We hate it when our friends are successful
I feel sorry for Brutus.
OK, so maybe he did conspire against and murder his friend Caesar, paint his arms right up to his elbows in Caesar’s blood, before sashaying into town, his sword held triumphantly aloft, and declare he’d vanquished tyranny. But you know, his heart was in the right place.
I’m being facetious, but I do think Brutus’ biggest crime was one of gullibility. He did act in good faith, believing that his actions were necessary and for the greater good, but he was so easily manipulated by the real villain of the piece, Cassius. The last time I read this play – which was many years ago – I don’t remember giving Cassius a second thought. I was captivated by the astute, political manoeuvering and silky sophistry of Antony, but this time around it’s Cassius’s burning resentment that has struck me.
Cassius’s motivation to murder is not borne out of a fear that Caesar’s ambition threatens democracy, although that is the excuse he gives. What he can’t stand is the fact that a man weaker than himself, whose life he once saved, has risen through the ranks to a position of power way beyond his own. It’s that same motivation that late at night drives us to Google the names of people we haven’t seen for years who we register as peers in some way – school friends or enemies, colleagues from twenty years ago, in the desperate hope that they haven’t achieved more than we have, and are hopefully mired in misery and mediocrity. Who of us isn’t guilty of that? Well, take heed. If ‘Julius Caesar’ is anything to go by, it’ll all end in tears.