What Motivates Brutus to Join the Conspiracy: Critical Analysis

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Ambition is the driving force behind mankind’s history of success. With ambition, the great leaders of the world have achieved greatness. Yet, there is a delicate balance between just power and corruption. The abuse of ambition can lead to the downfall of anyone, no matter the amount of power they wield. In the play, Julius Caesar, written by William Shakespeare, the character Brutus is a clear example of the toll and triumph ambition can take on a person.

Brutus begins the play as a valued and successful member of society, yet as the play unfolds, his personal ambitions control the course of his fate. Chief among these ambitions includes the betrayal and ultimately, the murder of Caesar. In his conversation with Cassius, Brutus says “What you would work me to, I have some aim. How I have thought of this and of these times I shall recount hereafter; for this present, I would not...be any further moved.” (JC.1.2.163-167). Brutus begins as though the betrayal of Caesar is not his goal, yet it does not take long for his ambition to take over and for him to agree to take up Cassius’ plan. His reply illustrates that he has already thought about it. His ambition and desire to lead peeks through even while he is saying that he would not go any further with it. Later in the play, the reluctance of Brutus’ quest for power is gone. He actively chases the same power that he says has corrupted Caesar and develops the theme of ambition. While speaking to his fellow conspirators in reference to the future of Rome, he says “Am I entreated to speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise if the redress will follow, thou receive thy full petition at the hand of Brutus!” (JC. 2.1.55-58). Brutus explains that Rome needs saving from the corruption of Caesar, and he is the man to achieve it. As soon as Rome requires a leader to take Caesar’s power, Brutus’ ambitions shine through as he proclaims himself righteous enough to be Rome’s savior.

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Brutus’ righteous ambition triumphs when he murders Caesar in the capital. He proclaims this victory by saying “People, and senators, be not affrighted. Fly not, stand still; ambition’s debt is paid.” ( JC. 3.1.90-91). Brutus tells the people that there is nothing to be afraid of because their savior is here. This is a far cry from the man who was so hesitant in speaking of killing Caesar earlier in the play. His ambition has completely changed his character and shows how much power can corrupt a person. After the murder, Brutus now stands like a conquering hero. Like a general in front of an army, Brutus shouts “ And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood, up to the elbows, and besmear our swords; walk we forth...waving our red weapons o’er our heads, let’s all cry, ‘Peace, freedom, and liberty!’” (JC.3.1.117-121). Brutus’ transformation is complete. His character is no longer a hesitant follower with dreams of power. Through his actions, his ambitions to rule have been fulfilled. Brutus has lost the balance between the good of the people of Rome and his own corruption at the hands of ambition. When he tells the crowd that Caesar had to die because of his ambition, this foreshadows that Caesar is not the only one who will be paying a price for power.

Brutus’ ambitions prove to cost him the same price they did Caesar. With the people of Rome now against him after Antony’s eulogy, he realizes his fate. On the battlefield, he confides to the others, saying “The ghost of Caesar hath appeared to me...And, this last night, here in Philippi fields: I know my hour comes.” (JC.5.5.20-23). Caesar’s ghost serves as a sign to Brutus that his ambitions have cost him greatly. His wife, his honor, and the love of the people. This shows how fast ambition can corrupt even the noblest of men. Ambition, and the corruption it inspired, prove to kill Brutus as swiftly as his own sword. After running himself on his own sword, Brutus moans, “Caesar, now be still; I killed not thee with half so good a will.” (JC.5.5.57-58). Brutus is left dying with an overwhelming sense of remorse. He regrets killing Caesar more than he does himself.

Ambition proves to be the downfall of Marcus Brutus. Through the immense amount of power that his ambition brought him, his misuse of it cost him his fate. This cycle of triumph and the toll that ambition inflicts on a person is shown throughout the play Julius Caesar. Brutus’ actions are a key example of this theme. Without the transformation of his character from ambition, the plot of the play would be nonexistent, as his desire for power is the driving force in foretelling Caesar and the conspirators’ fate. This theme shows the viewer that maintaining the balance between power and corruption is crucial in the lives of those ruled and their ruler.

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What Motivates Brutus to Join the Conspiracy: Critical Analysis. (2023, August 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-motivates-brutus-to-join-the-conspiracy-critical-analysis/
“What Motivates Brutus to Join the Conspiracy: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 29 Aug. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/what-motivates-brutus-to-join-the-conspiracy-critical-analysis/
What Motivates Brutus to Join the Conspiracy: Critical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-motivates-brutus-to-join-the-conspiracy-critical-analysis/> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
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