Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar explores the famous betrayal of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. Drawing on Plutarch’s The Life of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare looks at the motives of the loyal diplomats that enacted Caesar’s tragic and brutal murder. While the story is ostensibly about the emperor, Brutus is the main subject of Shakespeare’s psychological exploration. He has nearly four times as many lines as Caesar, as well as powerful soliloquies outlining Brutus’s motivations, allegiances, and consciousness as he decides to turn against his emperor.
In the age of Elizabeth, an heirless queen aging into her late 60s, the play asks the audience a dangerous question: Could this act of brutal violence be an act of heroism? Brutus rationalizes the murder claiming that Caesar is overstepping his boundaries as an emperor, defying the republic in favor of absolute rule. He claims that he must save Rome from one man’s ambition, and thus joins the plot against a beloved ruler. This play asks readers to consider Brutus’s side of this famous betrayal and determine the potential righteousness of his action. For as he defends himself, it was “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”