For Brutus Only Overcame Himself

“For Brutus only overcame himself, and no man else hath honour by his death”

Julius Casear V.5


What makes Brutus finally decide to kill himself?

In much the same way Cassius begins to lose faith in ‘Epicureanism’, Brutus eventually abandons his ‘stoic’ stance against suicide, and more or less does himself in (having someone else grip the handle of a suicide weapon while it’s being driven home is a wafer-thin equivocation of the fact).  Why?


I firmly believe that Brutus is driven to kill himself by the haunting presence of Caesar’s ghost: his (self-described) “evil spirit”.  He is wracked with guilt over the murder of Caesar, and interprets the death of his friends and allies (over and above the thousands of soldiers who perish in the war, more than 70 senators, including Cassius) and the success of his opponents as evidence that his decision to participate in the assassination was wrong.


More than the shame of being taken alive (after all, when he found himself on the losing side of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey he managed to survive the ordeal), I think Brutus is unable to live with the regret of having “struck the foremost man of all this world”, the death and carnage which ensued from that blow, and the fact that the fates appear to have taken the part of a man as (now clearly) dishonourable as Mark Antony.


By ending his own life, Brutus brings the war to and end, and is able to “still” Caesar’s restless spirit and his own guilty conscience.


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