Act I, Scene 1
On a street in Rome, two tribunes named Flavius and Marullus are angrily confronting a crowd of commoners. Rome used to be ruled by a triumvirate of three men, but because of the recent civil war, Julius Caesar has emerged as the single most powerful man in Rome. This troubles Flavius and Marullus because they think that Caesar’s growing power will threaten the stability of the Republic. They yell at the commoners for celebrating Caesar’s return, reminding them that they once supported Pompey, one of the triumvirate who was killed in the civil war. After they drive the commoners off the streets, Flavius and Marullus decide to remove all the decorations from statues of Caesar. [Extended Summary and Analysis of Act I, Scene 1]
Act I, Scene 2
Caesar and a procession of people—including his wife, Calphurnia; his friends; and a few conspirators against him—are on their way to the Coliseum for a celebratory footrace. On the way there, a soothsayer calls out a warning to Caesar, telling him to “Beware the ides of March.” Caesar dismisses the man, and the procession continues to the Coliseum. However, Brutus and Cassius remain behind. Brutus tells Cassius that he has been distracted by conflicting emotions lately, admitting he is afraid that the people have chosen Caesar to be king. Cassius takes this opportunity to start undermining Caesar as a man who is too weak to be a sole ruler. After this conversation, the games end and the rest of the procession return. When Caesar sees Brutus and Cassius together, he feels uneasy, but dismisses the threat because of his vain self-assurance. He and his followers leave, but a sarcastic tribune named Casca stays to tell Brutus and Cassius what happened at the race. Apparently, Antony presented Caesar with a symbolic crown three times, and Caesar refused it each time. When Casca describes how Caesar fainted afterward (he has epilepsy), Casca reveals that he doesn’t approve of Caesar. The scene ends with a soliloquy by Cassius. He reveals that he is conspiring against Caesar and wants to trick Brutus into joining the conspiracy. [Extended Summary and Analysis of Act I, Scene 2]
Act I, Scene 3
A month later, on the night before the ides of March, there is a storm raging in Rome. Casca meets Cicero, a senator, on the streets and describes all the frightening and unusual signs he has witnessed lately. Then Casca meets Cassius, who is not concerned at all about the storm because he thinks they are divine warnings against Caesar. Cassius tells Casca that the senators plan to make Caesar king and convinces Casca to join the plot to kill Caesar. Another conspirator, Cinna, enters and tells them that the other conspirators are waiting at Pompey’s Theater. They decide to first go to Brutus’s house and give him one last push to join the conspiracy. [Extended Summary and Analysis of Act I, Scene 3]
One-Page Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
At the feast of Lupercalia all Rome rejoices, for the latest military triumphs of Julius Caesar are being celebrated during that holiday. Nevertheless, tempers flare and jealousies seethe beneath the public gaiety. Flavius and Marallus, two tribunes, coming upon a group of citizens gathered to praise Caesar, tear down their trophies and order the people to go home and remember Pompey’s fate at the hands of Caesar.
Other dissatisfied noblemen discuss with concern Caesar’s growing power and his incurable ambition. A soothsayer, following Caesar in his triumphal procession, warns him to beware the Ides of March. Cassius, one of the most violent of Caesar’s critics, speaks at length to Brutus of the dictator’s unworthiness to rule the state. Why, he demands, should the name of Caesar be synonymous with that of Rome when there are so many other worthy men in the city?
While Cassius and Brutus are speaking, they hear a tremendous shouting from the crowd. From aristocratic Casca they learn that before the mob Marcus Antonius three times offered a crown to Caesar and three times the dictator refused it. Thus do the wily Antonius and Caesar catch and hold the devotion of the multitude. Fully aware of Caesar’s methods and the potential danger that he embodies, Cassius and Brutus, disturbed by the new turn of events, agree to meet again to discuss the affairs of Rome. As they part, Caesar arrives in time to see them, and suspicion of Cassius...
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Act and Scene Summary and Analysis
Act I, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
Flavius and Marullus: tribunes opposed to Caesar’s growing power
Roman Citizens: among them a cobbler and carpenter, supporters of Caesar
The setting is February 15, 44 B.C., the Feast of Lupercal, on a street in Rome. After the death of Pompey, Caesar has returned to Rome as the most powerful man in the Republic. The play begins on a Roman street with a confrontation between Flavius and Marullus (Roman tribunes) and a crowd of citizens out to celebrate Caesar’s arrival for the games. The tribunes are concerned about Caesar’s growing power and popular support and how it may destroy the Roman Republic. They scold the citizens and remind them of the love and support Rome once gave Pompey, who was killed in the civil war with Caesar. Flavius and Marullus drive the crowd from the streets. They decide to pull down any banners and decorations honoring Caesar, and scatter the crowds wherever they find them in an attempt to weaken popular support for Caesar.
The opening scene is expository. It establishes the time and place and gives the audience an indication of what happened before the play began. It shows the political climate in Rome and the conflict surrounding Caesar. Rome, once ruled by three men (a triumvirate) is now in the hands of only one, Caesar, whose ambitions include becoming king. The citizens, once loyal to Pompey, one of the triumvirate, now form the base of...
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Act I, Scene 2: Summary and Analysis
Caesar: the most powerful man in the Roman Republic after the death of Pompey
Calphurnia: Caesar’s wife
Brutus: friend of Caesar, concerned about the welfare of Rome
Cassius: brother-in-law of Brutus and leader of the conspiracy against Caesar
Casca: a conspirator against Caesar
Antony: a close friend of Caesar
Soothsayer: one who sees the future and tries to warn Caesar
The setting for this scene is another Roman street on the Feast of Lupercal. Caesar enters at the head of a procession (triumph) with a flourish of trumpets, accompanied by his wife, friends, and some of the conspirators who will later stab him to death. They are on their way to the Coliseum for the traditional footrace to celebrate the Feast of Lupercal, a fertility festival in honor of the god Pan. Caesar stops the procession and calls for Calphurnia. He then orders Antony, who is dressed to run, to touch Calphurnia during the race. The Romans believed that a barren (sterile) woman touched by the winner of the race on the Feast of Lupercal would “Shake off their sterile curse.” (11) As they are about to move off, a soothsayer calls to Caesar from the crowd. He warns Caesar, “Beware the ides of March.” (March 15) (21) But Caesar dismisses the man as “a dreamer” and the procession continues to the Coliseum.
Cassius and Brutus remain behind....
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Act I, Scene 3: Summary and Analysis
Cicero: a Roman senator and orator
Cinna: a conspirator against Caesar
It is the night before the ides of March, and a terrible storm is raging. A frightened Casca, with his sword drawn, meets Cicero on a Roman street. Casca describes to Cicero all the unusual things he has witnessed: heaven “dropping fire,” a man with his hand ablaze but not burning, a lion in the Capitol, an owl hooting in the marketplace at noon, and men on fire walking through the streets. Casca interprets all these signs to mean either the gods are engaged in civil war, or they are determined to destroy Rome. They mention Caesar’s plans to be at the Capitol in the morning, and Cicero exits as Cassius enters.
Cassius is unconcerned about the storm and tells Casca that he has been daring the lightning to strike him. When Casca says all these terrible things are signs from the gods, Cassius interprets them as warnings against Caesar. Casca reveals that the senators plan to make Caesar king, and give him a crown that he may wear “every place save here in Italy.” (91) Cassius says he would rather kill himself than see Caesar made king. He tells Casca of a plot to kill Caesar, and convinces him to join the conspiracy.
Cinna, another conspirator, enters and reports to Cassius that the others are waiting for him at Pompey’s Porch, the covered entrance to the theater built by Pompey. Cassius...
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Act II, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
Lucius: Brutus’ servant
Decius: conspirator who plans to flatter Caesar and bring him to the Senate House
Metellus Cimber and Trebonius: conspirators against Caesar
Portia: wife of Brutus
Caius Ligarius: ill friend of Brutus; the last to join the conspiracy
The setting for the scene is before three o’clock in the morning of the ides of March, and Brutus is alone in his garden. He is unable to sleep. His mind is still disturbed as he wrestles with what to do about Caesar. In a soliloquy, Brutus considers the possibilities. He has no personal feelings against Caesar, yet he must consider the good of Rome. Caesar has not yet acted irresponsibly, but once he is crowned and has power, he could change and do harm to Rome. Brutus compares Caesar to a poisonous snake. Because Caesar may be corrupted by power, Brutus decides he must be prevented from gaining power. He says, “And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg, / Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow mischievous, / And kill him in the shell.” (33–35) Lucius, Brutus’ servant, brings him some letters he has found. They all urge Brutus to act against Caesar.
Cassius, Casca, Cinna, Decius, Metellus Cimber, and Trebonius arrive to put more pressure on Brutus. Brutus announces his intention to join them, taking charge. First he convinces the others that they don’t need Cicero in the...
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Act II, Scene 2: Summary and Analysis
It is almost eight o’clock in the morning on the ides of March at Caesar’s house. Caesar is awakened by Calphurnia crying out in her sleep. Caesar orders his servant to have the priests sacrifice an animal and bring back word of the results. Calphurnia asks her husband to stay at home because she is afraid he will be murdered, but the proud and haughty Caesar refuses to take her warning. Caesar’s servant returns with word from the augurers (priests), who want Caesar to remain inside because, “They could not find a heart within the beast.” (43)
Caesar interprets this differently. He says, “The gods do this in shame of cowardice. / Caesar should be a beast without a heart / If he should stay at home today for fear.” (44–46) It is only when Calphurnia kneels and begs him to stay home for her sake that Caesar agrees.
As planned, Decius arrives to escort Caesar to the Senate. Caesar tells him to take word to the senators that he intends to remain home. When Decius presses him for a reason, Caesar tells him of Calphurnia’s dream, where she saw a statue of Caesar oozing blood in a hundred places, with many Romans bathing their hands in it. However, Decius interprets the dream in a favorable way. He says that Caesar is the lifeblood of Rome, and the men bathing in his blood are gaining strength from him. Decius also appeals to Caesar’s pride. He tells him that the senators might think Caesar is afraid if he...
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Act II, Scenes 3 and 4: Summary and Analysis
Artemidorus: teacher and friend of some of the conspirators; he has learned about the plot against Caesar
The setting is a Roman street on the ides of March shortly before the planned assassination. Artemidorus, a teacher and friend of some of the conspirators, has learned about the plot to kill Caesar. He has written a letter naming each man and warning Caesar to be on his guard. He plans to wait for Caesar to pass and then present the letter as a suitor looking for a political favor.
At the same time, on another part of the street, an agitated Portia tells Lucius to run to the Capitol and report back to her everything his master, Brutus, says and does. The confused boy is unsure of what the distracted Portia wants him to do and he hesitates. When Portia sees the soothsayer passing by his way to the Capitol, she asks him if he knows about any harm intended toward Caesar. The soothsayer responds, “None that I know will be, much that I fear may chance.” (Sc. 4, 38) He tells her that he plans to speak to Caesar when he passes.
In an aside, Portia wishes Brutus success in his enterprise and she sends Lucius off on his errand.
How Artemidorus learned about the plot is not explained, but his information is correct and up-to-date. His list of conspirators includes Ligarius, who joined Brutus only recently. His letter cautions Caesar against...
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Act III, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
Lepidus: one of the three rulers of Rome after Caesar’s death
Publius: elderly Roman senator who escorts Caesar to the Senate
Popilius Lena: senator who wishes success to Cassius
Servant: messenger from Octavius
Caesar arrives at the Senate House on the ides of March. Artemidorus tries to give Caesar his warning letter, as Decius offers Caesar a petition. Artemidorus presses Caesar to read his letter first because it “touches Caesar nearer.” (7) Caesar responds, “What touches us ourself shall be last served.” (8) In other words, he ignores the letter because it is of a personal nature. Cassius is afraid that their plans are known when Popilius, a senator, says to him, “I wish your enterprise today may thrive.” (14)
Cassius tells Casca to act quickly. Trebonius, as prearranged, removes Antony from the scene. Under the pretext of begging repeal of a banishment decree imposed by Caesar on Publius Cimber, brother of Metellus, they surround Caesar and isolate him from the rest of the senators. As Caesar rejects each of their appeals, the conspirators tighten the circle around him. Casca is the first to strike, and, after each of the conspirators attack Caesar, Brutus is the last to stab him. Mortally wounded, Caesar says his last words, “Et tu, Brutè?—Then fall, Caesar,” (85) and dies.
Panic ensues as the senators run from...
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Act III, Scenes 2 and 3: Summary and Analysis
Plebeians: Roman citizens at Caesar’s funeral
Servant: messenger from Octavius
Cinna the Poet: a poet with the same name as one of the conspirators
The setting is in the marketplace at Caesar’s funeral shortly after his death. The agitated crowd demands an explanation for Caesar’s assassination. Cassius leaves with some of the crowd to give his version of why Caesar was killed, while Brutus remains behind with the others to give his own account of the events. Brutus explains that although he was Caesar’s friend, and loved him, Caesar was ambitious and had to be killed for the good of Rome. If allowed to live, Caesar would have made slaves of all the Romans. He tells the crowd that he is ready to kill himself with the same dagger he used to kill Caesar, if they think he did wrong. But they are so moved by his speech that the crowd wants to erect statues in Brutus’ honor and make him king. Brutus declines their offer, and after telling them to listen to what Antony has to say, Brutus leaves.
Antony faces a hostile audience when he ascends into the pulpit and begins his oration with the words, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” (Sc. 2, 82) Slowly he wins them over, proving that Caesar was not ambitious. He calls the conspirators “honorable men,” yet he shows them to be traitors. Antony cries for Caesar and produces his will. He tells the...
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Act IV, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
Octavius: Caesar’s nephew and one of the three leaders to rule Rome after his death
Lepidus: the third leader to rule Rome after Caesar’s death
The setting is a house in Rome some time after Caesar’s death. The Republic is in turmoil, as Antony predicted. Rome is in the hands of Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus. They are compiling a death list of their political enemies. Antony sends Lepidus to “fetch” Caesar’s will so they might reduce some of the legacies mentioned by Antony to the citizens in his funeral speech. When Lepidus leaves, Antony tells Octavius that Lepidus is unfit to have so much power. Antony plans to use Lepidus to achieve his political objectives and then cut him off. They talk about Brutus and Cassius, who have fled the country and are raising an army in Greece. Antony and Octavius make plans to muster their own forces to fight them.
Act IV addresses the corrupting effects of power. Rome is on the brink of a terrible civil war. Antony has joined forces with Octavius and Lepidus to become one of the three most powerful men in Rome. They are the second triumvirate to rule the Republic. (Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus were the first.)
To solidify their political power, and because they have many enemies in Rome, they are making a list of Roman senators and citizens they plan to execute. Their decisions are cold and unfeeling....
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Act IV, Scenes 2 and 3: Summary and Analysis
Pindarus: servant to Cassius taken prisoner in Partheia
Lucilius: officer in Brutus’ army
Messala: officer in Brutus’ army
Titinius: friend of Cassius and Officer in his army
Varro: soldier in Brutus’ army
Claudius: soldier in Brutus’ army
Poet: jester who enters Brutus’ tent
The setting is the camp of Brutus in Sardis, Greece. Brutus and his soldiers are awaiting the arrival of Cassius and his army. When Pindarus, a slave to Cassius, brings his master’s greetings, Brutus indicates his misgivings about the course of events. He confides to Lucilius, one of his officers, that he has regrets about killing Caesar.
As soon as Cassius arrives in camp he begins to quarrel with Brutus. Brutus cautions him that they should not fight in front of the troops they will soon lead into battle, so they move into Brutus’ tent to continue their argument.
Cassius is angry because a friend of his, Lucius Pella, has been punished for taking bribes and Brutus ignored letters that Cassius wrote in the man’s defense. Brutus attacks Cassius for defending Pella, and he attacks Cassius’ own reputation for taking bribes. As their tempers flare, they come to the point of drawing swords. Cassius physically threatens Brutus, who dismisses him as a “slight man,” (Sc. 3,...
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Act V, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
The setting is on the battlefield at Philippi. Antony and Octavius, at the head of their armies, are preparing to begin the battle. Through spies Antony knows the enemy is not ready for the fight. A messenger brings word that the battle is at hand. Before the combat, Antony and Octavius go into the field to exchange insults with Brutus and Cassius. They call each other traitors to Rome. Cassius says to Brutus that Antony would not be alive if Cassius had his way on the ides of March. They break off and plan to settle matters with their swords.
Cassius confides in Messala that he is reluctant to fight this battle on his birthday. He has seen signs that have convinced him that they are going to lose. But he is resigned to face whatever comes. Cassius and Brutus discuss what they will do if they are defeated. Both agree that they will not be led as captives back to Rome. Although Brutus is opposed to suicide, he will die before he is taken prisoner. They say their final good-byes and prepare for the battle.
The battle to decide the fate of Rome is at hand. The growing conflict between Antony and young Octavius is foreshadowed by their exchange prior to the battle. Antony tries to tell Octavius to fight on the left side of the field, but Octavius asserts himself and refuses to be ordered by Antony. When Antony asks him why he opposes him, Octavius responds, “I do not cross you, but I will do so.”...
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Act V, Scenes 2 and 3: Summary and Analysis
Cato: Brutus’ brother-in-law and a soldier in his army
The battle begins as Brutus orders Messala to send all of his legions against Octavius’ army. While Brutus gains the advantage on another part of the field, Cassius is in retreat, surrounded by Antony’s forces. Pindarus, the slave of Cassius, enters with a warning for his master to fall back further. But Cassius decides that he has retreated far enough. He asks his friend, Titinius, to ride his horse and determine if the soldiers in his tents are friend or enemy. As Pindarus climbs the hill to report Titinius’ progress, Cassius considers the real possibility that his life has reached its end on his birthday. Pindarus describes Titinius overtaken and surrounded by horsemen, and as Titinius dismounts, he is captured by the cheering soldiers.
Cassius, ashamed that he has lived to see his best friend taken by the enemy, promises to give Pindarus his freedom in exchange for Pindarus ending Cassius’ life by stabbing him.
After Cassius’ death Pindarus runs from the battlefield, and Titinius, holding a wreath of flowers, returns with Messala and the news of Brutus’ victory. They discover the body of Cassius and Messala leaves to tell Brutus the bad news. When Titinius is alone with Cassius’ body, he places the wreath on Cassius’ head and then he kills himself with Cassius’ sword, as a final act of loyalty to his...
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Act V, Scenes 4 and 5: Summary and Analysis
Clitus, Dardanus, Strato, and Volumnius: soldiers in Brutus’ army
At the height of the second battle Brutus charges into the field. Young Cato is killed and Lucilius, an officer in Brutus’ army, is captured. To confuse the enemy soldiers, Lucilius tells them he is Brutus, and offers them money to kill him. Antony identifies their captive and tells the soldiers to keep Lucilius safely under guard.
On another part of the field, after hours of fighting, Brutus and his men are in retreat. They have lost the war. Brutus begs Clitus, Volumnius, and Dardanus to assist him in his suicide, but they decline and run off as Antony and Octavius advance. Brutus convinces Strato to hold his sword while Brutus runs onto it and kills himself.
Octavius and Antony arrive with Lucilius and Messala under guard. When they ask for Brutus, Strato says his master is safe from capture and humiliation. Octavius offers amnesty for those who served Brutus and takes them into his army, restoring order after the chaos of civil war. Antony praises Brutus, calling him a noble Roman and an honest man, the best of the conspirators. The play ends with Octavius making plans to bury the dead, including Brutus, who will be given an honorable soldier’s burial, and spread the news of their great victory.
The end arrives as Brutus sees his soldiers and his friends killed or captured....
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