Julius Caesar Essay Example: Pride and Why It Lead to His Downfall
Time and time again, history has proven that arrogant leaders do not succeed. Whether it is Alexander the Great, Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin, history has shown that the egotistical leaders fail in the end. Julius Caesar is no exception. Caesar believes himself to be a god, and he thinks that he is better than everyone else. Soon enough, he is brutally stabbed twenty-three times by his own friends. His pride is so great that it blinds him from being able to see it coming. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Caesar personifies the theme: an individual with too much pride can become oblivious to consequences coming his or her way.
The theme of arrogance and its consequences is evident in Caesar and how he ignores warnings about the near future. Shortly after defeating Pompey, a soothsayer warns Caesar to beware of the Ides of March. Caesar is unable to comprehend the thought of someone not wanting him in power, and he quickly dismisses the idea: “He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass” (I. II. 28). Caesar’s dismissal of the soothsayer illustrates his view of himself as invincible which prevents him from heeding the warning. This idea is demonstrated again when Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, tries to convince Caesar to stay at home due to some disturbing dreams that she had about Caesar’s murder. Despite hearing Calpurnia’s worries, he states “Caesar shall forth: the things that threaten’d me/ Ne’er look’d but on my back; when the shall see/ The face of Caesar, they are vanished” (II. II. 10-12).
Saying that threats will vanish by the sight of one’s face is a bold claim, and it further supports the idea that Caesar’s pride clouds his perspective. When saying this, he implies that nothing bad can happen to him because he is so great; therefore, he is blinded by his arrogance. Later, after deciding to ignore Calpurnia and go to the capital, Caesar is stopped by Artemidorus. Artemidorus begs Caesar to read his letter that contained the Conspirators' plan, but Caesar refuses: “What, is the fellow mad?” (II. III. 10). Yet again, Caesar shows that he has too much pride to understand the possibility of someone not wanting him in power. By calling Artemidorus “mad,” Caesar suggests that he must be crazy for thinking that someone is plotting against him. Even though Caesar is given multiple warnings from the citizens and his wife, he proves to be too self-confident and oblivious. The conspirators give him one last chance to gain humility before he is murdered.
Caesar further illustrates the theme of arrogance and its negative effects in how he chooses to keep Metellus Cimber’s brother banished. Desperate, Cimber begs Caesar to let his brother come back to Rome. Even Caesar's best friend, Brutus, kisses Caesar’s hand to show how much it means to him. Despite his own friends pleading with him to change his mind, Caesar refuses to listen. He demonstrates how he believes that all other people are below him when he says, “I could be well moved, if I were as you” (III. I. 64). Here, Caesar implies that while “normal” people would be moved by the situation, and would change their minds, Caesar is above what the common people would do.
Caesar sees himself on a pedestal, and his pride is blinding him from seeing that consequences are headed his way if he does not change soon. Later, Caesar shows his pride and arrogance when he claims that he is “as constant as the northern star” (III. I. 66). To compare oneself with the northern star is evidence that one has too much pride. The northern star is the only star in the sky that never moves, and it is the star that many sailors use as a guide. When he says that he is as constant as the northern star, he is boasting of his ability to make a decision and stick to it, and he is also suggesting that he is the one who guides and protects all of the Roman citizens. This is the last straw; it is exactly what the conspirators need to hear before they kill him. It proves that too much pride and arrogance can cause someone to be blind to the danger coming their way.
Obviously, Julius Caesar’s pride is his downfall. His friends’ and wife’s warnings fell on deaf ears because he is so sure of himself. Caesar similarly ignores Cimber’s plea for his brother to return. These examples illustrate the dark side of arrogance and how it can prevent humans from seeing their weaknesses in true light. Taken together, it is clear that while Caesar’s ego is the ultimate source of his strength, it is also the cause of his downfall.