Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
Sometimes we can be at the top in life only to fall to the bottom. The people we think we can trust sometimes become the very people who betray us. That's what happened in the life of Julius Caesar, one of the most popular politicians and leaders in Rome during ancient Roman times.
Many years after Caesar's death, towards the end of the sixteenth century, William Shakespeare wrote a play entitled, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. In it, he depicted how Caesar was betrayed by two of his longtime friends, and how it cost him his life. One of the most famous lines from the play is 'Et tu, Brute,' which was spoken by the character of Caesar when he discovered his friend's betrayal.
Although the play's depiction of Caesar's betrayal and death are based on historical events, there can be no way to prove what Caesar's actual final last words were. For this reason, this lesson will focus on Shakespeare's literary portrayal of the life and death of Julius Caesar, and not on an accurate depiction of the historical figure.
The Betrayal of Julius Caesar
After Julius Caesar defeated his rival general Pompey in battle, the people of Rome rejoiced and praised Caesar's accomplishment. In Shakespeare's play, Caesar was warned by a fortune teller known as a soothsayer to 'Beware the Ides of March,' but Caesar ignored him and continued celebrating his victory.
Caesar's longtime friends were Brutus and Cassius. Shortly after Caesar's defeat of Pompey, Brutus started to believe Caesar would be crowned King and destroy the Roman republic. He thought citizens would lose their power.
Caesar was offered the crown to be king three times during his victory celebration but refused the crown each time. Both Cassius and Brutus seemed jealous of Caesar and discussed all of Caesar's weaknesses and reasons he should not have become King. Caesar distrusted Cassius but believed Brutus to be a loyal and trustworthy friend.
Cassius developed a plan against Caesar with a group of conspirators. Brutus decided to participate in the conspiracy when he was convinced, unknowingly by Cassius, that the people of Rome wanted to take away Caesar's power. The group of conspirators, known as a faction, met at Brutus' house and developed a plan to get Caesar away from his home and kill him. During a senate meeting, each of the conspirators talked to Caesar and bowed at his feet before they each stabbed him to death.
When Julius Caesar was being stabbed, he was surprised to see one of his most trusted friends (Brutus) with them and stated, 'Et tu, Brute?' (You too, Brutus?) before he died. Caesar did not expect Brutus to betray him, despite warnings from others like the soothsayer.
Artemidorus, a Roman citizen, tried to give Caesar a letter warning him about his upcoming betrayal, but Caesar did not want to discuss personal matters. Caesar's wife Calpurnia also warned him of nightmares she had of him dripping in blood. Caesar ignored all three warnings, which led to lack of awareness of his coming death and betrayal.
In Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar was betrayed by a group of conspirators, including one of his most trusted friends, Brutus. Three people, including his wife, tried to warn him of these fears regarding his life. Caesar ignored all of them. When he was stabbed, Caesar did not expect to see Brutus with the men who betrayed him and stated, 'Et tu, Brute?' Brutus betrayed Caesar's trust because he thought he was doing right by the citizens of Rome.
At the end of the lesson, you should have the knowledge to:
- Explain the origin and importance of the line 'Et tu, Brute?'
- Discuss the betrayal of Julius Caesar
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