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Julius Caesar, a political play by William Shakespeare, is based on actual events which took place in 44 B.C. After the assassination of Caesar, Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus form a new triumvirate to rule Rome. The conspirators flee Rome and form their own armies in readiness for the ensuing battle with the new government leaders. In Act IV, Scene iii, Cassius and Brutus reunite.
The scene begins at Sardis in Brutus' tent. Cassius is angry because Brutus has condemned a friend of Cassius to death for accepting bribes. Cassius wrote to Brutus on the man's behalf, but Brutus ignored his request.
Brutus retaliates by accusing Cassius of being greedy himself.
Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself
Are much condemn'd to have an itching palm,
To sell and mart your offices for gold
His accusation meant that Cassius had also been accepting money for favors through his power. Cassius does not deny this, but retorts that if anyone else had accused him other than Brutus, he would have killed him.
Brutus then reminds Cassius what happened on the Ides of March. The conspirators killed Caesar for his desire for power, and he was the foremost man of the times. Now, they act like criminals and take bribes. Brutus summarizes his position:
I had rather be a dog, and bay at the moon,
Than such a Roman.
Brutus would never accept bribes for any reason.
For several minutes, the two generals insult each other. Cassius reminds Brutus that he is a soldier, stronger and constrained only by the fact that he is Brutus. The two continue to bicker when Brutus accuses Cassius of saying that he is a better soldier. Cassius denies this and tells Brutus that he said that he was older not better.
After much discussion, the reader learns one of the reasons for Brutus's anger. Brutus had asked Cassius for money, and Cassius ignored him.
I did send to you for gold to pay my legions,
Which you denied me.
Was that done like Cassius?
Cassius denies that he ignored him. Instead, he accuses the messenger of giving the wrong answer to Brutus. Cassius charges that if Brutus were his friend he would not be so harsh. In dramatic fashion, Cassius pulls out his dagger to kill himself. He announces that Antony and Octavius can revenge themselves on him alone because he is tired of the world if he is so hated by Brutus, whom he loves.
Realizing that he may have been too harsh, Brutus admits to Cassius that he has been ill-tempered. The two men need each other. They shake hands and promise to work together.
Cassius asks Brutus to be patient with him since he was born with a hot temper. Brutus promises that when Cassius is angry he will let him alone.
Finally, Cassius learns the real reason for Brutus' behavior. He has received a message that Portia, his wife and Cassius's sister, has committed suicide by swallowing hot coals. Feeling responsible, Brutus and Cassius are both heart sick.
The two drink together to pledge friendship. Each man has shown that he has individual faults. Cassius probably did accept bribes for money. He does have a hot temper and speaks rudely to Brutus. Yet, Cassius is the older and wiser soldier.
Brutus, on the other hand, has had second thoughts about the assassination. He reminds Cassius that they killed Caesar and they must never lose sight of why they are fighting against Antony and Octavius.
The scene is now set for the final battle.
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