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What Is Not an Example of Conflict in the Tragedy of Julius Caesar: Essay

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“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 unique to airplanes. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, this is proven through Brutus’s internal struggle and his guilt over killing a friend where he displays that when friendships are rivaled against loyalty to the greater good, they can cause conflict.

Brutus’s initial struggle occurs when Cassius approaches him with a deep concern for Rome. The two feared that if Caesar became king, Rome will perish. Because of Cassius’s concern, Brutus is confronted with a decision between an enterprise that ensures the well-being of Rome and his friend Caesar. In solitary, he delivers a powerful soliloquy that emphasizes his internal conflict: “Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar / I have not slept / Between the acting of dreadful thing / And the first motion, all the interim is / Like a phantasma or a hideous dream” (II.I 61-65). This excerpt demonstrates the raging debate that is taking place in the mind of Brutus; he can’t stop thinking about the importance of killing Caesar, but the thought of killing a friend is almost unfathomable. His internal battle demonstrates how friendships and the greater good can arise a conflict of interest. Subsequently, Brutus’s wife, Portia, finds him in his orchard. Her concerns for him have grown; even though he generally has a stoic manner, she can tell that there is something serious on his mind. She states, “It will not let you eat, nor talk, nor sleep, /And, could it work so much upon your shape / As it hath much prevailed on your condition” (II.I 263-265). Portia reveals that he has not been taking care of himself, which shows that he is replete with visible inner turmoil and grief. This comes from his split between two importance in his life which proves the power struggle that comes with choosing between the perceived greater good and friendship. Along with this internal struggle, there are repercussions that ensue with the choice between friendship and the greater good.

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Later in the book, after Caesar is killed, Brutus faces more conflict that follows choosing the greater good over friendship. Even though Brutus is a stoic character, his guilt is revealed when the ghost of Caesar reappears to remind Brutus of his evil deed. In this scene, Brutus asks Caesar’s spirit why he is there, in response, he states, “To tell thee thou shall see me at Philippi” (IV.III. 319). In this, Caesar’s ghost is warning Brutus of his coming fate. The ghost of Caesar appears late at night when everyone else is asleep, this represents that Brutus is feeling severe remorse for killing his friend and cannot sleep revealing that Brutus is still facing the same internal conflict. In the end, the two dead bodies of his friends are all Brutus sees in some of the final moments of his life. He mourns, “O, Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet! / Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords / In our own proper entrails” (V.IV. 100-103). In other words, Brutus is describing how the ideas of March are still being lived out. Cassius, the head of the conspiracy, is now dead and Brutus is the final pillar remaining from the ides of March. In his defeat, Brutus kills himself; in his final words, he states, “Caesar, be now still; / I killed not thee with half so good a will” (V.V. 57-58). In these powerful statements, Brutus explains how his decision, no matter how well it was thought out, betrayed his friend. He knows why he has to die, he killed a friend for a perceived greater good. In the end, Caesar’s death was expected to bring prosperity and justice but ended in the downfall of their lovers.

Loyalty to the greater good of others is a force that when pitted against friendships can bring lethal consequences. Brutus displays this through his internal conflict, guilt, and his ultimate death. Unlike airplane regulations, people are often not told when to put themselves before others in everyday life. Due to this inconsistency, the discord between friendships and the greater good remains hostile.

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