Julius Caesar - Heroism


The play presents different vies of heroism primarily through two central characters, Caesar and Brutus. Caesar is represents a view characterised by courage and defiance. He sees himself as superior and resolute. Brutus by contrast, is admired for inner qualities. His heroism is defined by integrity, honour, dignity, stoicism and altruism. Shakespeare values these qualities over Caesars version of heroism. Normal ideas of heroism, nobility, honour and courage appear in the text but also there are references to shame and cowardice.

Caesar the ‘hero’ is presented as a passionate, confident and egocentric man with a fearless defiance of death and danger. He compares himself to ‘two lions’ which stresses his courage and strength. He is defiant and dismissive of the dangers that are thought to threaten him. ‘The things that threatened me ne’er looked but on my back, when they shall Caesar, they are vanished.’ ‘Caesar’ he continues, ‘is more dangerous.’ This remark from Caesar generates a sense of courage that is oddly both courageous and egocentric. There is an element of magnificence and brilliance to this idea of heroism we see in Caesar. To him are given some of the most inspiring and heroic lines in the play. ‘Cowards die many time before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but one’, this shows a romantic view of heroism. This embrace, or acceptance of death, is an integral part of his heroic image.

Caesar sees himself in a particular way, and it is this vision of him which tells us much about how he values heroism. Caesar compares himself to the ‘northern star’. This comparison aggrandizes his egocentric view of his divinity which is also closely related to this heroic image. He is a ‘hero’ that is superior to the men around him. This impression of Caesars idea of superiority and divinity shines as one man above all others. He exclaims ‘his changeless quality is unmatched in the heavens’. This remark boasts that he cannot be moved from the position that he is now and that he also believes that he has no equal. Caesar refers to himself as “Caesar” which tragically exposes his overwhelming arrogance.

Despite his heroic qualities, the negative way that Caesar is presented undermines his heroic image, as though Shakespeare questions this model of a hero.

Shakespeare portrays this image somewhat problematically however.

Caesar’s confidence and fearless defiance of death and danger is portrayed well with the expression of immortality.

Caesar refers to himself as “Caesar” which tragically exposes his overwhelming arrogance. He also proclaims though, that the ‘valiant never taste death but once’ which establishes a proud, conventional form of heroism.

This attraction declaration is qualified somewhat by an excessive arrogance which detracts from his heroic image and his wisdom.

Caesar sees himself in a particular way, and it is this vision of him which tells us much about how he values heroism.

Brutus, a man of integrity and commitment to principle. Brutus’s heroism is exhibited as quiet and humbly enduring great sacrifice and suffering without complaint, therefore suggesting stoicism. This is apparent when he hears of Portia’s death and still maintains his reason and dignity thus he manner exciting his peers. Brutus is celebrated for his inner qualities, strength honour and integrity. Shakespeare values his denial for self, rather than Caesar’s superlative egoism.

Brutus is a noble, moral and honourable man whose intention for murdering Caesar was fear of Caesar’s growing power and potential tyrannical behaviour. ‘He would be crowned how that might change his nature.’ Brutus’ idealism is his greatest virtue and his most deadly flaw. It is in his commitment to his principles which lead directly to his own death and the defeat of his purpose. The statement “I love the name of honour more than I fear death” suggests his commitment to his principles and the path of honour which inevitably lead to his downfall. Brutus takes towards good not evil. Brutus is determined to pursue the cause of right. The high minded hero tries to do right even by assassination. Brutus is concerned about the healing of Rome. “If it aught to be toward the general good, so be it” This idea indicates heroism because it shows us that Brutus is honourable and not envious like the other conspirators. The other conspirators needed the qualities of