The Fault, Dear Brutus

Origin of The Fault, Dear Brutus

Cassius, a Roman nobleman, uttered this phrase when he was talking to his friend, Brutus, in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. The phrase goes, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141). He is, in fact, trying to persuade Brutus to stop Caesar from becoming a monarch — an act he thinks is in the best interest of the country. He is arguing that it is not fate, but their weak position, that is exploiting them to act against their will. However, history does not support the credibility of this persuasive sentence as spoken by him.

Meaning of The Fault, Dear Brutus

In a literal sense, the phrase means that it is not fate, but weakness of the character that forces a person to act against his will. Figuratively, it puts fate and one’s character or position side by side, stressing the second as a dominant force. However, it dismisses the presence of some divine elements often deemed active in controlling human existence. For some critics, nevertheless, it is present in the word “underlings,” which means there is something above in the heavens that plays a role in shaping the circumstances, though it might not be in the stars, but is preordained fate.

Usage of The Fault, Dear Brutus

Its usage mostly depends on the circumstances. While on one hand, it is used to encourage people when they suffer from frustration in meeting failures; on the other hand, it is used when a person moves from one workplace to another, expecting better financial rewards. Sports coaches at fields, bosses at offices, and friends at home use this phrase to encourage them to have faith in their abilities. However, it is best used by those who fail to overthrow dictators or political opponents.

Literary Source of The Fault, Dear Brutus

These words appear in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II, Lines 135-141. In this sentence, Cassius addresses Brutus, to persuade him to take part in the overthrow of the tyrant, Julius Caesar, because he is reluctant due to his friendship with Caesar. The phrase goes thus:

Why, man, he [Caesar] 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.

(Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2, 135–141)

In its literary context, Cassius means that sometimes people have to take steps they think they cannot. He does not mean to present fate and human efforts as opposite to each other. He simply urges that one should act when it is time to act. If a person gets a chance to change his circumstances, he should go for it. The phrase links the concept of human dignity with efforts a person makes, and not the status he enjoys.

Literary Analysis of The Fault, Dear Brutus

In literature, concepts of fate and effort have invited inconclusive debates. On the one hand, it seems logical to say that there is nothing in “our stars,” but simultaneously, it also is difficult to leave everything to fate. John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars, published in 2012, describes the story of two cancer patients who can be independent to act on their will, yet they are bound to face their eventual deaths. It shows that there is something that already exists in our fate, but we are independent to do certain things to change it.

Literary Devices

  • Imagery: “Fault” and “Stars” are parts of figurative speech.
  • Metaphor: “Stars” are presented as active objects affecting our lives.
  • Personification: “Stars” have been personified as something affecting lives of human beings.