seeds of doubt about Brutus in the minds of the pleblians, when previously, Brutus has eloquently and idealistically delivered his message that he killed Caesar because he loved Rome more. Earlier he has said,

...and then is death a benefit
So are we Caesar's friends, that have abridged 
His time of fearing death. (3.1.)

And, it is this message that he delivers to the Roman citizens, asking the rhetorical question,

Had you rather that Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men? (3.1.)

Thus, Brutus killed Caesar on theory, because of his idealism. This is a fragile argument if the character of Brutus as anything less than noble can be established. Indeed, defamation is exactly what Marc Antony has accomplished as he brings forth actual documents and practical decisions of Caesar into his argument. He creates questions about the integrity of the assassins. "For Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all honorable men."

Truly, "Between the Idea and the Reality....lies the Shadow" as T. S. Eliot wrote. Brutus, the idealist brings civil war onto the Romans and shatters the State. Idealism rarely works because it is never practical.

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What justification for Caesar's assassination does Brutus give to the people in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

The title character of William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar is killed by his so-called friends about halfway through the play. Brutus was Caesar's close friend, yet he participated in the murder. To his credit, it was not an easy decision for Brutus to join in with the others; to his discredit, his self-deliberations were not enough and he was too easily swayed.

Brutus finally joins the conspirators because he allows himself to be convinced that Caesar was going to do nothing but grow in his ambition, something that would eventually become detrimental to the country. 

After the assassination, Brutus tries to calm and comfort the upset crowd. He reminds the crowd that he was Caesar's friend and he loved him--but he loved Rome even more. He makes that argument by saying it was 

not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.

He tries to convince them that he saw it as his duty to his country to kill the impending threat which Caesar's overreaching ambition would have cost them all. He makes the point another way:

As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.

At the end of his speech, Brutus gives his fellow citizens a choice. Either they could keep Caesar or they could be glad that Brutus and the others saved them from such a power-hungry and ambitious leader. He goes so far as to predict what Caesar would have done to them, including taking away their citizenship in this Republic. Brutus ends this fear-mongering with the conclusion that since no one would have wanted that to happen, "none have I offended."

This is a false choice, of course, but the people buy it and are moved to forgive; however, this feeling is short-lived. Antony follows Brutus and gives a moving speech which appeals to the people's emotions and moves them the other way. 

For more insights and interesting analysis on this and other Shakespeare plays, as well as Shakespeare himself, see the excellent eNotes links attached below. 

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What causes Brutus to undertake the decision to kill Caesar in Julius Caesar?

Brutus has to decide whether or not he should kill Caesar because he is asked by Cassius to join the conspiracy.

Brutus is a senator of Rome, but he is also from an old and very important family. For this reason, Cassius wants him to join the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar. His name will lend legitimacy to their operations.

Cassius explains to Brutus that he is just as important as Caesar, and that it is their own fault if they subject themselves to Caesar’s control.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that 'Caesar'?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name … (Act 1, Scene 2)

Apparently this argument is convincing to Brutus, because he admits that he worries about Caesar’s ambition and agrees to have the conspirators over to his house.

Before they arrive, Brutus has to talk himself into killing Caesar. Caesar is very important to him, and the two of them are close because Caesar is like a father to Brutus. Yet he worries that Caesar is too ambitious, and that he will keep grabbing more and more power for himself.

It must be by his death: and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;
And that craves wary walking.  (Act 2, Scene 1)

Brutus compares Caesar to a baby snake hiding in its shell.  As long as the snakeling is in the shell, it is not dangerous.  However, the minute it comes out it becomes deadly.  Brutus feels that Caesar has done nothing wrong yet, but that he is so ambitious that before long he will become a tyrant. The only thing to do is to stop him before he gets very far.

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Caesar has been chosen by the people. Why do Cassius, Casca, and Brutus decide to assassinate Caesar in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

Julius Caesar was a celebrated general and public figure. His battle victories brought territories, slaves, captives, and money to Rome. His primary opponent, Pompey, was once a member of the government with Caesar. Through greed and ambition, Caesar started a Civil War with Pompey chasing him into north Africa. Pompey was murdered. Eventually, Caesar pursued Pompey’s sons into Spain where he defeated them as well. 

There were still many followers of Pompey who despise Caesar for ascending to power from the death of Pompey. Each of the conspirators had his own reasons for wanted Caesar to be assassinated.

In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Caesar is offered the crown by Marc Antony three times but refuses to take it. Caesar hopes that the Senate will make him emperor of Rome on the Ides of March. Caesar wanted absolute power over Rome. 

Three of the primary conspirators give their reasons for taking the life of Julius Caesar.


Act I, Scene ii

Cassius encounters Brutus. Cassius has instigated a plot to assassinate Caesar. Cassius explains to Brutus is reasons for wanting Caesar killed.

Cassius believes that he is equal to Caesar. He tells Brutus that he saved Caesar’s life. Caesar challenged Cassius to jump into the ocean with their armor on and swim to distant point. Half away across Caesar cried out to Cassius to save him. “Help me, Cassius, or I sink!” Cassius pulled Caesar out of the water.

Caesar had a fever fighting in Spain. He also had a seizure. This man who is proclaimed a god shook like a weak woman. His lips were pale and he moaned and groaned.

Cassius feels that he is an equal to Caesar. When has Rome only had one man, who deserved to have all the power to rule.

Cassius  fails to understand that Caesar’s real power is not affected by his illnesses, but rather rests in his public persona, whose strength is derived from the goodwill and good opinion of the people.


Act I, Scene ii

Casca is a Roman senator who takes part in Caesar's assassination. His primary worry is that Caesar will be crowned king. To him, this goes against the primary ideals of the Roman Republic. He thought the offering of the crown by Antony was distasteful.

Casca believes that Caesar’s fainting spell and the refusal of the crown are used to gain sympathy from the common people.

Why, there was a crown offered him, and being offered him;
he put it by with back of his hand, thus
And then the people fell a-shouting.


Act II, Scene ii

The reasons for Brutus agreeing to the assassination are completely different than Cassius’s reasons. He sincerely wants the best for the Roman people.  His decision is based on possibilities. Brutus determines that Caesar might become too powerful and forget those around him who helped him. He compares Caesar to a poisonous snake. If a person is smart, he will avoid it.

Brutus also  compares Caesar to a serpent’s egg. As long as the snake is in the egg, it can hurt nothing. However, when it comes from the shell, it could be deadly. Consequently, kill the snake in the egg and eliminate the possibility of it harming anyone.

Brutus embarks on a journey that will take not only Caesar’s life but the lives of all the assassins. There are still many followers of Pompey who despise Caesar for ascending to power from the death of Pompey. Each of the conspirators had his own reasons for wanted Caesar to be assassinated.



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