- Schanzer, Ernest. "The Tragedy of Shakespeare's Brutus."
- ELH 22 (1955): 1-15. Rpt. in Discussions
of Shakespeare's Roman Plays. Ed. Maurice Charney. Boston: Heath,
Thesis: Schanzer's topic is Brutus: "his divided mind, his
self-deception, his final tragic disillusion" (65). Schanzer views
Brutus as one who finds himself in a situation in which "his gentle,
frank, and generous nature is in revolt not only against the deed
itself, but against the whole conspiracy, with all the secrecy and
deceitfulness that it entails" (68). Brutus evades this torment by
self-deception; he "tries to free himself both from the guilt and
from the sheer physical horror of the murder by adopting a
ritualistic and an aesthetic attitude towards it" (69). However,
everything turns against him:
News reaches Brutus that seventy senators, including Cicero, have
been put to death. His wife has committed suicide. And, to cap it
all, his own cause has been tarnished by Cassius's malpractices.
These are the fruits of the assassination. Instead of benefiting his
country Brutus has, from the best of motives and the highest of
principles, plunged it into ruin. (73)
Furthermore, Schanzer believes that Brutus is certainly the tragic
hero of the play, in which "the main
issue . . . is not a political but a moral issue,
consisting in the conflicting claims of the world of personal
relations and that of politics" (75). Schanzer, in support of this
view, points out that Caesar, Cassius, and Antony all make crucial
decisions in which they sacrifice or abuse their personal
relationships for political expediency. And so the play's "central
character is Brutus, in whom the moral issue is fought out" (76).
Bottom Line: Generally persuasive.