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Suicide: Weakness or Heroism?

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In life, when people commit suicide, they generally leave notes. These notes may be two words, or they may be two pages, but they all normally have the same format; to explain why they killed themselves, and to say goodbye. Some people however, may view their suicides in different ways, for example: some people view themselves committing suicide as heroic or being “strong for too long”, while others view it as weak and unable to take ownership for one's actions. During the time that Julius Caesar takes place in Rome, suicide was considered an honorable way to die, and it was not until long after that time that religions and scholars started to denounce suicide and view it as a sin. In the Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, there is a recurring main theme of suicide, which leads us to question what the characters that commit suicide view it as.

Brutus is a man of pride and utmost honor, and believes wholeheartedly that whatever he is doing is the right thing, or he will not do it. Keeping face is very important to him, and when the reputation he has made for himself crumbles, we see him go through with ultimate self-destruction: suicide. Honor is probably the most important and valued trait of Brutus’ character that we see. During his funeral speech for Caesar, Brutus asks the people of Rome, “Who here is so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him I have offended” (3.2.32-33). Brutus is trying to prove to the Roman plebeians that he is noble and stands for his cause completely. However, on the verge of his surprising loss to Mark Antony’s troops, Brutus runs onto his sword so that he will not be paraded through the city of Rome in chains, which he therefore views as preserving his honor and nobility, even though he is essentially giving up on his cause. This is an example of suicide that is considered heroic by the person dieing, but weak by everyone else.

Brutus kills himself after the end of the battle between him and Antony, where his army is captured and he barely escapes. He speaks his suicide note in a sense, stating the reason he is going to die as, “The ghost of Caesar hath appeared to [him], two several times by night...I know my hour is come ” (5.5.20-23). Throughout all of the book, Brutus has covered up and hidden his emotions and fears from the reader as well as the characters in the book. But as we reach act 5, his facade begins to crack, and we see him break down



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