Das Brütus: A Tragic Hero
In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, Brutus is the quintessence of a tragic hero. Webster’s Dictionary defines tragic hero as “Any person, especially a man, admired for courage, nobility etc. … in a serious play with an unhappy ending” (277-626). This verbatim definition, however, is useless in an analytical essay. The idea of a tragic hero comes from Aristotle, who thought a tragic hero involved a character of high standing suffering a downfall caused by one or two character flaws. In this story Brutus is a trusted friend of Caesar, but from a series of poor choices he betrays that trust by assisting in Caesar’s assassination, even delivering the death blow. Brutus realizes the error of his ways in his last moments, and the audience feels sympathy for this renegade protagonist. The specific sets of attributes that define a tragic hero (character flaw, downfall, moment of clarity etc.) culminate in Brutus, who Shakespeare used to send a clear message about people.
A tragic hero’s characterization should not be a disastrous assortment of social ailments; he or she should be a good person with a single imperfection. In Julius Caesar Brutus has poor reasoning skills. When asked if he would want Caesar to be king, he replies, “I would not, yet I love him well” (Shakespeare 892). Caesar is a demanding character, even around his friends, so it can be assumed that Brutus is regularly influenced by Caesar. Contrarily, Brutus does not wish the people to be victim of Caesar’s will. Brutus justifies murder of his friend by claiming, “Therefore think of him as a serpent’s egg/ Which hatched, would grow as his kind grow mischievous/ And kill him in the shell” (Shakespeare 911). Bru...
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... not only make him appear kind and noble; he would seem to be such an ideal citizen that most men would not meet those standards. Brutus’ ultimate downfall by one or two negative traits would have shocked the intended audience and perhaps affected how they viewed themselves, making Brutus a very effective character.
Shakespeare created a slightly flawed character have a moment of clarity followed by a violent death, and he did this to notify the public of a major problem with his day’s ethics. The noble Brutus was destroyed by a handful of minute details in his own character. This alarming message is the reason this play is still studied.
"Hero." Def. 5b. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Austin: Holt, 2007.
"Tragedy." Def. 5b. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.