Compare and Contrast Essay on 'The Tragedy of Julius Caesar'

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What comes to mind when thinking of a story? A majority of the time the first concept that is brought to attention in a story is the hero and the villain. In Julius Caesar, there is no clear hero or villain, but there are characters that have heroic and villainous traits.

Julius Caesar may lack clear heroes and villains, but it does have characters that can seem malicious or valiant. The reason that characters that have these traits are not heroes or villains is that no matter the story, the villain and the hero cannot be on the same side, working together. So, while some of the characters could certainly be seen as a hero or a villain in another story, in Julius Caesar they could not. In addition to the point that heroes and villains cannot work together, there is also the fact that every character in the story has flaws. Each one has shown a side that opposes their nature, meaning that the “heroic” characters have done truly heinous things, while the “villainous” characters have shown sides of themselves that cannot allow for them to be considered a villain. It goes to prove the point that there are no heroes or villains in Julius Caesar, just characters who waver between the lines of hero and villain, some leaning more towards one than the other. The best example of characters that are not heroes or villains, but do hit a few of the marks is Cassius and Brutus.

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Undoubtedly, the character with the most villainous nature is Cassius. Throughout Julius Caesar, Cassius repeatedly commits actions that are selfish and often hurt others. Cassius kills Caesar because he does not approve of him as a ruler. He involves some of Caesar’s best friends just so he can be sure he is not the only one to blame when the time comes. Not only does he kill Caesar, but he also wants to kill Antony to make matters easier for the conspirators. For the most part, Cassius only thinks of himself and only commits actions that he believes will be beneficial to himself. However, in the entire play, there is one moment in which Cassius seems the tiniest bit redeemable. That moment is in the scene of Cassius’ death. His death is self-inflicted and it is caused because he believes that Titinius has been captured and will be killed. This moment is a redeemable one for Cassius since it proves that he cares about a person other than himself and that he feels guilty. Additionally, Cassius can not be a villain while he is working with a character who is on the opposite end of the spectrum, which is Brutus. In the end, though he is not a villain, Cassius is the most malicious character, but he is not irredeemable.

Furthermore, the character that is most valiant in Julius Caesar is Brutus. Time and time again, Brutus makes decisions that are extremely difficult for him, in order to do what he deems necessary for Rome. He kills Caesar, one of his best friends, because he believes that Rome will not be able to flourish with him as a leader. Brutus also decides not to kill Antony, even though it would be easier than leaving him alive. Cassius believes that Antony should be killed in addition to Caesar, but Brutus puts his foot down and says they are not murderers. So, he does not take the easy way out, he remains honorable. With that being said, one of the main reasons that Brutus can not be considered a hero is that he still participates in malevolent acts. He kills Caesar, which is something a hero would not do. A true hero would find another way to save Rome from Caesar’s reign. In addition, Brutus can not be seen as a hero when he is working with Cassius, who does heinous things and cares only about himself. To conclude, Brutus is the most hero-esque character, but he definitely has setbacks that keep him from being an actual hero.

Overall, Cassius and Brutus show the strongest signs of being a villain and a hero, but their partnership keeps them from actually being a villain and a hero. Cassius is malicious but redeemable. Brutus is valiant but still a bit too flawed. The partnership between them is what keeps William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” from having heroes and villains. So, while most basic stories have a hero and a villain, what Shakespeare has written is not just a basic story.


  1. Shakespeare, W. (2003). The tragedy of Julius Caesar. In (R. Sime) & (B. Wahlgren)
  2. (Eds.), Elements of Literature: Fourth Course (pp. 777-877). Austin, Texas: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
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