Brutus's Machiavellian Attempt in Julius Caesar

Certain qualities are set for a ruler, such as a president of a country, in order to gain power. A ruler must be intelligent, friendly, possess exceptional communication skills, and many other prestige qualities. Machiavelli sets certain standards for a ruler to not only gain power, but to keep it, that may differ from those generally acceptable in society today. While Shakespeare’s Brutus in Julius Caesar attempts to follow some of Machiavelli’s philosophies from The Prince, he ends up making fatal mistakes that eventually lead to his downfall.

Machiavelli suggests that in order for a leader to be successful, one must complete an evil, yet forgivable act; which is exactly what Brutus sets out to do. Machiavelli’s advice, that “injuries ought to be done all at one time so that, being tasted less, they offend less” is misinterpreted by Brutus (Machiavelli 6). He becomes haunted by Caesar’s ghost, which represents his guilt over killing his best friend. Out of fear and guilt, Brutus proclaims, “Now I have taken heart, thou vanishest.

Ill spirit, I would hold more talk with thee—” (Shakespeare IV.iii.331-323). Even though Caesar is dead, Brutus’s troubles are not over. Although Brutus attempted to be successful by doing only one evil act, his guilt cannot let him forget and forgive himself in order to become a strong leader for Rome.

After killing Caesar, Brutus attempts to address the people in a way that will make him look like he did Rome a favor by killing their leader.

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This coincides with Machiavelli’s ideas when he states in The Prince, “And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite” (Machiavelli 16). While Brutus understood that it does not take a great ruler or speaker to become successful, but only a ruler that can act as a great leader, it did not stop him from allowing one of Caesar’s greatest allies to speak and undermine his speech.

Brutus allows Antony, a friend and admirer of Caesar, to address the people of Rome and give a speech that turned Rome on Brutus and the other conspirators: “Yet Brutus says [Caesar] was and ambitious, And Brutus is an honorable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?” (Shakespeare III.ii. 102-106) By letting Antony address the people of Rome, Brutus allows his rival to take away his credibility, turning the people of Rome against him. Shakespeare suggests through this that Brutus is able to adopt some Machiavellian traits, but also ends up letting his mistakes get the best of him.

Brutus attempts to adopt and portray some Machiavellian characteristics after he must bear the responsibility of killing the leader of Rome, Caesar, who also happened to be his best friend. While Brutus tries to forgive himself for his actions, he becomes haunted by the ghost of Caesar. His guilt keeps Caesar around and will not let him move on with the other issues at hand. Brutus also makes the mistake of allowing Antony to speak after him to the people of Rome. Antony takes advantage of this opportunity by turning Brutus’s words against him and making him a hated man in Rome. Though he attempts to only do one evil act and appear as a great leader as Machiavelli suggests a strong ruler must do, Brutus is not successful and ends up bringing about his own downfall.

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Brutus's Machiavellian Attempt in Julius Caesar. (2023, Feb 15). Retrieved from

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