English 2 Period 2
16 March 2018
The Noble Brutus
What characteristics and qualities certify someone as a tragic hero? According to Aristotle, being a reputable, moral, and admirable person of considerable stature are qualities that attributes to a tragic hero. The tragic hero’s hubris, or fatal flaw, climatically leads to their downfall. The play, Julius Caesar, was a tragedy written by Shakespeare in 1599. Set in 44 B.C. Rome, the First Triumvirate only has one living member left: Julius Caesar. However, before Caesar is able to be crowned King of Rome, he is assassinated by the conspirators. Fearing how Caesar will abuse his power as King due to his ego, Brutus participates in such a conspiracy for the good of Rome. Brutus is the epitome of a tragic hero, from his great stature, his hubris, and his downfall.
Brutus fits the first requirement of a tragic hero: great stature. He fits this characteristic of a tragic hero considering he is selfless. One time Brutus exemplifies this character trait is when he says “You shall, Mark Antony,” (Act III, Scene 1, Line 243) in response to Antony’s request to speak at Caesar’s funeral. This evidence portrays Brutus’s selflessness since he could have denied Antony of this. Also, this indicates Brutus’s noble and selfless nature due to the fact that he let Antony speak with the risk of him accusing and pointing fingers at the conspirators. Furthermore, Brutus embodies great stature with his honorable nature. For instance, Brutus “knows no personal cause to spurn at him, but for the general.” (Act II, Scene 1, Lines 11-12). What this line is saying is: Brutus has no personal reason to kill Caesar, except for the people of Rome. As previously mentioned, this exhibits the honorable nature of Brutus. He is willing to take part in the conspiracy to kill Caesar, in fear that if Caesar were to become king, he would abuse his power. Knowing this, Brutus demonstrates his nobility by assassinating his close friend Caesar, for the good of Rome. Overall, Brutus lives up to the first specification of a tragic hero: great stature.
Further proving that Brutus is a tragic hero, he possesses the second trait all ill-fated heroes have: hubris. The fatal flaw Brutus had was his easiness to be too trusting of others. When Antony asks to “speak in the order of Caesar’s funeral,” Brutus is too quick to trust that Antony has only good intentions, and not bad. (Act III, Scene 1, Line 242). Proving that Brutus was naive to trust Antony so hastily, Brutus lets him speak at Caesar’s funeral, which quickly backfires. Adding to the previous evidence of Brutus being too trusting, he is also too abrupt in his trusting of Cassius. For instance, when Cassius asks him to kill Caesar, Brutus is easily manipulated by the ability Cassius has to convince him to join the conspiracy. When Cassius says “and not be jealous on me, gentle Brutus,” he is manipulating a naive Brutus. (Act I, Scene 2, Line 73). Showing how gullible Brutus truly is, the above events show how Brutus retains the second quality of any tragic hero: hubris.
Lastly, Brutus fulfills the last aspect all tragic heroes have: their downfall. Brutus’s downfall was killing himself. In the end, Brutus expresses his regret to Caesar, saying “I killed not thee with half so good a will.” (Act 5, Scene 5, Lines 56-57). What Brutus means by this is that he did not kill Caesar half as willingly as he is killing himself. This is the tragic downfall of Brutus. He deeply regrets having any involvement in the murder of Caesar. Additionally, Brutus shows how much he regrets killing Caesar when saying “Caesar, now be still.” What Brutus wants is for Caesar to rest in peace, now that he has been avenged. Ultimately, Brutus learns that it was a mistake to kill Caesar, seeing as it did not protect the Roman Republic from dictatorship. Brutus’s tragic downfall of killing himself truly shows how he maintains the last characteristic of a tragic hero.
Fitting all of the requirements of a tragic hero, it is safe to say that Brutus is without a doubt the tragic hero of Julius Caesar. As stated by Aristotle, the true qualities of a tragic hero are being a reputable and admirable person of great stature, hubris, or a character’s fatal flaw that leads to their tragic downfall. As proven throughout the examples in this paper, Brutus is a person of noble and moral stature. His fatal flaw, which was to be too trusting/naive, fundamentally contributes to his downfall, which was killing himself due to his guilt of killing Caesar from fear of what might happen.