Explain the disagreements between the triumvirate and the assassins in Act IV and V in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare..

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is a political play based on actual events from 44 B. C. The first three acts are devoted to the assassination of Caesar.  Acts IV and V portray what happens to the new government and the assassins.

In Act IV, Scene i, the new triumvirate of Lepidus, Antony, and Octavius are meeting to make a list of those Romans who should die based on their lack of support for the new government.  Lepidus is sent on an errand by Antony. 

As soon as Lepidus leaves, Antony begins to point out the weaknesses of Lepidus.  Antony does not think that Lepidus deserves to be a part of the triumvirate; furthermore, he admits that he only took the word of Lepidus because he is more experienced than Octavius.  Octavius has no qualms about speaking against what Antony says:

Octavius: You may do your will,

              But he’s a tried and valiant soldier.

Antony:  So is my horse, Octavius

The discussion than continues on with news about the armies of Cassius and Brutus. 

Another disagreement between these two characters comes about in the beginning of Act V, Scene i.  Octavius rejects the orders of Antony.  Antony tells him to take his army to the right and flank the enemies’ armies.  Octavius tells Antony that he will go on the left. Antony, a more experienced soldier, is astonished that Octavius would go against his decisions in battle. 

This scene’s purpose serves to foreshadow future events in which Octavius and Antony separate and wind up fighting each other.

The assassins have their own disputes.  In Act IV, Scene ii and iii, Cassius and Brutus have been separated while pulling together their armies.  They are angry with each other.  Cassius has been taking bribes from people for his favors.  Brutus has found out and accuses him of it. 

Then, Brutus tells Cassius that he refused to send him money when he needed to pay his soldiers.  Each of them denounces the other. Things come to a head when Cassius offers Brutus his blade and naked chest. Cassius points out that Brutus stabbed Caesar out of love, which is more than Cassius is getting from Brutus right now:

Cassius: There is my dagger,

And here my naked breast: within, a heart

Dearer than Pluto’s mine, richer than gold.

If that thou best a Roman, take it forth…

Brutus: Sheathe they dagger…

These two men need each other if they expect to do battle with Antony and Octavius. Brutus and Cassius apologize and shake hands.  Then, the real problem with Brutus is revealed.  His wife Portia has committed suicide when she thought that Brutus was going to be captured.  Soon, both of these characters will soon kill themselves in lieu of returning to Rome in chains.


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