What are the arguments pro and con for marching to Philippi?William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act IV of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar portrays the repercussions of the conspirators' having violated what the Elizabethans termed the Great Chain of Being, the divinely planned hierarchical order, as there are brewing storms and the ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus before the battle at Philippi. The troops of Brutus and Cassius are hungry and unpaid; Brutus and Cassius argue in accusatory words.

When Brutus and Cassius have received word that Anthony and Octavius and their armies are bound for the city of Phillipi, a debate ensues between Brutus and Cassius about their battle strategy. Here are the pros and cons:


Cassius does not think it a good idea to "march to Philippi presently" because if the enemy has to come to them, their soldiers will become fatigued from the march while Brutus and cassius's troops can rest and prepare a defense.

This it is:
'Tis better that the enemy seek us;
So shall he waste his means, weary his soldiers,
Doing himself offense, whilst we lying still
Are full of rest, defense, and nimbleness. (4.3.223-227)


Brutus counterargues that the people the Sardians have been forced to support Brutus' soldiers only from fear and may wish to join the enemy's forces when they appear to strengthen them. Therefore, it would be safter to put them at their back and march out to the enemy:

The enemy, marching along by them,
By them shall make a fuller number up,
Come on refresh'd, new-added, and encouraged;
From which advantage shall we cut him off
If at Philippi we do face him there,
These people at our back. (4.3.232-237) 

Further, Brutus argues, the enemy "increaseth every day.,"
and now is the time to strike because they are "at the height."  Here Brutus returns to his belief in fate, telling Cassius they must take the opportunity when it comes,

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.(4.3.244-250)

This last remark of Brutus causes Cassius to acquiesce, "Then, with your will, go on"' (4.3.251), and, of course, they then head toward their fates.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question