Views Of Brutus For Which He Is Spoken Of As A Political Idealist

Brutus is an abstract philosopher and idealist, dealing with abstract ideas of good and bad, with little or no insight into men and things. He is a Platonic theorist with lofty ideas about life and human nature, which are not applicable in practical politics and the result is that he is led to commit a series of blunders:

  1. His estimate of almost every character is wrong and so is his appraisal of every situation as it presents itself,

  2. His decision to murder Caesar, making abstract principle his sole guide regardless of personal considerations,

  3. His aversion to bloodshed,

  4. His refusal to bind his confederates by an oath,

  5. His concession and generosity to Antony, instead of agreeing to kill him along with Caesar as suggested by Cassius,

  6. His permitting Antony to deliver the funeral oration,

  7. His refusal to accept the practical suggestions of Cassius, thinking he is superior to the latter in wisdom,

  8. His want of practical sagacity,

  9. His deficiency even in theoretic wisdom, e.g., the false hypothetical reasoning by which he decides to kill Caesar etc. All these blunders are dictated by his oversensitive idealism and sentimental purism.

Brutus was a Stoic philosopher, i.e., member of the philosophic school founded by Zeno, “which attached great importance to the control of the passions.” The teachings of this school were that pleasure and pain are independent of outward circumstances and are of no significance in themselves: a life virtuously spent ensures perpetual happiness; the wise man cannot really meet with misfortune, outward calamity being a divine instrument of training designed to teach indifference to external conditions; and that virtue is to be cultivated for its own sake.”

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A kind of Stoic self-restraint, austerity and self-discipline marks Brutus. out. He is a person of great fortitude and austerity so far as his conduct in the early part of the play is concerned, when he was just thinking of coming out of his quiet anchorage of books and private studies to face the storms of political strife. During this period his professions and practices are quite consistent with the tenets of his philosophy. He is yet out of touch with the passions and interests of average humanity. He refuses to recognize that sensibility and emotions are factors of life. Personal considerations do not motivate his actions, because love of abstract principles is the all-absorbing passion of his life. He knows “no personal cause to spurn at him but for the general” – (II. i 11–12). His love for Cassius does not have the warmth and glow of passionate friend- ship. At first he thought he had better not share his secrets with his wife and it seems that his early relations with her were kept within the limits of self-restraint.

But with the advance of the action of the drama and his advent into the arena of political strife, he becomes the very reverse of a Stoic. We do not find that he is a man of exquisite tenderness and warmth of affection, an aspect of his character which is brought in his conjugal relations with his wife and public relations with friends and dependents, e.g., the scenes with Portia in the early hours of the morning of the murder and with Cassius after tender reconciliation with him and in the scene of the last farewell before the battle. The most significant change is seen in the manner of his death in the last scene in which he decides to commit suicide unlike a Stoic. According to his Stoic philosophy it is “cowardly and vile” to anticipate death in the natural course of things by suicide. So, Mrs. Jameson is quite right in her appreciation of the real nature of Brutus’s character, quoted above.



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