Study Guide

Julius Caesar

by William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar Quotes

Important Quotations

For let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honor more than I fear death.
(I, ii)

As explained in the thematic discussion there is much in the way of political dilemmas in the play. Brutus, in this same scene, lets it be know that he fears the people will anoint Caesar as their king, subordinating their liberty to him. In this quote, Brutus is explaining that his opposition to Caesar's rule is based on honorable intentions, and not selfish motives.

...and this man
Is now become a god; and Cassius is
A wretched creature, and must bend his body,
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him
(I, ii)

Spoken by Cassius in the beginning of the play, the quote shows his motive of envy and resentment as the driving force behind his desire to eliminate Caesar. His motives contrast with the honorable motives of Brutus.

People and Senators, be not affrighted;
Fly not; stand still; ambition's debt is paid.
(III, i)

Spoken by Brutus directly after Caesar is slain, the quote points to one of the themes in the play: ambition. Brutus believes Caesar has been too ambitious and power-hungry, and that this has caused his death.

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
(III, i)

Antony, in a soliliquoy at the end of Act III, scene i, anguishes over the death of Caesar, who he considers "the noblest man that ever lived." The stage is set for the conflict between Antony and Brutus.

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 freemen?
(III, ii)

Brutus explains to the crowd of Roman citizens at Caesar's funeral why he rose against Caesar, indicating that it was for the good of Rome.

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
(III, ii)

In a famous (or infamous) funeral oration, Antony cleverly turns the crowd against Brutus and the conspirators. He disputes Brutus's claim that Caesar was ambitious, telling the crowd that Caesar cried upon the deaths of poor people. In the final coup d'etat of the speech, Antony reads from Caesar's will, which stipulates money and property for the common people. The people begin to mutiny.

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd him that
Nature might stand up
And say to all the world: "This was a man!"
(V, v)

His previous doubts cast aside, Antony submits that Brutus' motives were pure, and that his concern was for the Roman Republic, unlike the other conspirators. He was a true statesman.

Julius Caesar Essential Quotes

Essential Passage by Character: Brutus

BRUTUS:
It must be by his death, and, for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder
And that craves wary walking. Crown him? that;
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power, and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway’d
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may;
Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
Will bear no color for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus, that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.

Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 10-34

Summary
Julius Caesar has returned from his victorious battle against Pompey in the Roman civil war. It is the feast of Lupercalia, a fertility rite, and Caesar has told his wife, Calpurnia, to stand in the path of Caesar’s loyal friend Mark Antony, who runs in the race, for people believed if a woman is touched by a runner during this rite she will become pregnant. The implication is that Caesar expects to be made a king, and he is eager for a son who might inherit his title. A soothsayer ominously tells Caesar, “Beware the ides of March” (which is the next day), and this second instance of superstition increases the suspense that something is going to happen to Caesar. In fact, some of Caesar’s generals and noblemen are worried that the mob will try to make Caesar king and that he will accept the honor. Cassius, a senator who distrusts Caesar’s ambitions and resents the adulation bestowed on him, hints to Brutus, another great friend of Caesar’s, that he should participate in a plot to assassinate Caesar, hoping that Brutus’s reputation for virtue and wisdom will lend moral weight to the cause. Cassius tells Brutus he has noticed he looks worried and then suggests he must be worried about Caesar, because he is too. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings,” he tells him (1.2.146-147), trying to convince Brutus to take responsibility for preserving a free Rome. After he hears that Caesar was offered the crown three times, including once by Antony, Brutus tells Cassius he will think about the idea. Late that night, Cassius meets with Casca and Cicero, two other...

(The entire section is 1275 words.)

Essential Passage by Character: Antony vs. Brutus

ANTONY:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest—
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men—
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause;
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Act 3, Scene 2, 81-115

Summary
The crowd’s approval of Brutus’s speech earlier in Act 3 gives him the opportunity to succumb to his own ambitions if he has any, but he does not. He tells the crowd, “Good countrymen, let me depart alone, / And, for my sake, stay here with Antony.” What Brutus does not know, however, is that after Antony pledged to him his loyalty and shook his bloody hand, Antony said (in soliloquy), “Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood,” and asked his servant to bring Octavius, Caesar’s nephew, back to Rome to help him (and Ledipus, another senator) rule in a triumvirate. Thus, when Brutus tells the crowd that they should listen to what Antony has to say, we the audience know, but Brutus does not, that Antony intends to undermine Brutus’s credibility. This dramatic irony causes us to wonder whether Antony has Rome’s best interest at heart, for we know he wants to convince the crowd that Brutus should pay for his treachery. He must do this indirectly, however, through verbal irony and sarcasm, so that he does not directly contradict Brutus. Doing so might jeopardize his relationship with the crowd, whom he wants to win to his side. Just as after Caesar’s death, he proclaims, “Domestic fury and fierce civil strife / Shall cumber all the parts of Italy,” so when he concludes this funeral oration he says, “Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, / Take thou what course thou wilt!” He intends to cause...

(The entire section is 1333 words.)