Julius Caesar as a Tragic Hero

Julius Caesar as a Tragic Hero
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  • 0:05 Who Is Your Tragic Hero?
  • 0:51 Brutus as the Tragic Hero
  • 1:29 Caesar's Position of Power
  • 2:10 Caesar's Tragic Flaw
  • 3:42 Pressure from the Outside
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

A tragic hero is an important part of many of Shakespeare's plays. In this lesson, we will look at how the character of Caesar could be viewed as the tragic hero in William Shakespeare's ''Julius Caesar.''

Who is Your Tragic Hero?

Have you ever had a friend who is a really good person except for one serious flaw? Maybe they think so well of people they find themselves easily manipulated. Or maybe they just made one bad decision that led to some unfortunate consequences. If this friend was in a Shakespeare play, they may have been called a tragic hero.

A tragic hero is a protagonist (usually the main 'good guy') and likely in a position of power, but he or she also has a very serious flaw or makes a bad decision that causes the character's death or downfall. Sometimes this flaw is something that would normally be a good quality but in the situation of the story, it becomes a problem. Lastly, the tragic hero is often pressured from the outside.

Brutus as the Tragic Hero

In Julius Caesar, the character Brutus is usually considered the tragic hero of the play. He fits the requirements of being in a high position because he is a popular politician. He is well liked and considered honorable.

Brutus also has a flaw that is normally considered a good thing - he loves Rome more than anything. This flaw causes him to aid in the murder of Caesar. Marc Antony uses Brutus's famed trait of honor in a somewhat sarcastic manner to convince the crowd to turn against Brutus. Brutus later realizes his mistake, and it drives him to suicide.

Caesar's Position of Power

Even though Brutus is the obvious choice for the tragic hero, some scholars say that Caesar also fits the bill. First of all, Caesar is a protagonist and in a position of power. He is well-liked by the Roman people. While other politicians are worried about what will happen if Caesar comes to power, the common people are very taken with him.

We see the support for Caesar from the beginning of the play. In Act 1 Scene 1, the people are in the streets celebrating Caesar's defeat over Pompeii. They have decorated the statues and have forgotten they used to love Pompeii. Because of his political and personal power, Caesar fits the first the first requirement of a tragic hero.

Caesar's Tragic Flaw

A tragic hero must have a flaw that is normally considered a good quality, or make a serious error in judgement. Caesar is an incredibly confident character. A king must be confident, so Caesar's self-assured behavior could be viewed as a positive trait. However, Caesar may have taken it a step too far. You see him cross the line from confidence into arrogance throughout the play.

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