The Role of Personal Conflict in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

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Words: 838 |

Page: 1|

5 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Words: 838|Page: 1|5 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

The unique choices William Shakespeare makes when illustrating historical events within the play shapes an individual’s understanding of the event itself and the diverging perspectives encompassing them. Within his play, Julius Caesar, Shakespeare successfully represents the effects of personal conflict and engages with the audience through the portrayal of the conspiracy against Caesar and its impact on flawed characters, which ultimately led to Rome’s downfall. The play’s historical narrative is enriched by the intricate characterisation, the employment of the tragedy structure and the manipulation of history and characters.

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By dramatising and manipulating history, composers exemplify how intrapersonal conflict leads to internalised vacillation and uncertainty, emphasising the impacts of conflict to engage the audience. Shakespeare first introduces the audience to Brutus’ inner conflict at the beginning of the play, “Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war”, he describes himself as ‘poor’ and ‘with himself at war’ revealing his internal conflict to the audience. Brutus’ intrapersonal conflict is also evident in his soliloquy. Through the use of an analogy, “It is the bright day that brings forth the adder; … Crown him? … I grant, we put a sting in him, That at his will he may do danger with”. The comparison of Caesar to a poisonous snake depicts him as a person who will no longer have compassion for the people of Ancient Rome if he gains too much authority. Shakespeare skillfully influences Brutus to have conflicting views on Julius Caesar. Throughout the play, Shakespeare characterises Caesar, “Caesar turned to hear”, the use of the third person emphasises his self-inflated view of himself and represents how ambitious he has become, causing Brutus to question Caesar’s leadership, engaging us with their unfolding personal conflict. Additionally, Brutus’ cognitive dissonance is augmented in the scene of Caesar’s death, Shakspeare emphasises a sense of closeness and intimacy between Brutus and Caesar, by altering history to have Caesar utter his dying words, “E tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar.” to Brutus. Shakespeare appeals to the audience’s sense of pathos by having his dying words be spoken in Latin We, alongside Brutus, are engaged with a sympathetic connection with Caesar, but also alienated and forced to question Caesar as he still hangs onto his egotistical self by referring to himself in the third person, “Then fall Caesar”. Therefore through the characterisation of Brutus as a misinformed idealist, doubtful of the genuine danger that Caesar poses to Rome, Shakespeare proficiently investigates the intrapersonal conflict while additionally engaging with the audience.

Through the manipulation of historical events, Shakespeare effectively explores the consequences of interpersonal conflict among characters while also successfully engaging an audience. Shakespeare illuminates the impacts of interpersonal conflict during the funeral oration as he portrays Brutus and Antony with manipulative traits which allows them to deter the plebeians from forming their own perceptions. Caesar’s ‘ambitious’ nature is the public illusion that Brutus creates for the crowd, “But, as he was ambitious, I slew him. … death for his ambition.” Through the repetition of ‘ambition’, it displays how the conspirators believe that Caesar was on the path towards becoming a tyrant, something that is against the Roman values. To reinforce the conflict, Shakespeare influences Brutus’ dialogue and uses a rhetorical question; “Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than… to live as free men?”. The hyperbolic statement causes the plebeians, and indeed the audience to think about their fate if Caesar had still been alive, supporting Brutus’ cause. Shakespeare further develops the interpersonal conflict in Mark Antony’s speech. Antony begins his speech with the same opening as Brutus does; “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”, their openings are paralleled with each other as it indicates their intention of manipulating the public into conflicting viewpoints. Although both openings share a common responsibility, Antony’s use of the word ‘lend’ and addressing them as ‘friends’ establishes a sense of equality with the plebeians, suggesting that Antony is admirable and less ambitious. To undermine Brutus’ speech, Antony reveals a private reality where Caesar is conveyed as ‘my friend, faith and just’, showcasing to the plebeians the mistake that the conspirators have made. Shakespeare employs high modality and rhetorical questions, ‘hath Caesar thus deserved your loves?’, in order to force the public to reassess their perception of the murder of Caesar and to weaken Brutus’ speech. Further to this, Shakespeare fictionalised history in Mark Antony’s speech as he uses conspicuous ambiguity regarding Caesar, “If it were so, it was a grievous fault”, rhetorical questions, “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?” and feigned intent, “I speak not to approve what Brutus spoke” to appeal to the audience's sense of logos and pathos as they engage with the conflict between Antony and Brutus. Shakespeare effectively represents and explores the interpersonal conflict between two main characters while also engages an audience.

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To sum up, for the aforementioned reasons, William Shakespeare successfully explores personal conflict and its impacts on characters in his play Julius Caesar. He also engages with his audience through the manipulation of characters and historical events to shape the audience’s understanding.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Play Review: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. (2023, January 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Play Review: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.” GradesFixer, 05 Jan. 2023,
Play Review: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Play Review: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jan 05 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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