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Feldman, H. (1952). Unconscious Envy in Brutus. Am. Imago, 9(3-4):307-335.

(1952). American Imago, 9(3-4):307-335

Unconscious Envy in Brutus

Harold Feldman

“Brutus was an incurably cleft soul…” Max Radin.

A few months ago I returned to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and for the first time received an unfavorable impression of his Brutus. A rereading of the play and a study of the authorities did not dispel that impression. On the contrary, it developed into a theory which seemed to solve certain problems which have bothered the critics. These problems can be summed up in the question: WHY DID BRUTUS KILL CAESAR! If Brutus is in fact the pure idealist and noble philosopher he has impressed most critics to be, why doesn't he give a single satisfactory explanation of his tragic course? In my opinion, his action originated from an immense self-love which covered an envious passion.

Brutus has been a literary hero for hundreds of years. Authors and critics have almost always treated him as though he were a demigod and model of civic virtue for all time.

Excellent Brutus! of all human race

The best till nature was improved by grace. (Cowley)

This attitude is important to remember if we are to investigate the difficulties that Shakespearean critics and Shakespeare himself had in dealing with the antique Roman. The historians have usually taken an entirely different view. They know the Brutus who exacted four times the usual rate of interest from the people of Salamis as well as they know the hero of Philippi. They draw the character of a man who accepted pardon and high office from the leader whose overthrow and death he plotted. Caesar had gotten him the place of praetor and nominated him to be governor of Macedonia just a short time before the assassination.

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