In Act V of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, what do Brutus and Cassius decide about how to handle the battle?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act V of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar has three incidents where decisions are made about the battle. The first is the major decision in Scene 1 in which it is decided to engage Antony's and Octavius's forces in battle instead of awaiting their approach. In Scene 2 Brutus decides that all forces be thrown into the battle. In Scene 3 Brutus decides that despite Cassius's death, the fight would go forth. That is the last battle decision because Brutus's next decision is to avoid being taken as a prisoner by falling on his sword, thus falling into his death.

Act 5, scene 1 reveals a pre-battle parlay between opposing sides represented by Octavius and Antony on the side of the slain Caesar and by Brutus and Antony on the side of the rebels against Caesar. The parlay descends to insulting bitter banter and both sides determined on immediately meeting in the field of battle, with all possible antagonism. Octavius and Antony leave and Brutus and Cassius consult with their aides--Cassius confiding he has abandoned his Epicurean philosophy and has sought omens, seeing nothing but signs of defeat--then give each other their last farewell and part from each other to engage the battle:

For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!       
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;       
If not, why then, this parting was well made.

In Scene 2 Brutus declares that he sees a dispiritedness for a fight in Octavius's wing troops and orders Messala to deliver "these bills / Unto the legions on" Cassius's side of the forces, decreeing "Let them set on at once...let them all come down" to battle. Scene 3 sees the final decision made. Cassius has from a distance mistaken the reunion between Titinius and Messala for the capture of Titinius by the troops of Octavius and Antony. Cassius slays himself rather than be taken prisoner. Brutus is shocked and dismayed but declares that he will "find time" to shed tears for Cassius but that "yet ere night / We shall try fortune in a second fight."

This is the final decision. On the battlefield there at Philippi, Brutus for the second time sees Caesar's Ghost and understands that he has seriously miscalculated in all things pertaining to Caesar's end. He falls on his sword ending the battle saying, "Caesar, now be still: / I kill'd not thee with half so good a will."

Earlier, in Act IV, scene 1, Antony and Octavius decide to gather their forces together with "means stretch'd" and "best friends made" to address the armies of Brutus and Cassius in open warfare.

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Julius Caesar

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