Self-Concepts in Julius Caesar


All people have definite concepts of self. In different situations, one may feel short, tall, smart, slow, fast, talkative, reserved, etceteras. These self-concepts are usually very different than how others opinions of us. Depending on one's actions, words or even tone of voice, one may misrepresent oneself and be misinterpreted. One may be so arrogant or so humble that they prevent themselves from seeing themselves through others' eyes. In William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, two main characters, Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus, present different personas- one being each characters actual self-characterizations, which we learn through their discussions with others, and another is how they are actually perceived in the eyes of others. Their inability to project their true motives in performing certain actions eventually brings about their tragic downfalls.

Julius Caesar believed that people needed one strong ruler in order to have maximum production and proper function of a society. He believed that he possessed many, if not all, of the characteristics required of a great leader. He spoke to others in a way which he believed exhibited authority, told people why he should be the one to lead them, and thought that his own advice was best.

His unwillingness to listen to others is received as arrogance. Though already warned by the soothsayer to "beware the ides of March," Caesar refuses to heed advice to stay home from Calpurnia, his wife, because he feels that she is trying to keep him from obtaining power and status. Calpurnia believes Caesar to be a prince and is convinced that some falling meteors are warnings of a prince's death. When she hears her husband boast that he is more dangerous than danger itself, she recognizes that this is simple arrogance, and tells him so, saying, "Alas, my lord/ Your wisdom is consumed in confidence (Act II, scene 2)." In response to her criticism and humble petitions, Caesar momentarily agrees to pacify her. However, when he changes his mind and decides to leave against her admonitions, she reluctantly, but obediently fetches Caesar's robe and he departs for the Senate, and his meeting with fate.

Caesar's greatest character flaw, however, is thinking that he is far above others and somehow invincible. When he compares his own perseverance with that of the North Star, saying "But I am as constant as the northern star/Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality/there is no fellow in the firmament (Act III, Scene 1), " he pushes the envelope too far. It is here that his murderers descend him upon. When Caesar compares himself to a heavenly body, Brutus' fear about Caesar becoming intoxicated with power begins show truth, and his conspirators feel they must kill him. When faced with death, however, Caesar's' humanity is restored to him. The dying Caesar is not the egotistical and power-hungry man who has just spoken from the throne. For a moment, he is only an idealist who cherishes the noble love of a friend more than anything in the world. When he sees Brutus, whom he loves best, among his betrayers, he relinquishes his hold on the world and utters, "Then fall Caesar (Act III, scene1)."

As a member of the conspiracy against Caesar, Marcus Brutus declares to himself that his role in the conspiracy is to save Rome. He says to the people, "If then that friend demand why Brutus rose /against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I lov'd /Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more(Act III, scene 2)." He believes himself to be an honorable man, to his country and to Caesar. He does not think that his people would do well under the rule of a king, and he concludes that Caesar would definitely want Brutus to keep him from being an insufferable dictator. His conflict consists of his love for Caesar on one hand, and his concern for the public good and the welfare of the Republic.

When approached by Cassius to join a conspiracy against his friend, Brutus does spend a restless night making his decision. He can find no justification in past actions for Caesar's murder; therefore, he finds justification for it in what Caesar might become. He assumes that Caesar will become an unbearable tyrant if he is made king, and it is based on this assumption that he decides to will join in the conspiracy.

The flaw in his reasoning is that