The Defense of Brutus is one the most memorable oratorical pieces in history. Taken from the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Brutus is one of the conspirators (together with Cassius), who plots against Julius Caesar, a well-loved Roman general and senator, and Brutus’ best friend. In the play, which is based on a historical event, Cassius convinces Brutus that Caesar will be drunk with power and will soon rule Rome as a tyrant. Cassius further convinces him that they must kill Caesar for the good of Rome.
The conspirators, with Caesar, meet for a council meeting. Behind the closed doors of the assembly, they stab Caesar to death, with Brutus giving the last stab to the heart, eliciting a cry from Caesar, “Et tu, Brute?” meaning “And you, Brutus?” or “You, too, Brutus?”
The speech is set after the conspirators have stabbed Caesar. Brutus defends their actions to the people of Rome. Because Brutus was also well-loved and was considered Caesar’s dearest friend, the people soon believed that he and the rest of the conspirators had a good reason for killing Caesar. He emphasizes that he loves Caesar, but that he “loves Rome more”.
The Defense of Brutus (or Brutus’ Defense)
Act 3. Scene 2.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:–
Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.