After the conspirators kill Caesar, they bathe their hands and swords in Caesar's blood. What do these actions foreshadow?

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Upon viewing the play for the first time in 1599, the audience, well-versed in biblical tales, would have got the allusion of handwashing as a reference to Pilot and Jesus. Where Pilot uses water and "washes his hands" of Jesus and takes no responsibility for his actions and Jesus’ fate, Brutus, in contrast, takes full responsibility for the murder, ("..let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood/Up to the elbows...!") and Casca urges the other conspirators to do the same.  In III.1, Antony acknowledges those responsible ("Let each man render me his bloody hand")  and implies he is now in league with them since in shaking each hand he has bloodied his own.  ("Therefore I took your hands....friends I am with you all.") However, Antony reveals his true intent as Caesar's avenger several lines later when he is alone (Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!) and describes the bloodshed to come.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 3, scene 1, the conspirators bathe their hands and swords in Julius Caesar's blood, signifying that they take full responsibility for his assassination. While the conspirators believe that the masses will view them as heroes for taking down a possible tyrant and preserving the Republic, they do not consider that Antony will end up garnering support from the majority of the public against them.

It is also important to note that blood symbolizes violence, guilt, and responsibility in many of Shakespeare's plays. The fact that all the conspirators bathe their hands and swords in Caesar's blood foreshadows more violence in the form of a civil war between Cassius and Brutus vs. Mark Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus. Each senator responsible for Caesar's assassination is eventually murdered by Antony and Octavius's troops while Cassius and Brutus both commit suicide during the play's final battle. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By "bathing" in Caesar's blood after the event, they are taking equal resposibility for cleansing Rome of its overly ambitious leader.  However, it does not play out the way Brutus and the others expect it to.  Of course, this is partially because only Brutus has acted for the good of Rome alone and not for any other reason such as vanity, jealousy, or ambition.  As a result, the conspirators are taken down by Octavius and Mark Antony--the blood covering the conspirators is a bad omen forcasting their own downfall and destruction.

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Julius Caesar

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