Question: Compare and contrast the characters of Brutus and Cassius.
The comparison and contrast between Brutus and Cassius are one of the most significant issues of the play “Julius Caesar” (1599) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The two characters have been very skilfully and subtly compared and contrasted in the play to focus on jealousy and fickle morality.
More Notes: Julius Caesar
Romans and tribunes
In the play “Julius Caesar” Brutus and Cassius are the two main characters. They are both noblemen. And they belong to the aristocratic class. They both are tribunes, which means a kind of magistrate in ancient Rome, and they are both respected senators of Rome.
Conspirators of Caesar’s destruction
They are both the main culprits of Caesar’s assassination. When we meet Cassius first time in the play, we find him obsessed with Caesar’s growing power. Then, he masterfully makes the plan to murder Caesar. He convinces Brutus to kill his best Caesar, explaining the so-called dictatorship of Caesar.
Brutus an idealist but not Cassius
Though Brutus and Cassius are similar in many ways, they differ in their attitudes and personalities. Brutus is an idealist, a dreamer with little knowledge of practical realities and aims at self-perfection. But on the contrary, Cassius is by no means particular about self-perfection. Brutus shows his love of moral perfection by refusing murder to Antony because Cassius blames Antony only for extorting money from the people. On the contrary, Cassius feels no hesitation in proposing the murder of Antony or doing such type of activities. Caesar himself describes Cassius as an envious man with a lean and hungry look. Caesar knows his true nature and tells Antony that such men are dangerous and dangerous indeed.
In the case of patriotism
Brutus is a man who loves his country in exchange for his life. But Cassius has no love for his country. In his first dialogue with Brutus, we perceive that Cassius has a certain amount of sincere love for the cause of the Republicans. But it is true that selfish motives preponderate in him. On the contrary, Brutus has a sincere love of freedom and republicanism. Antony testifies to Brutus’s unselfish love of republicanism when he says at the death of Brutus that only Brutus, of all the conspirators, has a genuine love of public welfare. Antony expresses his feelings in the following way;
“ This was a noblest Roman of them all
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He only, in a general honest though
And common good to all, made one of them.”
Brutus is theoretical but Cassius’ practical
Cassius is a man of action but Brutus has no sense of practicality. Cassius suggests the murder of Antony along with that of Caesar. But Brutus does not agree with him. In fact, Cassius does not give permission to Antony to address the mob at Caesar’s funeral. He tries to dissuade Brutus:
“ You know not what you do. Do not consent
That Antony speak in his funeral
Know you how much the people may be mov’d
By that which he will utter?”
After Antony’s speech, the mob gets furious at Brutus and the other conspirators and even they step to kill them all. Thus Cassius proves his practical sense but not Brutus.
Sagacity to face crisis
Brutus is theoretical but Cassius has a practical sense and capacity for action. Brutus is a philosopher who can only theorize but Cassius is a partisan who can act perfectly. Brutus is unfit for the dirty game of politics and is not meant to be a conspirator. Cassius is a worse man and is better as a conspirator. At the most critical stage in the battle of Philippi, Cassius suggests that they should wait for the attack of the enemy rather than strong positions and march forward. This is a good suggestion but Brutus advocates the opposite course with his famous lines:
There is a tide in the affairs of men….
Which, taken at the flood, leads, on to fortune;
Love of Freedom and Republicanism:
It can be summarized that by these two characters Shakespeare has criticized the people like Brutus and Cassius who belong to contemporary England.