Julius Caesar Betrayal Quotes: Meaning & Analysis

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

If you've ever been betrayed by a friend, you know the pain such a betrayal causes. This kind of betrayal is exactly what Caesar experiences with his friend Brutus in 'Julius Caesar' by William Shakespeare.

Cassius' Ambition

In Act I, Caesar tells his friend Antony that he is suspicious of Cassius, one of the Roman Senators. 'Let me have men about me that are fat;/Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:/Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;/He thinks too much: such men are dangerous,' Caesar confides in his friend Antony. Caesar is concerned that Cassius harbors political ambitions, and he recognizes the possibility that Cassius' ambitions could drive him to betray Caesar.

Conspiracy

Caesar's suspicions of Cassius prove that he is an astute judge of human character, for Cassius does indeed set out to betray Caesar. Cassius knows, however, that he needs someone reputable to attract others to the conspiracy, so he turns his attention to his brother-in-law Brutus.

Cassius sends forged letters, purportedly from Roman Citizens, to encourage Brutus to join a plot against Caesar's life. In one letter, Brutus reads, Brutus, thou sleep'st: awake, and see thyself./Shall Rome, &c. Speak, strike, redress!' Brutus becomes convinced that the citizens want to stop Caesar from becoming emperor of Rome as a result of the fraudulent letters. Cassius betrays not only Caesar, but Brutus as well, since Brutus joins the conspiracy as a result of the false impression of the citizens' position that Cassius conveys in the letters.

Assassination

On the Ides of March, the conspirators make their way to the Senate. As planned, all the conspirators stab Caesar. Caesar is most distressed by Brutus' participation since he believes Brutus to be his friend. As Brutus stabs him, Caesar gives up. He dies broken hearted at his friend's betrayal, saying, 'Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.'

Caesar's Funeral

In his oration at Caesar's funeral, Brutus explains the reasons for Caesar's assassination to the crowd. 'As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;/as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was/valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I/slew him.' Brutus acknowledges in these lines the conflicting emotions he feels. He and Caesar were friends, yet Brutus betrays him. Brutus attempts to justify this betrayal by saying that Caesar was ambitious.

When Antony begins to speak, however, he is able to turn the crowd against Brutus and the other conspirators. Because Brutus and Caesar have been friends, Antony terms Brutus' participation in Caesar's death the 'unkindest cut of all.'

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