Julius Caesar Character and Theme Quotes

William Shakespeare

Character and Theme 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 conspirators. The night is...

(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 trouble, partly to avenge the death of Caesar but mostly to ensure that the...

(The entire section is 1333 words.)