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Marcus Brutus As The Tragic Hero In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

1280 words - 5 pages

Brutus as the Tragic Hero in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Because of Shakespeare's popularity among scholars and literary critics, his plays have been studied time after time. In the four hundred or so years since they were written, Shakespeare's plays and other literary masterpieces have been categorized. Many of them, including Shakespeare's portrayal of Julius Caesar's murder and the resulting events for Rome and for Caesar's conspirators, have been put into the "tragedies" category. According to the specifications and qualifications for a Shakespearean tragedy, Brutus, one of the men who conspired against Julius Caesar, can be considered a tragic hero. Despite the fact that Brutus can be considered a tragic hero, I don't feel that he has the qualities and traits of a true hero.

The first element of a Shakespearean tragedy is the requirement of a tragic hero. This tragic hero must be a person of nobility whose moral decisions will influence society in one way or another. He or she has some sort of tragic flaw and is forced to make a decision at some point that will lead to his or her suffering and death. In Julius Caesar, you can see that Brutus meets these requirements. For example, a Plebian (citizen of Rome) says, "The noble Brutus is ascended. Silence!" (3.2.11). When looking for a tragic flaw in Brutus, we find many - he is easily influenced, has difficulty in looking ahead, is too proud for capture, is naïve to the whole picture, and has split loyalties. I believe the flaw that has the greatest influence on Brutus and his decisions is that he is easily influenced. Because of the strong influences others have on Brutus, the conspirators easily persuade him to make decisions he probably wouldn't have otherwise made. You see in 1.2.90-161 and 2.1.86-233 that Brutus is persuaded to kill Caesar, even though he isn't quite sure he wants to do it. His final decision to kill Caesar eventually leads to a civil war and to Brutus' suicide (the suffering and death requirement of a Shakespearean tragic hero).

The second element of a Shakespearean tragedy is the role of chance - chance plays a role in the final outcome of the tragedy, but the decisions characters make are more important and more influential to the outcome. In Julius Caesar, there are many examples of chance throughout the play. One such example is when Brutus lets his army fight too soon. Brutus was probably very anxious about the battle and wanted to get it over with, especially since he had seen Caesar's ghost. Seeing a ghost is not an everyday incident, but a strange, chance occurrence. After the argument between Cassius and Brutus in 4.3, Caesar's ghost visits Brutus and says, "To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi." (4.3.283). This uncommon supernatural event got Brutus worried and made him want to get the battle over with before something bad happened at Philippi.

The third element of a Shakespearean tragedy is that the tragic hero must take a moral stand....

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