Julius Caesar is a play by William Shakespeare, based on the rule of Julius Caesar and focussing on the conspiracy surrounding his assassination. It’s set in the Ancient Roman Empire in 44 BC, shortly after the defeat of Pompey. It conveys the ideas of trust, loyalty and betrayal. The character of Brutus encounters many conflicts throughout the play, and his decisions influence not only his own future but also that of his greatest love Rome, changing it forever.
Brutus encounters an internal conflict at the beginning of Act 2 Scene 1. Cassius has just planted a false letter through Brutus’ window, telling of how the Romans want Caesar gone. Brutus, who loves nothing more than Rome, has decided to go ahead with Cassius and the other conspirators and kill Caesar. He is awake in the early hours of March 15th- also known to us as the ‘Ides of March’. “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 crown’d”. This quote distinctively tells us that yes, the honourable Brutus is doing it ‘for the general’, meaning, no personal grudge against Caesar is driving him to do it, only the good of Rome. He believes that is Caesar remains dictator, he will be crowned king, and that would not end well. Brutus believes Caesar is too ambitious, and feels if Caesar was king, he would become too power hungry. “Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, I have not slept. Between the acting of a dreadful thing, and the first motion, all the interim is, like a phantasma or a hideous dream. The genius and the mortal instruments, are then in council, and the state of a man, like to a little kingdom, suffers then, the nature of insurrection.” In this quote, Shakespeare describes to us how Brutus is feeling through a spoken thought. He wants readers/audience members to know that among the conspirators, Brutus was the only one doing it for no personal gain. We encounter Brutus only hours from when he is to carry out the murder of Caesar, and it is shown to us how truly unsure he is of doing it. He is an honourable and good man, and he knows what he is about to do is wrong. Just because Brutus is murdering Caesar, it doesn’t mean he does not know how terrible it is. Shakespeare clearly outlines this conflict by Brutus being awake all night, unable to sleep for the dreadful crime he is to commit. Shakespeare uses scenes like this one to warn us about overthinking and selling yourself into other’s mindsets, and what it can drive some to do. In today’s society we are often sold into opinions or products after seeing them endorsed by celebrities and different medias, and we can often be blindsided by what we are exposed to.
A second conflict that Brutus encounters is shortly after Caesar’s death when Cassius is angry at Brutus over him finding a man, Lucius Pella, guilty of taking bribes for Cassius’ army. Brutus is angry that Cassius didn’t send his own struggling army funds when he asked for them, when Cassius had money aplenty due to taking bribes. “That you have wrong’d me doth appear in this: you have condemned Lucius Pella for taking bribes here of the Sardians, wherein my letters, praying on his side, because I knew the man, was slighted off.” In this quote, Cassius tells Brutus that he ignored Cassius’ letters that pleaded on Lucius’ behalf, and sentenced him anyway. Brutus argues that Cassius should not be taking the bribes of gold and money in the first place, and he has ‘wrong’d himself’ in a sense. “The name of Cassius honours this corruption, and chastisement doth therefore hide his head…… Remember March, the Ides of March remember: did not great Julius bleed for justice’ sake? What villain touch’d his body, that did stab, and not for justice? What, shall one of us, that struck the foremost man of all this world, but for supporting robbers, shall we now, contaminate our fingers with base bribes and sell the mighty space of our large honours and for so much trash as may be grasped thus? I had rather be a dog and bay the moon than such a Roman.” This quote displays Brutus’ anger at Cassius, and it shows his true values of honesty, trust and fairness. ‘The name of Cassius honours this corruption”…. Brutus is saying that Cassius is condoning injustices such as bribes, when ‘great Julius bled for justice’ sake’. He realises through Cassius’ actions that Cassius didn’t kill Caesar for justice, but for jealousy. Cassius makes the excuse that he is an older, much more practiced soldier than Brutus, but Brutus is disgusted by Cassius’ dishonourable actions that he basically says: no, I think otherwise. Shakespeare used this scene to show the difference between Cassius and Brutus, though both killers, that Cassius was doing it for his own personal gain, whereas Brutus was doing it for Rome. Shakespeare shows us within this scene that it is very easy to trust the wrong people, and often those you trust only have their own best interests at heart. I, along with most other teenage girls, can make a personal connection to what it feels like to have trust in someone, only for them to break it. This makes it hard to know who you can have faith in and who you can’t, and many girls suffer from trust issues and anxiety due to this.
Brutus’ final conflict is an internal one that brings him to his gruesome but peaceful end. Brutus shows regret over killing Caesar, as he has finally realised that Cassius tricked him into thinking in his frame of mind. He feels the only penance for killing Caesar is now killing himself. He speaks of his regret in murdering Caesar before running onto his sword, held by Strato. “I killed not thee with half so good a will”. Brutus knows that the most honourable thing he can do now is take his own life more willingly than he ever took Caesar’s. This scene is our last encounter of Brutus, and though he is in the hour of his death, he is calm and collected, knowing what he is about to do is for the best. Shakespeare leads him out of the play the way he brought him in- an honest and principled man. Although this scene shows a calm Brutus, we can only imagine how he must be feeling in this scene. Regret for murdering Caesar, willingness to die but also unhappiness at the thought of leaving his beloved Rome behind. His feelings could have taken over, but because of his character strengths of determination and bravery they did not. You can almost feel his own pain and suffering as you read his last scene. His final words, “I killed not thee with half so good will”, show exactly how he feels: he killed Caesar with nothing but unhappiness, whereas he kills himself with all his will. Shakespeare used this scene to demonstrate an act of penance, and though suicide is not the answer ever, this scene shows the making right of things you have done wrong through selflessness and loss of pride. In today’s society, people use social media to apologise for things they have done wrong rather than make them right.
Marcus Brutus was one of the most courageous men ever to live, in my opinion, because not only did he take someone’s life for what he believed was the greater good, which could have gotten him in enormous trouble, he also had the bravery to admit his wrongs, something men struggle with, especially those who hold positions of power. Brutus decided to kill Caesar, which though an awful deed, was a selfless one at that, he wasn’t afraid to call out Cassius on his devious and unjust behaviour, and finally, was willing to end his own life for Rome. Shakespeare encompasses how honourable Brutus was, and his character’s purpose was clear: to show that bad things are not always done for bad reasons.