Brutus (Julius Caesar)

I don't like to go near Julius Caesar--though I have had to teach it about 50 times--because almost everybody in it is petty and confused.

Caesar is absolutely right about Cassius. More about that elsewhere.

As for Brutus, you will notice he is always giving advice (no, we needn't kill Marc Anthony, no, the conspirators needn't take an oath, no we needn't enlist Cicero--turns out they could certainly have used a good orator--we should let Marc Antony speak at the funeral (we know how that turns out)--we should come down from Philippi (we know how that turns out). All Brutus' advice is bad, and Cassius always takes it. In addition, Brutus is extremely petty and jealous. He's jealous of Marc Antony, even though Caesar loves him best. "I do lack some part / Of that quick spirit that is in Antony." In his soliloquy he begins with "It must be by his death," meaning his first desire is to kill Caesar, and the rest of the soliloquy is an attempt to patch up a reason.

Yet after his death Marc Antony says, "This was the noblest Roman of them all." Irony is one of the building blocks of the play.

There's an undercurrent of disapproval of homosexuality (though Shakespeare had been gay): Cassius and Brutus frequently complain that the other doesn't love him. You don't hear Marc Antony and Octavius sniveling "You don't love me as much as you used to."

Brutus gives up sex with Portia once he gets involved with Cassius. He tells her to "Go in a while" and that by and by he'll tell her what's going on. He never does. He carries out the assassination and flees without ever talking to her again. Portia kills herself. When Messala questions him, he pretends to know nothing. Then when Messala tells him that Portia is dead, Brutus affects a Roman stoicism. But he'd already known she was dead several pages earlier.

As conspirators, Brutus, Cassius etc. are all lousy. They have no plan for a government after killing Caesar--and Caesar IS the government--and Octavius and Marc Antony make short work of Brutus and Cassius. They have to flee Rome about an hour after Marc Antony's funeral speech. As administrators and planners, Brutus couldn't tie his own shoelaces, and Cassius always defers to Brutus.

Does Brutus know he's inadequate? How dare you ask that question. If you play Brutus, you must keep in mind that he is the best, smartest, most noble and most important character in the play. It's the same for any part you get. You must carry out Brutus' foolishness and trumperies with a straight face. Remember that Brutus fooled all his contemporaries, including his wife and Marc Antony. So the idea that he's a bumbling hypocrite never occurs to him.

© Deloss Brown 2020

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