Can you tell me the significance of this quote from Act 4, Scene 2 of "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar"?"But hollow men, like horses hot at hand, make a gallant show and promise of their mettle, but...

Can you tell me the significance of this quote from Act 4, Scene 2 of "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar"?

"But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,

make a gallant show and promise of their mettle,

but when they should endure the bloody spur,

they fall their crests and, like deceitful jades,

sink in trial. "

Expert Answers
katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote is spoken by Brutus after his servant has returned from Cassius' camp, indicating that Cassius was not as friendly as he normally is.  Brutus feels that Cassius' friendship is cooling and that he has little faith in their enterprise.  He then goes on to say the above lines about Cassius.

Brutus calls Cassius "hollow", meaning there's not much (physically or emotionally) to him, and compare him to "horses hot at hand"--horses that are wild and ready to be let loose.  Brutus says that these kind of men make a "gallant" or large show and big promises of their "mettle" (worth).  Brutus is implying that Cassius has been showy and saying he's hot stuff and can handle the assassination and the after math.  However:

"when they endure the bloody spur"--when the horses get spurred, or in the case of Cassius, when he gets pushed, and not in a nice way, to do something...

"they fall their crests"--their show-off-ness falls down or gets taken down and "sink in trial", meaning when things get rough, Cassius backs away.

Brutus is essentially saying that Cassius can talk big and bold and brave, but when things get tough and painful, he backs off and becomes a coward.  It's a bit of foreshadowing, as Cassius now becomes the cautious one and Brutus wants to meet thing head on, reversing their roles from earlier in the play.

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Julius Caesar

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