Brutus is not all nobility and Caesar is not all Ambition

Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, we are demonstrated the duality of human nature in which he allows his characters to operate and respond to specific situations. We are often introduced to an apparent one-sided figure, only to discover the character’s different features, flaws or loyalty, as he interacts with others and develops.

Caesar is often described as that of pure ambition and dictatorship. Qualities such as pompousness and arrogance are prominent in his character. He is “like a Colossus” above the “petty men”, calls himself the “Northern star” and elevates himself above the senate. However, we are hinted at what may be a compassionate and kind-hearted leader.

“What touches us ourself shall be last served”.
Caesar’s policy of service above self, clearly shows that there may actually be an honourable ruler behind his arrogant appearance.

Even after his death, Marc Antony reluctantly reveals Caesar’s will, in which stated, that each citizen is to inherited a sum of money in honour of appreciation of his undivided support and encouragement. This is a token of Caesar’s gratitude for his people.

Brutus, who was considered one of Caesar’s closest friend, was able to theorise about what could have “run to these extremities”. He deeply feared Caesarism and the idea of absolute rule by a single king. Caesar may have been a potential “snake in a shell”, but this claim was based upon what he assumed people “as his kind” would grow to become when they were climbing up the ladder of success. Brutus had no evidence of Caesar becoming a tyrant and Brutus’ decisions were made with no real evidence. Also, it is clear that Brutus is a poor judge of character, and that his assumption of Caesar may have been inaccurate.

Brutus’ character is synonymous with that of honour, patriotism and nobility, but not without human flaws. Although possessing the qualities of a true hero, and is considered by even the bitterest man, Casca, to be of the highest integrity. Even after his death, his archenemy, Marc Antony, recognizes that “This was a man… only in a general honest thought”. Brutus is extremely patriotic towards his country and would “rather be a villager” or spend an eternity in Hades, than be ruled by a king. Brutus may well have been the “noblest Roman of them all”. Yet, no mere man is without weaknesses.

Acknowledging the fact that the act of killing Caesar was for the greater good of the Roman Empire, and even as the act was seen as a “sacrifice” and “a purging”, is still remains dishonourable, as Brutus was considered one of Caesar’s closest friends. Caesar’s last words “Et tu Brute?” clearly shows us that Caesar would never have expected a man of Brutus’ calibre to betray him.

Another flaw in Brutus’ character may be his trust in people and society. As he is naďve by nature, he is easily fooled by sly the manipulators, Cassius and Antony. He will not doubt a man’s word, which is also makes him a poor judge of character and worse at making important decisions. He ignores Cassius when he tells him that Antony will seek to avenge Caesar’s death, he insists that their army attack, even when they are weakened.

Brutus is very judgemental and accuses Cassius of accepting having “itchy palm” (accepting bribes), when he has no evidence of this. He speak condescendingly to his friend Cassius, which is not what one would expect from such a man of noble stature.

Shakespeare had the ability to ‘humanise’ his characters by making them real people, with flaws. Although they may have certain overriding qualities, the duality of a character makes them easier to relate to and can create a ‘person’ of much greater depth and insight than what they may appear to be.