Essay on Tragic Hero in Julius Caesar

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Textual Background

It is thought that Shakespeare composed Julius Caesar between 1599 and 1600 and even though there were many prior accounts of Caesar`s rule and demise, Shakespeare is the only one that follows the other characters, particularly Brutus (Shakespeare`s Plays). The only reliable text of Julius Caesar comes from the First Folio of 1623 and it is believed to be derived from a promptbook by the theatre company rather than Shakespeare, because of the inclusion of stage directions (Greenblatt, Cohen, Howard, & Maus 1555).

Although the First Folio edition is considered dependable, there are a few discrepancies In some of the acts there has been uncertainty regarding some of the minor roles as well as the omittance of some lines or parts of lines. It is possible that the lines were left out or altered due to revisions that someone forgot to remove from the manuscript or the performances The Norton edition of the Anthology of Shakespeare implies that these variations lead to an interesting aspect of Brutus`s character regarding political ideologies and the different morals residing in the public and private domains (Greenblatt, Cohen, Howard, & Maus 1556). Julius Caesar is thought to be one of the first plays performed on the stage of Shakespeare`s famed Globe theatre (Yu 79). According to Stephen Greenblatt in his book about the life of Will Shakespeare, the performances of Julius Caesar and other great plays helped the Globe theatre`s success to the point where in six months' time their rivals at the nearby Rose Theatre packed up and headed across the river (293). It is noted by Dobson and Wells in their Oxford Companion to Shakespeare that the play has remained on the minds of audiences over the centuries with theatrical productions and even film adaptations In fact, Caesar has been a popular choice for school readings, possibly due to the fact that the lewdness which always found its way into Shakespeare`s works seems to be missing (Dobson and Wells 231).

The play is not necessarily thought to be loved so much as admired and appreciated for its powerful themes and the characters that help portray them. Critics and audiences alike applaud Shakespeare for his depiction of the Roman historical event and for apparently being a sympathizer of Brutus' libertarian ideals (Dobson and Wells 231).

Julius Caesar has been well-received over the years but remains dear to the heart of Americans as a statement against oppression It has even been a topic of argument that the true focus of the play is Brutus, who fills the role of a tragic hero, and a critic, Charles Gildon, even suggested that the play be renamed after Brutus (Dobson and Wells 231) Over the years, the question of categorizing Shakespeare`s Roman works has been ever present for Shakespearian fans and scholars Since Brutus can be considered a tragic hero, it stands to reason that the play itself could be considered a tragedy, rather than merely a Roman history play.

In a journal article, John Alvis purports that Caesar is erroneously considered a Roman play, along with Shakespeare`s Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus (115). It is argued that this is a rather broad categorization that does not truly capture the spirit of the works since the criteria for Romans are all external ones which do not allow for the role of theme and character development in the plays (Alvis 116). It would make more sense to label these Roman plays as tragedies, or at least to doubly categorize them as tragic histories or historical tragedies, as suggested by Andrew Bradley in his book regarding the tragedies of William Shakespeare (3) However, journalist Bala Swamy contends that Caesar is a different kind of tragedy since multiple individuals suffer rather than just one main character Greenblatt asserts that although he personally considers Caesar to be tragedy readers should acknowledge that genre was not so important to Shakespeare because the underlying structure of most human history, with its endless pattern of rising and fall, seemed to him tragic, and conversely, tragedy, as he conceived it was rooted in history (296) The generally accepted standard for tragedy, is that it should include an action that invokes fear and pity within the reader or audience (Aristotle).

Pity comes from the seemingly unnecessary but immense suffering that the tragic hero goes through and fear rests in the way the audience relates to the tragic hero because they can see themselves in him.

Based on these ideals, one could guess that Shakespeare thought of all his history plays, not just the Roman ones, as tragedies because they involved something that Elizabethans could relate to concern for the crown.

Greenblatt confirms this by calling Caesar a tragedy apt for a public still intensely anxious about the threat of an assassination attempt against their queen (293) and also in the sense that they are concerned about the royal lineage of who will inherit the crown after Elizabeth`s death.


It is proposed that Julius Caesar is not simply a historical interpretation of the life of the Roman ruler but is more aptly a tragedy with an emphasis on the political corruption of morals The play is about the power rhetoric but also about the distinctive results of that power (Stanivukovic 2) Brutus is the prime example of the corruptive capabilities of power and the split in ethics within the domain of the general public and those of the political sphere The play follows Brutus even after the death of Caesar, resulting in Caesar as the dominating figure but with Brutus serving as the hero (Bradley 7) Marcus Brutus proves to be the tragic hero of the play since it focuses on his internal struggle, or the conflict of the hero`s soul (Bradley 18).

This is noted when he states that he is with himself at war (1.2.48), the conflict that ultimately leads to his downfall.

The audience gains a deep understanding of the workings of the inner mind through Brutus`s soliloquy at the beginning of the second act Shakespeare seems to have improved his soliloquy writing over time (Greenblatt 301) allowing it to become more stream of consciousness, providing insight to the speaker Prior to this external monologue, Cassius has tried to recruit Brutus to join him and Casca in preventing Caesar from taking the throne.

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After this idea has been planted, Brutus cannot help but wonder what would happen if Caesar were to become king.

Marcus Brutus contends that his only concern is for the greater good and although Caesar has served the good of the public thus far, Brutus wonders if Caesar`s character would be changed by the crown:

`It must be by his death, and for my part

I know no personal cause to spurn at him

But for the general. He would be crowned.

How that might change his nature, there`s the question.

It is the bright day that brings forth the adder

And that craves wary walking. Crown him that,

And then I grant we put a sting in him

That at his will he may do danger with(2.1.10-20).


In the end, after analyzing all the elements of the topic, I felt joy and joy as I wrote about this very important and vital research, but despite all that I did not give this research its due, as the poet said: And every word in my words is enough for me and what every meaning in my saying satisfies me. I ask God Almighty that this research attains your satisfaction and approval, and God is the Grantor of success

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Essay on Tragic Hero in Julius Caesar. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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