In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the two main characters are presented as foils to each other. Brutus and Cassius, two of the lead conspirators whom arranged the assassination of the Roman political figure Julius Caesar, remain in direct contrast throughout the play. Although they do succeed in the murder of Caesar and victory in the battle that ensues, there is discord because of their conflicting attitudes especially evident in their personality traits, motives in conspiracy, and military strategies. Cassius is an ambitious man.
He plots, he schemes, he will cheat and he will take bribes to get what he wished. He sees people for what they are and he is a good judge of human nature. When Caesar's good friend Antony wishes to speak at his funeral, he asks Brutus if he may do so. Brutus consents, because Antony promises to not say anything that may implicate the conspirators to the people of Rome, however, Cassius sees through Antony. He says to Brutus, "You know not what you do. Do not consent that Antony speak in his funeral.
Know you how much the people may be moved by that which he will utter?" (3. 1). As it turns out, Cassius was correct in his thoughts. As one writer states: Brutus miscalculates not only on the major issue of wisdom of the conspiracy itself, but on every strategic decision along the way. He thinks that Antony is but a limb of Caesar, but Antony proves to be a formidable political opportunist. Brutus believes that once he has explained the reasons for the assassination to Rome's citizens nothing Antony says at the funeral will affect them, but through his brilliants funeral speech Antony unleashed Caesar's avenging spirit with Ate, goddess of discord, at his side.
(Leith art) Cassius is usually correct in judging people, and he is often courageous and brave, yet he also has moments of weakness and he is apt to placating Brutus. As author Irving Ribber points out "In this Cassius too plays a tragic role, for in spite of his clear insight he allows Brutus to prevail to the destruction of all" (60). On the other hand, Brutus is unselfish and idealistic. He sees the world as he wishes it to be. Brutus does not perceive the lies and deceit of others; he has an infinite amount of trust in everyone he encounters.
He has one tragic flaw; he believes that the end justifies the means. Through this, he is considered even by his enemies to be honest and admirable. The motives for the murder of Julius Caesar from both conspirators differ dramatically. Cassius was jealous of Caesar's power and control. He believed that Caesar was weak and not worthy or deserving of the honor of being the leader of Rome. Cassius is a shrewd and deceitful man and he uses those qualities to give Brutus, a good friend of Caesar's, a reason to kill Caesar.
Cassius tells Brutus that the townspeople wish Caesar gone and he forges letters from them to convince Brutus. Brutus loves the city of Rome more than he loves Caesar. His motive is that he is doing it for the good of Rome. Brutus feels that the citizens are slaves to Caesar's ambition and as he says himself "It must be by his death and for my part I know no personal cause to spurn at him, but for the general" (2. 1). For by murdering Caesar, Brutus feels that he is saving the citizens of Rome from bondage.
After the assassination of Caesar, both sides, Cassius and Brutus are against Antony, Caesar's good friend, and Octavius, the heir to Caesar's throne, separate and form their own armies. As they fight in the town of Philippi, Shakespeare portrays the contrast of the differentiating military strategies of Brutus and Cassius. Brutus was an intelligent, intellectual man but he made several military errors. In Philippi, he gave the word to fight too early and Octavius grabbed that chance eagerly. His army then attacked Brutus' and began looting.
Brutus does not like the thought of bribery and cheating. "Brutus fails because he has too much faith in human righteousness: he refuses to recognize the human proclivity for sin and error. His fatal blindness is thus ironically similar to Caesar's fatal flaw - the refusal to recognize his own human limitations" (Rack in 42). Brutus also thought it best not to let the army rest but to march straight to Philippi. Cassius thought it best to let Antony and Octavius come seek them, to fight on their own ground.
Cassius was a] good leader. He knew how to get what he wanted and he went to all means to get it. Although both Cassius and Brutus' armies defeated those of Antony and Octavius, Cassius' approach was better for a quick victory. Cassius and Brutus remain mutual leaders throughout the play. Cassius' qualities bring out Brutus' characteristics and their different attitudes and reactions provide an interesting angle to the play. The foils are evident in each character's personality traits, motive in conspiracy and military strategies and their conflicting attitudes provide discord throughout..