Julius Ceasar

Within many of William Shakespeare\'s tragedies, the reader can easily distinguish between the hero and the antagonist. Unfortunately, this seemingly elementary task proves rather arduous when applied to William Shakespeare\'s tragedy of Julius Caesar. Upon conclusion of the play, the reader is left with an empty feeling (no thanks to the ever quick-witted bard Shakespeare) when confronted with the question: who is the tragic hero of the play? However, after unraveling the tangled results of careful consideration, the question still remains unanswered, or, at the most, with many answers. One answer to this elusive question is that the hero of the play is truly that character which the play centers around, both corporeal and in spirit: the character of Julius Caesar. Another possible answer, and the most common one, suggests that noble Marcus Brutus is the tragic hero. For Brutus in Marc Anthony\'s words, "was the noblest Roman of them all"(act 5, scene 5, line 68). Furthermore, how can one not argue that brave, loyal and clever Marc Anthony is not the hero? For in fact he endures his grief skillfully, conquers Brutus bravely, and is one of the few main characters left breathing when the tragedy concludes. All of these justifiable answers, given voice from a clever mind, can be proven infallible. So one is baffled again. How can all three, professedly heroic characters, be proven to be the tragic hero? After dedicating an exceedingly ample amount of time upon equating this seemingly impossible equation, one comes to the conclusion that there is no hero. Rather, one concludes that Shakespeare has written a problem play in which his principle concern is to examine the state of insurrection, the immorality of the act itself, and the evil, which comes after. It is a play of men who as individuals are both good and bad, men with mixed motives and mixed emotions, men with private as well as public needs, and men put to confusion by the disorder they created.
Upon presentation of this formidable answer to the proposed question, an initial question arises. How can a play that is entitled Julius Caesar not contain a tragic hero named thus when historically, tragic heroes within Shakespearean tragedies, in fact, have been easily pin-pointed by their title? Take Romeo and Juliet and Othello, for example. Within Romeo and Juliet, the reader witnesses the tragic flaw within the lovers\' inability to pursue each other due to former grudges held by relatives. In Othello, the reader discovers that Othello\'s flaw lies within his understanding that he "loved not wisely, but too well"(act 5, scene 2, line 340) both in his jealousy of Desdemona and in his trust of honest Iago. Although Caesar truly does fulfill the tragic hero prerequisite of experiencing death (like Romeo and Juliet and Othello), he never comes to grips with his flaw. He never fully understands how large his "Caesarian ego" has evolved.
This concept of a rather large "Caesarian ego" is fully depicted within the opening scene in Julius Caesar. Shakespeare presents the reader with opposing views of Caesar expressed by the mob, who have come to "see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph"(act1, scene 1, line 34) contrasted with the tribunes, who hate Caesar, and are perturbed by the crowds joviality and proceed to "Disrobe the images"(act1, scene 1, line 67) of the mob. This generous jest donated by the tribunes, who are in fact, politically close to Caesar, portrays the hierarchy-related bitterness aimed towards Caesar even at this rather powerless position of tribune. Buried in this notion of hierarchical bitterness, lies Caesar\'s innately invisible tragic flaw of not appreciating those close friends who helped him "climber upward"(act2, scene 1, line 23) on "ambition\'s ladder"(act2, scene2, line 22). To the general public however, Caesar is the picture of a king, who, although seen infrequently, makes his presence felt continuously. For "always [he] is Caesar"(act1, scene 2, line 212), and is more the honored because he is rarely seen. This omnipotent presence creates great situational irony in that the general public loves Caesar for this power, yet it is in fact fear of this power that sparks the destructive fire of insurrection within Caesar\'s immediate friends. Upon contemplation of this irony, the reader witnesses the true nature of insurrection,