Julius Caesar

by: William Shakespeare


Be not deceived. If I have veiled my look, I turn the trouble of my countenance Merely upon myself. Vexèd I am Of late with passions of some difference, Conceptions only proper to myself, Which give some soil perhaps to my behaviors. But let not therefore, my good friends, be grieved— Among which number, Cassius, be you one— Nor construe any further my neglect Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war, Forgets the shows of love to other men. (1.2.39-49)

In these first words spoken by Brutus in the play, Brutus describes his inner struggle about the current status of Rome. He explains to Cassius that he is struggling between his love for Caesar and his concern that Caesar’s assumed ambition will cause harm to Rome. This conversation also reveals the close relationship between Brutus and Cassius.

I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus, As well as I do know your outward favor. (1.2.92-93)

While Cassius and Brutus discuss honor, Brutus tells Cassius that he “loves the name of honor more than he fears death.” Here, Cassius explains that he agrees, revealing that he sees this quality of honor in Brutus. Throughout the play, Brutus is described as honorable through his intentions, his treatment of others, and his loyalty to Rome.

Be patient till the last. Romans, countrymen, and lovers! Hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear. Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor that you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses that you may the better judge. If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say that Brutus’s love to Caesar was no less than his. 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. (3.2.14-28)

Brutus makes this speech to the Roman public and the audience soon after he and his fellow conspirators kill Caesar. In his words, Brutus tries to explain to the people that his reasons were honorable and just, highlighting his loyalty to Rome and his belief that killing Caesar was justified because it was for the good of the Roman people.

And it is very much lamented, Brutus, That you have no such mirrors as will turn Your hidden worthiness into your eye That you might see your shadow. I have heard Where many of the best respect in Rome, Except immortal Caesar, speaking of Brutus And groaning underneath this age’s yoke, Have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes. (1.2.57-64)

During a discussion in Act 1, Cassius vows to remind Brutus of Brutus’s positive attributes since Brutus does not recognize this glory in himself. Here, Cassius explains to Brutus how the people of Rome respect him and complain about Caesar’s tyranny. Cassius’s words reveal Brutus’s modesty and his high regard in Rome, as well as Cassius’s loyalty to Brutus even if Cassius’s ambitions are less than honorable.

I would not, Cassius. Yet I love him well. But wherefore do you hold me here so long? What is it that you would impart to me? If it be aught toward the general good, Set honor in one eye and death i' th' other, And I will look on both indifferently, For let the gods so speed me as I love The name of honor more than I fear death. (1.2.84-91)

Brutus reveals the internal conflict he faces between his public and private identity. On one side, Brutus personally loves Caesar, but on the other side, he admits that his loyalty to his Roman public will come before his love for Caesar. While Brutus is well respected because of his loyalty to Rome, it is this inner conflict that is Brutus’s undoing.

Judge me, you gods! Wrong I mine enemies? And if not so, how should I wrong a brother? (4.2.39-40)

In questioning Cassius’s accusation that Brutus has wronged him, Brutus defends his own character. He claims that he cannot even be unkind to his enemies, so he would never mistreat a friend. At this point in the play, the audience may agree with this statement except that Brutus had a role in the death of Caesar, who he did consider a friend.

No man bears sorrow better. Portia is dead. . . . O insupportable and touching loss! (4.3.151-155)

After Brutus reveals how upset he is at the news of Portia’s death, Cassius recognizes the weight of this news on Brutus. Brutus’s grief reveals his very personal and private love for Portia. However, the fact that Brutus then quickly moves on in their battle against Antony shows that Brutus separates his love for Portia from his public quest for Rome. Ultimately, Rome will come above all in Brutus’s heart.

What villain touched his body, that did stab, And not for justice? What, shall one of us That struck the foremost man of all this world But for supporting robbers, shall we now Contaminate our fingers with base bribes, And sell the mighty space of our large honors For so much trash as may be graspèd thus? I had rather be a dog and bay the moon Than such a Roman. (4.3.20-28)

Here, Brutus argues with Cassius regarding their original goal and why they killed Caesar. Brutus is questioning Cassius’s loyalty to Rome while reaffirming why he agreed to kill Caesar. Through this strong statement and by standing up to Cassius, Brutus once again shows his honorable intentions and loyalty to the good of Rome.

There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, For I am armed so strong in honesty That they pass by me as the idle wind. (4.3.70-72)

As Brutus argues with Cassius, he shows confidence in his own principles and honor. Brutus declares that he is not afraid of Cassius’s threats because he believes that his honesty and integrity make him stronger than Cassius. This declaration connects to the theme of loyalty shown through Brutus’s character and the theme of power displayed when Brutus becomes a tragic hero due to this same honor.

This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators save only he Did that they did in envy of great Caesar. He only in a general honest thought And common good to all, made one of them. His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, “This was a man.” . . . According to his virtue let us use him, With all respect and rites of burial. (5.5.75-80)

At the end of the play, Antony and Octavius speak of Brutus after his death. Even though Brutus was technically their enemy, they still respect him because of his honorable intentions and qualities. Both men understand that Brutus only went against Caesar because he believed he was doing what was best for Rome. Therefore, in these lines, Antony and Octavius reveal Brutus as a tragic hero.