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Reports & Essays: Literature - Shakespeare


Julius Caesar Analysis
Aristotle was perhaps the pioneer of modern day dramas, more specifically dramatic tragedies. He first defined what a tragedy is: A drama which contained hubris, pathos and/or bathos, and the most valued element in a tragedy, a tragic hero. This was usually the main character who is noble in his deeds, yet has one flaw which causes him to fall. The tragic works of Shakespeare were no exception. In the drama, Julius Caesar the reader can clearly see many of the principles of a tragedy. That is all except for the tragic hero. Ideas as to who is the tragic hero range from Cassius to Julius Caesar himself. The trouble is all characters have material to prove and disprove them. However the hypothesis that Marcus Brutus is the tragic hero is incorrect. One element to a tragic hero is the hero has only one tragic flaw, and Brutus clearly has more than one flaw in his character. The first flaws in Brutus character is his naivete and the assumptions he makes about other characters. Through out the entire story these two flaws are reflected in many of his decisions and actions. A specific example is his view on the Roman populace. Thinking all Romans are honorable and noble it is not only incorrect, but it plagues him until the very end of the play. One instance occurred as the conspirators were meeting. Brutus stated, Lets kill him boldly, but not wrathfully...... This shall make our purpose necessary and not envious.... (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 2.1. 172 & 177-178). He honestly believed that all involved were going to kill Caesar for honorable reasons. Not once did he question the motives of everyone, where, in reality Brutus probably was the only involved for noble reasons. Brutus undoubtedly convinces the reader of his own naivete when he states, ... let us bathe our hands in Caesars blood... Lets all cry ^Peace, freedom, and liberty!! (3.1. 106 & 110) Just by his enthusiasm, Brutus is not aware of any other motives. He simply believes that , Peace, freedom, and liberty are the only motives. Another example was during his speech at Caesars funeral. ... not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more (3.2. 18-20). Addressing the nobility of his actions and his love for Rome, Brutus surmises that the people understand him because of their equal love for their country. This assumption is evident because he uses it as the sole reason for killing Caesar. A reason that Brutus believes the people agree with, otherwise he would not use it to rationalize such a crime. Lastly that same lack of insight is seen in when Brutus declares, ... I have done no more to Caesar than you shall do to Brutus (3.2. 28-29) Paraphrased he says that the people would do the same to him if he became ambitious, as he did to Caesar for becoming ambitious. Yet the people hardly understand him. One citizen proves that! when he states, Caesars better parts Shall be crowned in Brutus (3.2 39-40). The citizen completely misses the point Brutus is trying to make, and blurts out a random, ignorant comment. Throughout all the naive decisions and assumptions Brutus still has another downfall. A flaw that is closely related, but still different. The second flaw seen in Brutus is his one sided perception of many things. His perceptions of attitudes, values, beliefs, and more. This can be seen during his funeral speech. Focusing only on the political aspects of the assassination, he not once stops to consider that Caesar was more than a representation of the future Rome, but a person too. I slew my best lover for the good of Rome ( 3.2. 33-34) says Brutus. He dose not once grieve for Caesar, or show remorse for Caesar. He innocently addresses only one side of the situation. This incorrect perception is then used against him n Cassius speech. Cassius makes it plain to the audience that Brutus did not view Caesar as a person, and therefore convincing the crowd against Brutus. A second example of Brutus poor perception was after the assassination. As Rome's situation turned into civil war Brutus still speaks of honor and nobility. ... Did not great Julius bleed for justice sake? ( 4.3. 19) , ... I am armed so str! ong in honesty(4.3. 67), our legions are brimful, our cause is ripe (4.3. 214). On and on he goes focused on what he still deems important. Once again Brutus perception is incorrect and reality is much different. Not many still value honestly, and most know that at those times, it would not help you move ahead. Rome begins to fall, and what hopes of saving it do not center around the honorable and noble point of view Brutus clings on to. Yet it is his flaw that he is ignorant of such things. One flaw, that are many within Brutus. Brutus has two, maybe three, distinct flaws in his character, and many downfalls. Brutus first is naive, and assumes to much about the people of Rome. He does listen to them, but what he hears is either misinterpreted, or it is set aside because it does not agree with his preconceived notions of what the populace should be saying. All of this makes it very clear that Brutus is not the tragic hero. Who then is the hero? As stated before, there is concrete evidence proving and disproving many other characters. But then is Julius Caesar truly a tragedy? Does not a tragedy have a clear tragic hero? Nobody will ever know. But whether Julius Caesar is a tragedy as most believe, or a historical account as others believe, it is a beautiful work of art. Literature at its very best, something that will never be forgotten.

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