Several of the characters in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare demonstrate
ambition that in most cases leads to unfavorable consequences. Different types of ambition
are shown throughout the play as being either malevolent or benevolent, patriotic or
selfish. In some cases the character is interpreted as being power-hungry, although this is
not always true. Examples of the character’s ambition come from are the play Julius
Caesar, and either implied statements or direct quotes. These characters show a strong
attempt to reach a long-term goal which if completed successfully would benefit either the
individual character or the country as a whole. Very often the ambitious plans of the
characters lead to disaster and ill effects for the characters or the country.
Julius Caesar himself was very ambitious in a patriotic way, as his main goal in life
was to obtain a monarchy for the benefit Rome. Caesar, being dead-set on attaining this
crown, risks his life by going to the forum in case he is offered the monarchy. Caesar also
defied the person he loved and trusted the most, his wife, by going to the forum.
Calpurnia pleaded with Caesar for him to not go, however he refused to give up the
chance of getting a monarchy just because of premonitions, admonitions and omens.
Caesar believed that if he became a monarch, it would be the best thing for Rome. By
refusing the “crown” three times, Julius Caesar showed that his ambitions were not selfish,
and that he valued the opinions of the people of Rome. He wanted what was best for the
country, and what the people wanted. This was overlooked by others who construed his
patriotic ambitions to be selfish and power-hungry. In the end, Caesar’s life was taken by
the group of conspirators who believed that his numerous ambitions for rule as a monarch
would not be good for Rome, thus leading to catastrophe.
Brutus was also an ambitious man in a patriotic way. Brutus wanted to maintain
democracy in Rome for the good of his country. He said many times that he would be
willing to kill himself for the good of Rome, if need be, and he also was willing to kill his
best friend for the good of the country. He joined the conspiracy because he believed that
Julius Caesar being killed would be the best thing for Rome. There were no selfish
motives involved. In fact, Brutus was willing to risk his revered honor in order for Rome
to remain a democracy. Brutus indeed was very honorable, however his methods were
questionable. His ambition was patriotic, however in this case it ended up being a bad
thing for himself and for Rome, as his country was virtually destroyed by his well-meaning
Cassius and Mark Anthony both gave extraordinary examples of selfish,
destructive ambition. Cassius, in his desire to maintain power, organized the conspiracy to
kill Julius Caesar. He was selfish to do this because killing Caesar in his eyes, would
benefit only him. Cassius never thought about what effects the murder of Caesar would
have on the rest of the country, ill or otherwise. Mark Anthony’s ambition tended to be
destructive and he ended up growing power-hungry because of his ambition. Anthony
started out wanting only to avenge Julius Caesar’s death but in the process he realized just
how much he liked the feeling of power. He destroys Rome in his personal quest for
power and revenge. Selfish ambition often can lead to malevolent results as it did for
Cassius and Mark Anthony.
Caesar, Brutus, Mark Anthony, and Cassius were all extreme examples of the ill
effects of ambition. Excessive ambition, as these characters had, led to the destruction of
several prominent people and eventually the destruction of the country. All strong
ambitions have consequences, and even though the characters may have started with good
intentions , the end result was often harmful. Ambition is indeed important for people to
have, but before extreme measures are taken, all consequences should be considered.