What are the principal events in Act IV of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

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Act IV in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare provides insight into the two factions which have established themselves since the assassination of Caesar.  A new triumvirate has gained power, and the two assassins who are left alive have formed a coalition.

Act IV, Scene i

The scene takes place at a house in Rome.  A new triumvirate has formed: Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus.  These three are meeting to decide who should live or die.  Those people who are against them will be on the list to die. Antony and Lepidus are willing to exchange the life of Lepidus’s brother for the nephew of Antony. 

Antony sends Lepidus to find the will of Caesar.  While he is gone, Antony tells Octavius that Lepidus is not worthy to be a member of the government.  He is no better than Antony’s horse.  Octavius tells Antony that he finds nothing wrong with Lepidus.  It is obvious that Octavius will stand up against Antony at every opportunity. 

Antony does not intend to follow through with the will of Caesar.   The problem between Antony and Octavius punctuated Shakespeare theme of power corrupts. 

The scene ends with Antony and Octavius planning how to combat the armies of Brutus and Cassius.

Act IV, Scene ii

This is a brief scene that takes place outside of a tent in Brutus’s camp near Sardis.  Brutus tells Cassius servant that he has been offended by Cassius. It is obvious that Brutus’s no longer has the same feelings about Cassius as he once did.  Then, Cassius comes in and immediately accuses Brutus of having wronged him. 

Brutus stops the quarrel, so they are not seen arguing in front of the soldiers. 

Act IV, Scene iii

Both Cassius and Brutus are unhappy with the other.

These are the primary events of the scene:

  • Cassius accuses Brutus of condemning Cassius’s friend for taking bribes.  This occurred despite the fact that Cassius had asked Brutus not to do it.
  • Brutus accuses Cassius of taking bribes as well. Brutus would never do such a dishonorable thing as accept money wrongfully.
  • The quarrel grows in intensity.
  • Brutus is also angry because he ask Cassius to send him money to pay his soldiers. Cassius ignored him.
  • Cassius denies this and said it was a misunderstanding. He believes that Brutus no longer loves him as a friend.

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 relents, and the two make up.

From the conversation that ensues, the audience learns that triumvirate’s armies are marching toward them. They also learn that Antony and the others have put to death one hundred senators.

One of the other soldiers reports that Portia has died.  Brutus gives little reaction with his stoicism.

Brutus wants to march toward Philippi and meet the opposing armies.  Cassius disagrees.  Brutus as usual wins the argument despite it being a poor choice.

When the guests leave for the evening and to go to sleep, Brutus asks to soldiers to sleep outside his tent. He asks Lucius to play and sing to him, but Lucius falls asleep.  Brutus begins reading. The ghost of Caesar enters the tent.  Brutus asks who the spirit is.  The ghost answers “Thy evil spirit.” It warns  Brutus that he will see him again at Philippi. Brutus wakes everyone to see if they have heard or seen anything. They swear that they have seen nothing.

The assassination of Caesar continues to have fallout until the death of the last two conspirators in Act V.


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