Betrayal can be considered the foundation for ‘Julius Caesar’. In this lesson, we will look at some of the most significant acts of betrayal in Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Betrayals in Julius Caesar
Imagine having a best friend for years with whom you are so close to that they are like family. How would you feel if they suddenly turned on you, and you discovered they had been deceiving you the whole time? You would feel betrayed! Betrayal is the most notable theme in Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar.The play is based on the history of the real Julius Caesar, who, after having just returned after defeating Pompey the Great, was appointed dictator of the Roman Republic.
However, he was betrayed by the Senate and stabbed to death. Let’s take a look at how Shakespeare dramatizes this betrayal.
Betrayal by Cassius
Julius Caesar is famous for being betrayed, which ultimately ends in his murder.
He was betrayed by many people whom he thought were his close friends, but the readers saw them as enemies clothed as trusted companions.The character Cassius is the character mainly behind the orchestration of Caesar’s assassination. His motive? Well, Cassius is a loyal supporter of Pompey, and his loyalty still remains with him. Cassius plots to kill Caesar, and he has the support from others, but a big missing link is Caesar’s closest friend, Brutus, whom he needs for his plan to work. Brutus is considered the biggest betrayer because of his friendship with Caesar.Cassius is a master manipulator and is able to convince Brutus that Caesar must die.
Brutus is the most conflicted character in this story, and Cassius knows this. He sways him by telling Brutus that Caesar is unfair and is drunk with power.In Act 1, Scene 2, Cassius says to himself:Well, Brutus, thou art noble. Yet I see thy honorable mettle may be wrought from that it is disposed. Therefore it is meet that noble minds keep ever with their likes; for who so firm that cannot be seduced?Cassius is saying that anyone can be manipulated – especially someone like Brutus.Cassius starts getting into Brutus’ head with stories of how he has saved Caesar’s life and was never recognized for it. He knows that Brutus has a greater love for Rome than he does for Caesar.
Cassius even goes as far to write fake letters to Brutus that are supposed to be from citizens concerned about Caesar’s position and asking Brutus to take over.
Brutus’ Ultimate Betrayal
Caesar’s murder by multiple Roman senators, including his closest friend Brutus, is the ultimate betrayal in this tragedy. Sixty members of the Senate decided that the only way to remove Caesar from power was to assassinate him. They had decided on the Senate as the place Caesar should die, as Caesar’s bodyguards would have to stay outside, and their daggers could be hidden beneath their robes.Caesar had some warning, but he chose to ignore them all.
One example is when Caesar sees a soothsayer (fortune teller) twice, and each time the soothsayer tells him, ‘Beware the Ides of March.’ He just writes the soothsayer off as dreamer, but the soothsayer was actually right all along. Caesar’s wife has a premonition of his murder in a dream and begs him not to go to the capital, but Caesar is convinced otherwise.Caesar was stabbed over 30 times and died at the foot of Pompey’s Statue on The Ides of March. His last words are possibly one of the most popular phrases when quoting betrayal or this tragedy. It is in Act 3, Scene 1, when Caesar is being murdered and he sees Brutus as one of his assassins. Caesar says ‘Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar.
‘ In other words, Caesar is saying ‘You too, Brutus?! Then I guess I should die.’
A riot ensued after Caesar’s assassination, as well as other events that the murderers were not expecting. Caesar had made his grandnephew his sole heir, and the senators were made enemies of the state. After trying to defeat Caesar’s heir in battle, Cassius ends up being killed, and Brutus later kills himself out of guilt for betraying and murdering his best friend.Before using his sword to end his own life, Brutus declares that in killing himself he is avenging Caesar’s murder: ‘Caesar, now be still. I killed not thee with half so good a will.’ The Roman Republic was destroyed after this and came to a close around 26 BC.
After Roman leader Julius Caesar defeated Pompey the Great, he was betrayed by two of his closest friends, Brutus and Cassius. Cassius manipulated Brutus into thinking that Caesar was trying to destroy Rome and that the citizens wanted him dead. Cassius, Brutus, and the other senators decided to assassinate Caesar at the senate where his bodyguards would have to wait outside.
There, they all stabbed him. Caesar’s dying words are ‘Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar,’ when he realizes Brutus is in on the murder. The Roman Republic in turn felt betrayed by the Senate, and revolted.
Cassius is killed, and Brutus kills himself. In the end, Caesar’s assassination leads to the destruction of the Republic.