Actions have always proved to speak louder than words and thoughts. You can think whatever you want about yourself, and you can perceive yourself in any way but none of that matters when you put that against what you are physically doing to other people. The actions of oneself are what get called into question here. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus carries his love of Rome so heavily on his shoulders that this very love blinds him and his morals thus inducing Brutus to commit irreversible damage and violence, stemming from his false sense of his idealism and honor.
The dominancy Brutus plays in the role of eliminating Caesar has brought on complete and utter futile violence which wouldn't have begun in the first place if it wasn’t for Brutus’s distorted, flawed perception of honor. This is all derived from the wrong form of emotion. Brutus wanted what Caesar had and it went from simple desires to a deadly rivalry. Caesar seemed to have it all, the adoring civilians and Rome effortlessly thrown over his shoulders. Simple as this, people want what they cannot have and Brutus is just another example of this never-ending philosophy. However, Brutus believed it was up to him to save Rome from any destruction Caesar could do to it. There’s something that has to be said about this intense pride but this very thing, was the downfall of Rome and Brutus here.
Brutus had clouded judgment and this can be displayed in many parts of the play, however, the following example stuck out like no other. In the following quote, Brutus apparently can see the future and he just knows that Caesar will be an evil tyrant, “Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel will bear no color for the thing he is / Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented / Would run to these and these extremities / And therefore think him as a serpent's egg / Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous / And kill him in the shell”. (II.I.30-36) Here he’s comparing Caesar to a poisonous egg that has not hatched yet; basically stating that Caesar may not be evil now but he eventually will be, so he must kill him now. This is all pure assumption on Brutus’s part. Assumptions are not a justification for assassination.
The ambivalence Brutus holds toward Caesar is something causeless and if he didn’t have that feeling, the death might as well have never occurred. Brutus loves him, fears him, and he wants to eliminate him; the contradiction is uncanny. In the following quote, Brutus unravels this very self-contradiction, “Brutus: What means this shouting? I do fear, the people / Choose Caesar for their king. / Cassius: Ay, do you fear it? / Then must I think you would not have it so. / Brutus: I would not, Cassius; yet I love him well”. (I.II.85-89) Brutus states that he fears what will happen if the people choose Caesar as king, then he goes on to say that he loves him deeply. He doesn’t know how he feels towards Caesar and that right there, is the definition of ambivalence.
Before Caesar's death, Brutus didn't quite know how he felt about Caesar, but after his death, it becomes clear; Brutus is overwhelmed with guilt. Why would he feel guilty if killing this man was the “best thing” for his country? Brutus acted as a friend to Caesar and then goes on to backstab him, quite literally. No matter what Caesar did, that is clear betrayal and treachery. He never hated him, he hated the idea of who he could become. That’s clear to see now; hindsight is always 20/20. In the following quote, Brutus proves he has a guilty mind and consciousness, “How ill this taper burns! Ha! Who comes here? / I think it is the weakness of mine eyes / That shapes this monstrous apparition. / It comes upon me. Art thou anything? / Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil, / That makest my blood cold and my hair to stare? / Speak to me what thou art”. (IV.III.318-324) He has a dream where a ghost of Caesar comes in. This scene foreshadows that shortly after Brutus killed Caesar, Brutus will join Caesar in death. The guilt in his conscious created this dream. He knows deep down that what he did was wrong and this dream proves that.
Eliminating the threat Caesar supposedly could hold on Rome meant violence in Brutus’s eye. Caesar's assassination took such a toll on the Republic and the people, it just goes to show that even though this act of violence was intended to be beneficial, it shows that violence never brings good outcomes. Brutus throughout the novel shows many signs of unconscious self-destructive behavior. He doesn’t realize anything he’s doing, even up until his own suicide. He literally dies in the name of honor. Brutus kills himself because he thought that suicide would be an honorable action to take rather than face his enemy and be humiliated. He would literally rather die than confront his own rival and frankly, that’s more cowardly than honorable in every which way. So he died with the false sense of honor instilled in him. It wasn’t necessarily his fault and he didn’t necessarily even realize it but that doesn’t matter in the big picture of Ancient Rome. His ideals are out of line and this one flawed side of Brutus was his own downfall. Violence tends to have a snowball effect and Julius Caesar only further proves it. It went from the assassination of Caesar to the death of Brutus, Cassius, Tinnitus, Cato, Portia, Cicero, and many soldiers. Take into the fact that this happened only after Caesar was assassinated because violence builds. Once you start this chain of violence, it typically does not stop for a long time.
The Roman senators did wrong things for what they thought were the right reasons. In the end, it was all for nothing. Brutus said he loved Rome too much to watch it fall in shambles, yet he becomes the very man he thought was going to put Rome in that state, he’s the one who really made it fall into chaos. The love of Rome became its own downfall because of violence.
If the assassination of Caesar never even happened in the first place, nothing would’ve escalated to the level of insanity Rome was in at the time. Of course, no one really knows that and never will but Caesar was bringing wealth and restoration to Rome. Who’s to say that Brutus can have the overwhelming amount of power of killing the man in charge of Rome?
Backstabbing and betraying someone and then taking the life of a man is despicable. Caesar was blind-sighted, he was bombarded and had no idea what was coming his way. The counterargument to that is that Caesar missed all the warning signs and it’s his fault for not realizing this could happen, but can we really blame this man for not noticing every little detail of his supposed friend when Brutus literally killed the man? Brutus is a guy who wanted his ego gratified and the way he justified it, was because of killing Caesar. He claimed that this is honorable and will lead Rome in the right direction. It cannot be said whether he was lying to himself or to the world.
Violence in history has been shown to be effective at times but it’s also been shown to spiral out of control at an alarming rate. At what cost does violence come to, is it really worth it in the end? Brutus, a man with a hefty ego along with his false perception of honor ingrained in him, made him spiral into the man he claimed to be the opposite of. Just the fact that he betrayed Caesar and went behind his back is bad enough, add to that the fact that Brutus is the one who performed the kill shot on Caesar, which is the very reason he’s simply, a bad man; a betraying, untrustworthy, disloyal, unfaithful man who is nowhere near fit enough to have power over a whole republic.
Although Brutus thought he had good intentions for Rome, it doesn’t matter. The act of violence, he committed, of course, ended badly because all things fueled by the wrong emotion/perception and hate will subsequently end just like that, violent and hateful.
- Shakespeare, William, et al. Julius Caesar. Cambridge University Press, 2017.