William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar portrays Caesar in the title role,

although Marcus Brutus is the play’s tragic hero. Brutus is an honourable, noble

and virtuous man. He is not concerned with his self interest, but with Rome. He

devotes his life to the good of Rome and his actions are not done for himself.

However, Brutus’s main flaw is his idealism which is not at all tempered by

practicality. This affects the conspiracy and his decision making in critical areas.

His idealism is shown in three incidents in the play which as a result, contribute

to his destruction.

Brutus first reveals his impractical idealism by allowing Caesar’s ally,

Antony to live. The conspirators question Antony’s being alive but it is

Cassius who fears it the most. His pragmatism tells him that in order for the

conspiracy to thrive, Antony must be killed as well. But, Brutus forces them to

reject their concerns as he has complete confidence in their cause. He believes

that Caesar sacrificed himself for the good of Rome. He says, “Let us be

sacrificers, but not butchers” (Act 2,Scene1 166). His goal is to give Rome it’s

freeedom and by killing Antony he says, “ Our course will seem too bloody,... To

cut the head off and then hack the limbs,/ Like wrath in death and envy

afterwards” (Act 2, Scene1 162-164). However, Brutus fails to see Antony for

what he really is. Cassius attempts to point this out to him, “We shall find of

him/A shrewd contriver; and you know, his means,/If he improve them, may well

stretch so far/As to annoy us all” (Act 2,Scene1 157-160). Brutus truly believes

that he and the conspirators will be seen as saviors rather than murderers and he

will not let anything that does not agree with his idealism obstruct his path.

Brutus’s idealism also helps to defeat him when he consents to letting

Antony speak freely at Caesar’s funeral, despite Cassius’s warning. Antony has

come forward to the group of conspirators and leads them to believe that he

wants to join their conspiracy. Brutus sees him as a brother and has total trust in

him. This reflects his idealism in that he cannot see that Antony may take

revenge. He says, “, and our hearts/Of brother’s temper,do receive you in/With

all kind love,good thoughts and reverance” (Act 3,Scene1 174-176). Besides his

confidence in Antony, Brutus has great confidence in the moral justification of

their cause. Cassius is a more cautious and practical man as he says to Brutus,

“That Antony speak in his funeral:/Know you how much the people may be

moved/By that which he will utter?”(Act 3,Scene1 232-234). Brutus assuredly

responds, “I will myself into the pulpit first,/And show the reason of our Caesar’s

death”(Act 3,Scene1 236-237).He believes that their cause is legitimate and once

their reasons are voiced, there can be no other arguments. Brutus feels no need to

stay for Antony’s speech and as he departs he says, “ I do entreat you, not a man

depart,/Save I alone, till Antony have spoke.” (Act 3,Scene2 62-63).


Finally, Brutus’s estimations of the Roman people show how idealistic he

is. Brutus has too much faith in these Romans. He believes that their nobility is as

great as his. While justifying Caesar’s death to the raging masses, Brutus lists

several reasons. He says, “ Not that I loved Caesar/ less,but I loved Rome more.

Had you rather/Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar/were dead,

to live all freemen?” (Act 3,Scene2 22-25). However, the Romans do not grasp

that he wants them to have their freedom because they don’t understand what that

freedom is. They are lost on his logic.One minute they anger for Caesar and the

next they cheer for Brutus. The effect is ironic as the crowds cheer, “Let him be

Caesar” (Act 3,Scene2 52). Brutus underestimates what they want and what

they understand.On the other hand, Antony relates to their baser instincts. He

speaks to their emotions and to their greed. The crowds cheer “The will! the will!

we will hear Caesar’s will.” (Act 3,Scene2 141) and Antony responds, “ Have

patience, gentle friends, I must not read it;/It is not meet you know how Caesar

loved you” (Act 3,Scene2 143-143). Brutus’s idealism went way beyond their

practical minds.

Brutus’s destruction was due to one thing, his idealism. These three

incidents led to a gradual