In William Shakespeares play Julius Caesar, the literary element of the tragic hero is evident. In general, a tragic hero must meet several important qualifications. He must come from a good background and have high social status, he must have a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall, and this flaw must be punished either by death or banishment. In this portrayal of the history of the Roman Empire, Shakespeare explores the lives of Julius Caesar and his acquaintances. Though all of the characters are very important to the plot of the play, none of them obtain the characteristics of a tragic hero as Caesar does.
A major characteristic of a tragic hero is that he must come from a good background and obtain high social status. Julius Caesar fits both of these qualities. Not only is he the supreme ruler of Rome, but he is also a very wealthy and well-respected man as well. The people of Rome respect Caesar for several reasons. They admire him because he cares for Rome, he governs Rome, and he has made it a great empire. Caesar is sometimes referred to as a dictator for life by the Roman people. His army is also an awesome military force and is very capable of defending Rome as it displayed Pompey early in the play. The peoples love and respect for Caesar is evident when Caesar asks Mark Antony to touch Calphurnia to rid her of her barren curse. Antony responds to
Caesars request by saying, I shall remember. / When Caesar says do this, it is performed (1.2.12-13). Like Mark Antony, almost all Romans are just as obedient to Caesars rule. Caesars power, title, nobility, and high social status make him a well-respected man in Rome and abroad.
Although Caesar is a great man, like all tragic heroes, he has a tragic flaw that leads to his downfall. Caesars tragic flaw is his tremendous ego. This flaw makes him very susceptible to flattery. For example, after deciding to stay home from his senate duties because of Calphurnias dream in which a statue of Caesar is running with blood and people are bathing in it, Caesar is easily persuaded to change his mind and attend the senate meeting by Decius Brutus. All Decius had to do was appease Caesar by flattering him, and Caesar was sure to give in. Decius does so by telling Caesar that,
The dream is all amiss interpreted.
It was a vision fair and fortunate.
Your statue sprouting blood in may pipes,
In which so many smiling Romans bathed,
Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
Reviving blood, and that great men shall press
For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance.
This by Calphurnias dream is signified (2.2.88-95).
Caesars ego is visible continuously throughout the play. Another illustration of his ego occurs when a soothsayer tells Caesar to, Beware the ides of March (1.2.21). In order not to look weak in front of the people looking on and to uphold his ego, Caesar pays no
attention to the soothsayer and takes no caution to his words. Caesars egotism is his tragic flaw. It blinds him from being cautious with his life, and is ultimately what ends his reign.
The final characteristic of a tragic hero is that his tragic flaw must be punished by death or banishment. In Caesars case, his tragic flaw is punished by death. Caesar is murdered by the noblemen of Rome for several reasons. The conspirators are all wealthy men who fear the amount of power that Caesar has over Rome. The majority of them feel that Caesar is too powerful and too ambitious. The conspirators feel that he should be punished for his arrogance and his ego. Though several of the conspirators want to murder Caesar because of personal matters, some of them truly believe that killing Caesar would be beneficial to Rome. One such conspirator is Brutus. Although Caesar is Brutuss best friend, he truly believes that by killing him, he will rid the Roman people of Caesars tyranny and he also feels that Caesars ego and quest for more power have gone too far. When giving Caesars eulogy, Brutus justifies the slaying by saying that he did not love Caesar less, but that I loved