What Makes Brutus a Tragic Hero?

Marcus Brutus is the tragic hero of Shakespeare’s “Tragedy of Julius Caesar” because he embodies Aristotle’s elements of a tragic hero: he has a tragic flaw, he experiences a fall from high to low fortune and he is seen recognizing his own mistake during the play. Although the play is called “Julius Caesar,” and Caesar is killed in the play, it is Brutus who drives the play’s emotion.

Aristotle outlined the elements that must be included in a tragic play. Several of these elements revolved around the tragic hero who is often also the agent of action. In short, the tragic hero must undergo a change in fortune from good to bad.

Although they were written centuries later, Shakespeare’s tragedies included these elements. In the tragedy “Julius Caesar,” the tragic hero Marcus Brutus is based on the historical figure of the same name who participated in the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. To be a tragic hero, Brutus must first have a flaw that leads to a tragic consequence: he is too trusting of his friend Cassius, who advises him to kill Caesar. Because Caesar is killed in Act 3, Brutus has through the end of Act 5 to lament his decision, and he therefore fulfills the anagnoresis requirement that the tragic hero recognize his failing. Finally, when Brutus flees Rome, leaving his nobility behind, he is reduced in status.