Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Who is the Real Hero of the Play Julius Caesar, Caesar or Brutus?

Real Hero of the Play Julius Caesar, Caesar or Brutus

Several critics opine that Julius Caesar is only the titular hero, while the dramatic hero is Brutus, and the play should have been named after him. According to this view, Caesar appears only thrice in the play and even then the impression he leaves in poor one. On the other hand, Brutus dominates the play from the beginning to the end. He is the center of interest in the play. We are made to watch his career with interest and it is the tragedy of Brutus that Shakespeare depicts in the play. Hence Brutus is unquestionably the hero of the play.

Several other critics including Brandes, Hudson, Dowden, strongly claim Julius Caesar as the protagonist of the play. They say that in the early part of the play the living Caesar dominates and in the latter part it is the angry spirit of Caesar that dominates an ultimately conquers.

Again there is a third view that Julius Caesar is a play without a hero, and this view has its strongest support from Dr. Macmillan, the learned editor of the Arden edition. He examines the claims of both Caesar and Brutus to the hero-ship of the play and suggests that Shakespeare ‘does not claim our attention to any principal figure’. In the first two Acts of the drama our interest is almost equally divided between Caesar and the conspirators, and in the last two Acts although we are never allowed, our sympathy is almost entirely concentrated on the declining fortunes of Brutus and the conspirators. As to Brutus, he is too frigid a character to hold our attention. Thus according to him, the play has no hero in the sense as Othello or Hamlet has and Shakespeare in following the practice of his English historical plays has given to the play the name after Julius Caesar, who to all intents and purposes had become the Monarch of Rome.

Whatever the criticisms are, we are to consider Shakespeare’s purpose in writing this play. Shakespeare depicts here the triumph of Caesarism against which Brutus fought and failed. Caesar and Caesarism are writ large over the play. Even after the physical presence of Caesar is removed by the daggers of the conspirators the name ‘Caesar’ recurs in their mouths like a refrain. Caesars spirit hovers, and it is this contrast between Caesar’s failing bodily powers and his unassailable spirit between Caesar ‘the man’ and ‘the Caesar idea’ that is emphasized throughout the play. So Caesar is the protagonist of the play. In other words, Caesar is the real hero of the Play.

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