Julius Caesar

by: William Shakespeare

Antagonist

Main ideas Antagonist

Cassius, Antony, and Caesar himself are all possible antagonists in Julius Caesar. Cassius manipulates Brutus into joining the conspirators in killing Caesar, planting false evidence to convince Brutus to act. Cassius’s motives (envy of Caesar) stand in stark moral contrast to the purity of Brutus’s motives (protecting the citizens from tyranny). Cassius’s manipulation of Brutus’s desire to protect Rome sets the rest of the events of the play in motion. While Cassius convinces Brutus to betray Caesar, Antony sets the course for Brutus's ultimate defeat and death. Brutus initially succeeds in justifying Caesar’s assassination to the Romans, but after Antony passionately speaks to the crowd, the Romans change their mind and decide Caesar’s death was unjustified: “Caesar has had great wrong” (III.ii.) Antony’s ability to manipulate the crowd leads to civil war and Brutus’s suicide. However, Caesar may ultimately be the most important antagonist of the play. He dies before the audience discovers whether power could actually corrupt him, as Brutus and the conspirators fear. However, Shakespeare depicts enough of Caesar to reveal he is not without ambition and power-lust. Caesar’s ambition threatens the stability of the Roman Republic, leading to his assassination and the tragic events of the rest of the play.