According to Aristotle, “A tragic hero is a character who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice and depravity, but by some error or frailty…” The classic tragic hero has some type of tragic character flaw which creates an inner struggle, leads to his making a serious error in judgment, and leads to his eventual downfall and death.
In Julius Caesar Brutus displays the traits of a tragic hero through out this play. His tragic flaw is his being too naive. He makes an error in judgment, and when this error occurred it causes his own downfall. But Brutus causes his own downfall when after killing Caesar all of Rome turns against the conspirators. And all these events cause his death. However, the factors that have made him a tragic hero are discussed below:
The main reason that Marcus Brutus deserves the title of tragic hero is his noble personality. First of all, throughout the play, he never deceives anyone. Although he did murder Julius Caesar, it was for the good of Rome, not to deceive Caesar. Everything that he did was for the benefit of someone else. Even though he killed Antony's best friend, Antony still recognized Brutus as "the noblest Roman of them all." He does this in Act 5, Scene 5, after Brutus' death because Brutus the only conspirator that actually killed Caesar because he "loved Caesar less but loved Rome more." He cared more about others than he did himself. For instance, in the process of killing Caesar, he could have easily backed out because he knew he might have been punished, but he knew in the long run, that it would help the plebeians most. Another example of his selflessness is in Act 2, Scene 1. Brutus decides not to tell Portia his plans for the murder of Caesar. He feels she already has enough stress in her life and does not need to worry or deal with his plans.
Brutus also frequently demonstrated many acts of affection toward others. In Act 1, Scene 2, he is reluctant to join Cassius's conspiracy because he did not want to betray Caesar. He had to weigh his choices and in Act 3, Scene 2, Brutus kills Caesar only because he is afraid of what will happen to Rome if Caesar remains ruler. He knew the commoners’ life would be difficult with the ruling of Caesar. He realizes what a honorable man Caesar was. This is shown again in the same Act and Scene when Brutus allows Mark Antony to speak at Caesar's funeral even though Cassius highly disagreed. Brutus realized Caesar deserved a proper ceremony, and that the best way to do that would be to let Caesar's best friend speak. Finally he shows his endearment for others in Act 5, Scene 5. This is the scene in which Brutus kills himself partly because Cassius, his best friend, died.
All tragic heroes possess a character flaw that leads to their defeat. Brutus' tragic flaw was being naive. He thought that everything was good in the world, and that all men were honorable. He believed all that people told him and felt no one would lie or deceive him. Just because he did not betray anyone, he believed the world would return this act. This characteristic led him to his death. All that he trusted deceived him at one time or another during the play. He allows others, like Cassius and Antony to betray him. He is too trustful and does not realize what people are capable of doing to him after making them his friend. Due to this tragic flaw, a downfall of the character occurred soon after. The events that occurred because of Brutus' naiveness led to his downfall and death. His first mistake was in Act 2, Scene 1. This was when the fake letters are sent to him from the conspirators. This was all a lie, a trap, to get Brutus to join in on the conspirator for Cassius knew he could not do it without Brutus' support. Brutus believes these letters are from the people of Rome and agrees to the death of Caesar. Another example of this naiveness is in Act 3, Scene 2. Brutus decides to allow Antony to speak to show honor to Caesar. In the end, this decision ruins him. Antony riles the crowd into believing that the conspirators are all evil and they must get revenge. In result, a war breaks out. His last error, was not so much because of his naive trait, it was just pure desire in Act 5, Scene 2. This fault occurred when he starts the battle without telling Cassius about it. Brutus realizes it is the time to strike and knows that he must start the battle. There is no time to tell Cassius. This choice, in the end, was the main reason for his suicide. He kills himself because he realizes it is nobler to commit suicide than become captured and dragged through Rome.
Another characteristic is that the character has to have an epiphany or has to learn from his mistakes. This characteristic also fits Brutus. When Brutus and Cassius are planning to fight Caesar and Antony, they get into an argument and Brutus realizes that he cannot trust Cassius anymore.
With all of Brutus's characteristics, he is obviously the tragic hero of this play. Throughout this drama, he demonstrates the quality of honor many times. He is a noble man and I think Antony sums in up well in his last part in the play, which reads,
"This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He, only in general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
In the end, Brutus is defeated because of his tragic flaw. Brutus was naive and did not realize the real ways of the people he trusted. Marcus Brutus is the real tragic hero of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and this title should not even be argued.
"Julius Caesar - A Tragic Hero." 123HelpMe.com. 26 Apr 2011
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