How do the commoners treat the tribunes in Julius Caesar?

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thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Act I opens with the entry of two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus. The tribunes are talking to the commoners and asking them to disperse and head back home. Instead, the commoners are seen gathering to prepare for Caesar’s tribute. The tribute has been organized to celebrate Caesar’s victory over Pompey, and the tribunes are not happy with the events.

The tribunes behave distastefully towards the commoners, but the commoners address their representatives with respect.

What trade, thou knave? Thou naughty knave, what trade?
Nay, I beseech you, sir, be not out with me; yet, if you be out, sir, I can mend you.

They respectfully and modestly state their trade when asked by the tribunes. When the treatment becomes harsh, the commoners use irony and sarcasm to address the tribunes. One of the commoners, a cobbler, tells Marullus that he will mend him. On further questioning by the tribunes, the cobbler claims he is leading the other commoners on the streets so as to wear out their shoes and advance his business.

But wherefore art not in thy shop today? Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?
Truly, sir, to wear out their shoes, to get myself into more work. But indeed, sir, we make holiday, to see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph.
jamiekee's profile pic

jamiekee | Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The two tribunes, protectors of the commoners, are very angry with the them for celebrating Caesar's victory over a fellow Roman. When the tribunes attempt to stop the commoners from celebrating, the commoners joke and continue their celebration. They look at the day as an excuse for getting out of work. Eventually the commoners are "scolded" into going back to their jobs and homes.


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