Who is a Stoic in Julius Caesar?

Answered by John Hunt

In Julius Caesar, the character who embodies the Stoic philosophy is Brutus. Stoicism is a school of thought founded in ancient Greece, which teaches that one should strive to live a life of virtue and reason, while detaching oneself from emotions and desires that can lead to suffering. This philosophy is reflected in the cold, cerebral rhetoric used by characters such as Caesar and Brutus throughout the play.

Brutus, known for his noble and honorable nature, exemplifies the Stoic ideals of self-control, restraint, and reason. He believes that the act of assassinating Caesar is a necessary evil for the greater good of Rome. In his soliloquies and speeches, Brutus carefully reasons through his decision, weighing the pros and cons, and ultimately concludes that it is his duty to protect the Roman Republic.

One example of Brutus’ Stoic mindset is seen in Act II, Scene 1, where he contemplates the decision to join the conspirators. He says, “Between the acting of a dreadful thing / And the first motion, all the interim is / Like a phantasma or a hideous dream.” Here, Brutus acknowledges the emotional turmoil he feels but emphasizes the need to overcome these emotions and rely on reason to make a calculated decision.

Furthermore, Brutus demonstrates his Stoic nature in his conversation with Cassius in Act IV, Scene 3. He states, “There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” This passage reveals Brutus’ belief in the importance of seizing the moment and acting with rationality rather than being swayed by emotions.

Caesar, on the other hand, also exhibits elements of Stoicism, but in a different manner. Despite his ambition and desire for power, Caesar remains composed and unyielding in the face of adversity. He is not easily swayed by flattery or fear, and his speeches often reflect a sense of detachment from his own emotions.

One notable example of Caesar’s Stoic demeanor is seen in Act II, Scene 2, when he refuses to heed the warnings of the soothsayer and ignores his wife Calpurnia’s pleas not to go to the Senate on the Ides of March. Caesar’s response, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once,” illustrates his belief in fate and his willingness to face his destiny with bravery and stoicism.

Both Caesar and Brutus exhibit Stoic qualities in Julius Caesar, albeit in different ways. While Caesar demonstrates a sense of detachment and resistance to emotional manipulation, Brutus embodies the Stoic principles of reason, restraint, and self-control. Their cold, cerebral rhetoric reflects the influence of Stoicism in their characters, emphasizing the importance of rationality and avoiding emotional suffering.