Act IV in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare portrays the triumvirate and the surviving assassins after the death of Caesar. The purpose of this Act is to look into the relationships of the two factions. Both groups are having difficulties in finding common ground.
Act IV, Scene I
In this scene, the triumvirate has two items to discuss. The first one is the list of senators who are supportive of the new government. Anyone who opposes Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus will make the list to be put to death. The group is so crass that they are willing to trade family members to include on the list to die.
Antony sends Lepidus to obtain Caesar’s will. Antony wants to find out how he can keep from giving the people what Caesar promised them. Portraying a different side of his personality, Antony seems hard and cruel in this scene.
Lepidus, the new member of the trio, is not respected by Antony. He feels that Lepidus is not worthy of being a member of the ruling authority. Antony compares Lepidus to his horse. Octavius, as usual, disagrees with Antony.
The end of the scene shows Octavius and Antony making plans to battle against the armies of the conspirators: Brutus and Cassius.
It is obvious that this is not compatible group. Lepidus seems unaware of any problems. However, the relationship between Antony and Octavius does not seem to be conducive toward working together. At some time in the future, the two leaders will have to settle their issues with each other.
Act IV, Scene iii
This is the quarrel scene between Cassius and Brutus. Both men are angry with the other.
Cassius is angry because Brutus condemned a friend of his for taking bribes after Cassius asked him not to do it.
Brutus has more than one quarrel with Cassius.
- He believes that Cassius has forgotten why Caesar was put to death. It was for the good of Rome.
- Now, Brutus believes that Cassius has been taking bribes as well. Brutus tells Cassius that he believes that he has an “itching palm.”
- Brutus is also angry because he asked Cassius for money to pay his soldiers and Cassius did not send it to him.
I did send
To you for gold to pay my legions,
Which you denied me.
Was that done like Cassius?
Should I have answer’d Caius Cassius so?
Cassius denies all of these things. He states that Brutus does not care for him as he once did. He offers Brutus his sword to kill him. After a heated confrontation and many insults, the two men reconcile and shake hands. Then they drink together to assuage the wounds of the quarrel.
Other soldiers come in to discuss how to handle the forthcoming battle between their armies and Antony and Octavius.
From the conversation, several things are learned.
There have been one hundred senators put to death.
Portia has committed suicide believing that Brutus has no chance of surviving.
Once again, Cassius, who is more experienced, allows Brutus to make a fatal decision. Their armies will march to Philippi where they will engage the opposing armies in battle.
The men go to their tents to sleep.
Brutus asks two soldiers to sleep outside his tent. Lucius sings to Brutus, but the boy falls asleep. As Brutus is reading a book, the ghost of Caesar comes in…
Ghost: Thy evil spirit, Brutus.
Brutus: Why comest thou?
Ghost: To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.
The ghost fades away. No one else saw the ghost but Brutus. Brutus makes the realization that he will die in the battle. Caesar has not completed his revenge.