The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar By William Shakespeare: Battle Between Ethics And Politics
William Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ is clearly a play concerning the tragedy of lost morality in the political sphere but contrary to the plays title the focus is not on Caesar himself but instead on the individuals left behind after his murder. The political tragedy primarily centres around the character Brutus and his inner turmoil as he tries to cope with the circumstances after overthrowing his leader to whom he was exceedingly loyal. Shakespeare explores the blurred line between the political spheres morals and the character’s innate sense of right and wrong through the actions of Brutus especially and how the desire for political power can corrupt one’s virtue.
The constant battle between ethics and politics is primarily embodied in Brutus, for him, morality is closely linked with laws and tradition and this association is the basis for his actions throughout the play and therefore abiding by traditional laws in his eyes is what informs morality. Brutus is easily manipulated and swayed by the other characters because of this. Cassius plays on Brutus’ ideals and his offer of power upon killing Caesar awakens a dark side in Brutus an otherwise nobleman. Cassius learns that Caesar is thrice offered the crown yet he declines, this fills Cassius with jealousy against Caesar and he begins to wish for his downfall, this leads him to manipulate the Senate members into believing that monarchy will be the ultimate outcome if Caesar were to take the throne. (Mehta) “Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves.” Brutus justifies Cassius’ plan to kill his friend in act 3 as the act would prevent Caesar’s probable corruption from the crown and making Rome pay for it if he were to accept offers to become emperor. Although Julius Caesar was not unduly power-hungry, his inability to separate his public and private life and the fact that he was often seduced by the public’s idolization of him gave reason for Brutus’ and Cassius’ suspicions.
The tragedy begins in act 2 when Brutus starts to consider the fact that Caesar must be killed in order to prevent him from being corrupted by his power, even though Brutus admits he has never seen his friend swayed by power in the past. He becomes a traitor to his friend claiming that it is for the good of Rome, when in fact it was actually self-serving. (Mehta) Brutus compares Caesar to the egg of a serpent “which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous”; thus, he determines to “kill him in the shell”. His sense of virtue begins to become blurred by the idea of power and his obsession with political righteousness. His final decision ultimately determines the fate of everyone in his world as well as affects the natural line to the throne. (Mehta) In making his decision he begins to explore his own desire for power which up to this point remained unseen, even to himself. Another important point to consider when Brutus is being persuaded at his meeting with the senators is that Brutus opposes the idea to assassinate Caesar’s close confidant Mark Anthony due to the fact that it would distort their own ethics and that doing more heinous acts than necessary would make the conspirators tyrannical themselves. (Mehta) This is ironic because the proposal to kill his friend Caesar who thus far into the play is an innocent man, based upon a conspiracy is already an act that goes against basic virtue. Once again this informs the tragedy of the play of lost morality in the political sphere.
At Caesar’s funeral, Brutus delivers a remarkable speech that allows the distressed crowd to forget their fury and listen with absolute attention to his reason for killing their respected ruler. He appeals to the crowd by comparing their love for Caesar to his own love for him and his appreciation for their friendship. He then gives his explanation for killing the beloved emperor to be, he stated to the crowd that Caesar although he was a valiant person, he was too much of a threat to Roman society in the sense that he was too ambitious. He needed to kill Caesar in order to protect the people’s freedom and to protect Rome from tyranny; “If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less but I loved Rome more”. Thus justifying the assassination of Caesar and depicting himself as the humble servant of Rome using his excellent oratory skills to win over the people.
The speech that follows given by Mark Anthony to the crowd highlights the immoral deed committed by the republicans as he counters questions the allegations posed by Brutus in his speech about Caesar’s ambition. “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, you all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?”. This speech proved to the crowd just how unjust the republican’s actions were when killing Caesar. It calls attention to Brutus’ and Cassius’ clouded judgement and their blurred moral values as they failed to see any benefits to Caesar’s potential kingship. Anthony calls Brutus an “honourable man” yet we know this is untrue as he willingly killed his close friend.
Brutus spends the rest of the play immersed in his own inner battle even to the point of his own suicide after going to battle with Mark Anthony and his men, for which Brutus takes the blame. Yet even in his death, he has been deemed an honourable man. When Mark Anthony finds Brutus’ body on the battlefield he tells Octavius that he was the only man who participated for the right reasons remarking that he was an honest man and that he meant well in what he did for Rome and to his close friend, he reflects on his legacy and titles him “the noblest Roman of them all”. Therefore we as the audience can view Brutus as the play tragic hero, Brutus embodied the core Roman values through his honour, nobility and bravery in the final scenes. Brutus suicide proves that he may not have been lying about his true motive for killing Caesar as his self-inflicted wounds serve as a symbol for his statements made at Caesar’s funeral, it proves that Brutus did in fact care for the future of Rome, as he sacrificed himself for the good of the empire.
To conclude, I agree with the statement that the play ‘Julius Caesar’ is ultimately about the tragedy of lost morality in the political sphere. The play is considered a tragedy due to the many unfortunate deaths, many of which being carried out by individuals whose motives have been clouded by the idea of political power and their own intrinsic moral codes. The character Brutus proves the point throughout the play that no matter how an individual starts out, all of us are susceptible to our innermost desires and dark wishes. The two sides are demonstrated through the existence of the public sphere of morality in the play. This idea can also be seen in Cassius whose power-hungry incentives drive him to persuade Brutus to do the foul deed of killing Caesar. In the playlets, we believe that Brutus is a true patriot, yet his traitorous behaviour says otherwise. Brutus always has the power to agree or disagree with the people around him but he lets his own morals and strict political code steer his actions and consequently lead him to his devastating fate. All in all, Brutus is not entirely an evil person, he is a good man who did a bad thing and in turn, is severely troubled by his actions. The tragedy that is ‘Julius Caesar’ conveys the results of how greed and extreme politically driven actions can affect society but also the toll it takes on an individual as well.
Brutus is an unpredictable character just as the play’s a catastrophic hero. Throughout the story, you can learn and comprehend how he works. Brutus is a well known figure to the people of Rome and a companion to Julius Caesar. Through the entire story Brutus was having a self vs self conflict. In the play, Brutus’ unrealistic vision happens to be his best trait, but, it is also the thing that hurt him the most. Brutus is portrayed as respectable...
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...
Not only one factor is to blame for the tragic death of Caesar, but his death also happened due to a combination of factors and fate. These factors include Caesar’s personal faults- how he could have avoided his own death, Cassius’ cruelty- how he convinced Brutus and the rest of the conspirators to kill Caesar, the misguided conspirators who were the ones who did directly kill him, and fate, which due to all the omens, did have some part to...
Some people say that it is easier to forgive an enemy than a friend because of the pain you receive when a friend hurts you When a friend betrays you and the friendship you hold, the wound is cut deeper than the one an enemy makes. But what exactly is betrayal? Betrayal is simply the breaking of trust or connection between two or more people who had once shared. The theme of betrayal is shown many times in William Shakespeare’s,...
The acquisition and maintenance of power within the political landscape are shaped by an individual’s compromise between private ambition and public image. William Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar (1599), is a study of a multitude of characters and their distinctive strategies for attaining power through their understanding of the nature of politics. Shakespeare explores this idiosyncratic notion by examining the influence of rhetoric that shapes, and is shaped by, one’s attitude toward power and ambition. The play also represents the impracticality...
In Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Lord Voldemort attempted to kill young Harry Potter and succeeded in killing Harry’s parents in order to stop a prophecy concerning the child. This plan backfired as Lord Voldemort could never succeed in killing Harry due to special circumstances involving Harry’s parents that occurred when Lord Voldemort first tried to kill Harry. This situation shows how the purposeful harm of others is not acceptable and will have unwanted repercussions that occur due to the...
In the play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare, two speeches both different in context are given to the citizens of Rome discussing/stating Caesar’s death. In this play, Brutus and Antony try to persuade the citizens of Rome to believe what they believe. Antony tries to state the fact that the conspirators were traitors and that they were basically the cause of Caesar’s death. They committed an act of brutality on Caesar in other words. Brutus on...
All actions have consequences is something that has been drilled into every person’s mind since the minute they first got into trouble. However, people seem to forget about this idea until after the deed is done and the consequences start to arrive. But, what a lot of people seem to forget is that consequences can be both good and bad. In the play Julius Caesar, the author shows that this idea does not only apply in the modern world but...
“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” On an airplane, the safety procedures indicate that, in the case of an emergency, one should place the oxygen mask on himself before placing it on others. By putting oneself first, this regulation ensures that one is physically capable to help others. This concept of putting oneself and the greater cause first is not...
01 / 09
Fair Use Policy
EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.