Recently, in English class we have read and studied the famous play by William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, which is based on true events. The play is neither a comedy nor drama but a tragedy. However, what exactly makes the play, Julius Caesar a tragedy?
All of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes in his plays have a fatal flaw which leads to the downfall of a highly placed citizen in society. The tragic hero has great qualities but makes mistakes that bring him to his end. Arguably, the tragic hero in this play could either be Julius Caesar or Marcus Brutus. Whilst Caesar’s flaw is that he is arrogant and ambitious, Brutus’ flaw is that he faces a conflict between his loyalty to Caesar and his loyalty to Rome and its people.
Brutus is torn between his emotions and for the greater good for his city -‘If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more,’ he said in Act III Scene ii. It doesn’t help that he is being pressured by Cassius and the other Conspirators. In fact, their pressure is the basis of Brutus’ decision.
Taking a closer look at the picture, it was Cassius who manipulated Brutus. He led Brutus into believing that killing Caesar would be for the good of Rome but the other Conspirators were killing Caesar for their own personal reason or gain, or simply because they were jealous of Caesar’s military power. Brutus purely believes that all the Conspirators were killing Caesar for honourable reasons- peace, freedom and liberty. He does not once question the motives of the others. The readers are assured this when he says, ‘And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood… Let’s all cry “Peace, freedom and liberty!”‘
Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are always destined for destruction. All of these powerful and highly ranked heroes have a fatal flaw, whether it be ambition or greed, they are bound to die. Although Caesar is literally backstabbed by his own friends in the middle of the play, Brutus committed suicide at the end of the play, knowing his army had been defeated and that he would be captured.
Another thing that makes Julius Caesar a tragedy is that a large number of people die – Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, a majority of the Conspirators and the people in battle. Although, there are many deaths and not to mention, the death of the Dictator of Rome, there is still the fact that Rome lives on. There is a promise in Shakespeare’s tragedies.
In conclusion, all of these above points clearly explain why Julius Caesar is a tragedy. Marcus Brutus was the ‘tragic hero’ with the ‘fatal flaw’ that was featured in every one of William Shakespeare’s tragic plays.