A Tragic Hero?
Many who read William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, conclude that Marcus Brutus is the hero of the play. Shakespeare himself concludes, “this [Brutus] was the noblest Roman of them all.” However, many times Brutus shows himself to be more of a coward than a hero. Brutus betrays his friend, he plans to kill Caesar in an unfair way, and he commits suicide. Brutus, therefore, is a coward.
First, Brutus is a traitor. He is one of Caesar’s most trusted companions, and yet he turns around and stabs him. When Julius Caesar sees Brutus amidst the assassins, he gives up, stating “Et tu, Brute?” Many readers think Brutus and his friends believe that one man should not rule Rome, and so Brutus resolves to assassinate Caesar. However, Brutus and Cassius both state that “I was born as free as Caesar, and so were you,” then go on to say that they would be just as good a king as Julius Caesar. They themselves want to rule Rome.
Secondly, Brutus murders Caesar unfairly. With the help of his friends, Brutus chooses to assassinate Caesar on the Ides of March. Brutus decides “it must be by his death... He would be crown’d…. Crown him? – That – and then, I grant, we put a sting in him.” On March 15, the assassins surround Caesar, catching him off guard, and kill him. Stabbing someone in the back is considered a cowardly act, and the way in which Brutus and his friends murdered Caesar may be compared to this.
Finally, Brutus commits suicide. Brutus and Marcus Antonius are fighting over the rule of Rome, and Brutus looses the battle. When he realizes he is defeated, Brutus immediately throws himself on a sword. Brutus cannot suffer the shame of loosing, so he commands Volumnius to “hold thou my sword-hilts, whilst I run on it.” Volumnius begs Brutus not to, yet Brutus still kills himself. The despair of defeat causes Brutus to commit suicide; Brutus cannot face shame and dishonor with courage, so instead he runs from it.
In Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus commits many cowardly acts. Brutus betrays Julius Caesar, assassinates him unjustly, and then kills himself. Throughout the play, Brutus’ cowardice shows in many ways, and in the end it leads to death. Revelation 2:18 says, “as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for the murderers… and all liars, their portion will be in the lake which burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (ESV)
A Tragic Hero?