Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

5) Was assassinating Caesar the right decision?

The conspirators justify the assassination of Caesar by claiming that they want to preserve the Roman Republic, in which no one is king and the ruling aristocrats are equals. If Caesar claims absolute power and becomes crowned as king, the Roman Republic will end as they know it. While Julius Caesar does show that the conspirators have some valid reasons to fear Caesar—mainly because Caesar really does regard himself as superior—the play presents this decision as a mistake in several ways. First, the assassination does not accomplish what the conspirators intended to do—the Republic is never restored, and Antony and Octavius rise up to take Caesar’s place as rulers, with Octavius eventually becoming the first Roman Emperor. Second, the play presents the decision to assassinate Caesar as ultimately Brutus’s decision, and that decision is portrayed as a fateful mistake, a dark choice with sinister consequences. The audience sees Brutus tempted by Cassius’s lies and stratagems, misleading him into thinking the Roman people want him to kill Caesar. The decision itself is made in sinister circumstances, in the midst of a storm and with the conspirators masked. As with any tragedy, this decision leads to Brutus’s inevitable downfall and death.