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The fault, dear Brutus

“The fault, dear Brutus” is the beginning of a well-known quote found in William Shakespeare’s history play, Julius Caesar. It can be found in Act I, Scene 2, and is spoken by Cassius. 

“The fault, dear Brutus” is part of one of the most important speeches in Shakespeare’s plays. These lines begin a conniving and convincing speech that eventually results in Brutus leading the assassination of his friend and leader Julius Caesar.


“The fault, dear Brutus” Meaning

The line “The fault, dear Brutus” begins a longer speech that defines one’s to control their own fate and the influence that ordinary men, like Cesar, should or shouldn’t have in Roman society. Cassius asserts that the “fault “of “underlings” like himself and Brutus is their own. They have allowed themselves to live at the feet of a colossus, Julius Caesar, and unless they do something about it they are going to die meaningless deaths and be forgotten to time.

This quote is one of the many examples of Cassius’s ability to manipulate those around him. His use of flatter to convince Brutus to join the conspiracy to kill his friend Cesar is one of the most memorable elements of the play. 

Where Did Shakespeare Use “The fault, dear Brutus?”

William Shakespeare used “The fault, dear Brutus” quote, and broader speech, in Act I, Scene 2 of his history play. It is spoken by Cassius, one of the main conspirators who work to assassinate Caesar. He is shrewd, conniving, and is apparently concerned about Caesar’s rise to power. But, unlike Brutus, Cassius his motivations are far more selfish. Cassius resents and is jealous of Caesar’s status with his people while Brutus is concerned about Caesar’s god-like role as leader and the power he wields. Here are the first lines of Cassius’ speech: 

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world 

Like a Colossus, and we petty men 

Walk under his huge legs and peep about 

To find ourselves dishonorable graves. 

Men at some time are masters of their fates. 

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, 

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

These words are spoken in response to the applauding crowd, celebrating their leader—Julius Caesar. Brutus notes: 

Another general shout! 

I do believe that these applauses are 

For some new honors that are heaped on Caesar.

Cassius begins the speech in response to these lines, describing Caesar as a colossus, or giant, struggling the world with all other people at his feet. Brutus, Cassius, the other conspirators, and the people of Rome are “petty men,” or insignificant in comparison to their colossal leader. They live small lives and when they die, they will be immediately forgotten. 

Cassius goes on to say that men do have some control over their lives, despite their willingness to suggest otherwise. Cassius asserts that they are unwilling to do anything about their lot in life is the reason why they are going to die as “underlings.” He continues with the lines: 

“Brutus” and “Caesar”—what should be in that

“Caesar”? 

Why should that name be sounded more than

 yours? 

Write them together, yours is as fair a name; 

Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well; 

Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ’em, 

“Brutus” will start a spirit as soon as “Caesar.” 

Now, in the names of all the gods at once, 

Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed 

That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed! 

Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!

In the following lines, Cassius asserts that the name “Caesar” and the name “Brutus” are not inherently different. There is nothing magical or particularly resounding in the name “Caesar” that does not exist in the name “Brutus.” Cassius then insinuates that Caesar is not as good as he seems. He adds that Caesar should not have been able to raise himself to the status of a monarch as he has. Rome was once a great city that’s lost its legendary lineage. Caesar was a normal, everyday man and should not have become so powerful, Cassius adds. He utilizes numerous questions in this passage as well, inspiring Brutus to come to specific conclusions. The speech ends with the lines: 

 When went there by an age, since the great flood, 

But it was famed with more than with one man? 

When could they say, till now, that talked of Rome, 

That her wide walks encompassed but one man? 

Now is it Rome indeed, and room enough 

When there is in it but one only man. 

O, you and I have heard our fathers say 

There was a Brutus once that would have brooked 

Th’ eternal devil to keep his state in Rome 

As easily as a king.

Here, Cassius is again referring to the value and names. He alludes to the ancient history of the name “Brutus” and suggests that someone with a name like his could’ve become as powerful a king as Cesar. There is nothing special about their leader but he has managed to establish himself in a king-like role, something that prior Romans would’ve been ashamed of.

Why Did Shakespeare Use the Quote 

“The fault, dear Brutus” speech, or the “bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus” speech is one of the most important in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The speech is one of the best examples of Cassius’s cunning. Through these lines, he addresses Brutus the man who leads the assassination of Julius Caesar and begins to convince him that no man, particularly an ordinary man like Cesar who was once a simple general, should’ve been able to raise himself to the status of a king in Rome. The lines are part of the motivation that Brutus needs in order to be convinced that his friend needs to be assassinated. 

Rome was founded as a republic and prior Romans, such as Brutus’s namesake, would’ve rather a devil ruled their empire than a king.

FAQs

Who said “The fault, dear Brutus?”

This quote was included in Julius Caesar, one of William Shakespeare’s great history plays. The line is spoken by the nobleman, Cassius, and is addressed to Brutus, the man most commonly associated with Caesar’s assassination.

Why is “The fault, dear Brutus” speech important?

The speech is one of, if not the most important speech and William Shakespeare’s history play Julius Caesar. The lines are spoken by Cassius and are used to convince Brutus that it is in their best interest to do away with Cesar and ensure that no one asserts a God-like power over the citizens of Rome.

What does this quote “is not in our stars, But in ourselves” mean?

This line refers to the influence of destiny. In this line, Cassius, from William Shakespeare’s history played Julius Caesar, is attempting to convince Brutus that it is in their control what role they are going to play. They do not have to be underlings to Julius Caesar’s mighty rule.


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