Tragic Hero

– Brutus Essay, Research Paper

Noble yet troubled. Intent on achieving righteousness yet committing immoral acts. Admirable yet ruined. Honorable intentions lead to downfall. These seemingly contradicting qualities are all present in all tragic heroes. In Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare displays Brutus, a tragic hero, who’s blinded loyalty and devotion lead to his destruction. Brutus’s heroic belief of honor and virtue was so powerful that it drove him to perform villainous actions.

The tragic hero is “presented as a person neither entirely good nor entirely evil, who is led by some tragic flaw to commit an act that results in suffering and utter defeat.” (Morner, Kathleen & Rausch, Ralph. 1991, Pg. #227) Brutus was guided by his firm decrees of honor, yet he was unconsciously hypocritical. He praised himself for refusing bribes and not acquiring money through dishonest means, “For I can raise no money by vile means” (Act IV Scene iii) yet he rebuked Cassius for refusing to share with him his own fraudulent gains.

He strove for uprightness using dishonest and corrupt ways to accomplish his supposed morals.

In Julius Caesar Cassius approached Brutus with the idea of assassinating Caesar. Cassius needed Brutus because of his renowned heroic qualities. He used Brutus as an insurance policy, declaring “Brutus shall lead, and we will grace his heels with the most boldest and best hearts of Rome.” (Act III, Scene i) Cassius lead him to fear Caesar is too ambitious and despotic. This forced Brutus to come to the conclusion that Caesar’s death is the only way to solve Rome’s problem. “And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg, Which hatched would, as his kind, grow mischievous, And kill him in the shell.” (Act II, Scene i) Brutus believed that this is for Rome’s own good, “not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” (Act III, Scene ii) Cassius manipulated Brutus into thinking that he must eliminate Caesar for the good of Rome, because Brutus possessed the tragic hero qualities of honorable intentions. Yet Brutus fails to notice the facts. Caesar had, in fact, not been crowned, refusing it thrice. Brutus did not wait to see if Caesar would be crowned and become a ruthless tyrant. He plunged ahead in his crusade.

Brutus agreed to the conspiracy and elected himself as leader. He became “willful and arrogant, resembling the tyrant he kills and growing more like him as the play unfolds.” (Boyce, Charles. 1990, Pg. #78) In the process of endeavoring to stop oppressive rule, he hypocritically developed those same qualities that he despised in Caesar.

“Shakespeare’s tragic heroes will be men of rank, and the calamities that befall them will be unusual and exceptional disastrous in themselves. The hero falls expectedly from a high place, a place of glory, or honor, or joy, and as a consequence, we feel that kind of awe, at the depths to which is he suddenly plunged. Thus, the catastrophe will be of monumental proportions.” ( 11-29-99.)

Brutus was admired throughout Rome for his honorable reputation which was the reason he was an essential member needed for the conspiracy. Yet his heroic virtues that brought him on a glorious, honorable, and joyful platform ended up pushing him into a bottomless pit. A tragic hero has many outstanding qualities, creating the illusion of a knight in shining armor. However, Julius Caesar’s Brutus, the knight in shining armor, was converted to the wrong side. The reader is moved for they can imagine if Brutus’s virtuous intentions were carried out in equally virtuous ways. “What a great man, the tragic hero could have been, indeed, should have been!” ( 11-29-99.)

Brutus’s concentration on honorable and noble behavior directed him into inferring a na?ve view of the world. He constantly misjudged people, believing everyone perceived the situations as he did. He was unable to see when Cassius manipulated him into joining the plot for Caesar’s assassination. Even when Cassius sent phony letters, Brutus still was unable see that the content directly collaborated with what Cassius informed Brutus. He underestimated Antony, and allowed him to make his speech that fueled an angry mob. Brutus deluded himself into thinking that the people of Rome would understand his abstract reasons for the assassination. He mistook the mob for being able to make reasoned assessments of what he has done. Instead, the mob purely acted on emotional instinct, attacking innocent people. One of Brutus’s greatest mistakes was when he chose not to kill Antony, Caesar’s loyal friend. Caesar’s spirit lived on in Antony who causes Brutus’s dreadful fate.

Although Brutus’s belief that he acted honorably and nobly remained consistently strong, he was still plagued by guilt. He, the tragic hero, risked everything and anything using deceiving ways to achieve his goal. He attempted to justify his acts by deluding himself on several occasions. He subconsciously knew to murder Caesar is wrong but consciously thought it his moral duty to carry out. He tried to excuse the act by saying “Let’s be sacrificers, but not butchers” (Act II, Scene i) This conspiracy ruined his private life, his guilt and anxiety refused to allow him to sleep. It also alienated him from his once happy relationship with Portia because he was too caught up in his problems to care about anything else. Portia begged Brutus to tell him what is happening but events prohibited it and Portia’s death added to Brutus’s inevitable disaster. He lost everything as the result of his belief that he acted honorably.

Brutus, the tragic hero of Julius Caesar was admirable, righteous, honorable, the mirage of the hero, the reader’s supposed knight in shining armor. However, these qualities in the tragic hero become obsessive and Brutus is tormented because of his too strong noble intentions. His irrational loyalty and devotion destroyed him. The greatest good in this tragic hero lead him to the wickedest evil. Shakespearean Tragedy.

11-29-99. Yahoo.

Bloom, Harold. William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Chelsea House

Publisher; Connecticut, New York, & Pennsylvania. 1988, Pg. #33 – 36 used.

Boyce, Charles. Shakespeare A to Z. Roundtable Press, Inc.; New York. 1990,

Pg. #78 – 80 used.

Durband, Alan. Shakespeare Made Easy: Julius Caesar. Barron’s Educational

Series, Inc.; New York. 1985.

Ludowyk, E.F.C. Understanding Shakespeare. Cambridge University Press;

New York. 1962, Pg. #184 – 187 used.

Morner, Kathleen & Rausch, Ralph. NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms.

National Textbook Company; Illinois. 1991, Pg. #225 – 227 used.

Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Dover Publications, Inc.; New York. 1991.


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