Act 1, scene 1 of the play opens on February 15, the Feast of Lupercal, in 44 BCE. The people of Rome have taken to the streets to celebrate Caesar's victory over Pompey in the civil war...
Julius Caesar does want to be king in Shakespeare's tragedy of Julius Caesar.
Act 1, scene 1 of the play opens on February 15, the Feast of Lupercal, in 44 BCE. The people of Rome have taken to the streets to celebrate Caesar's victory over Pompey in the civil war that Caesar started by crossing the Rubicon River and entering the city of Rome with a military contingent in 49 BCE.
As a frame of reference, in 45 BCE, the real-life Julius Caesar declared himself "dictator for life," which alarmed many Romans. They resisted the idea of monarchy ruling over Rome, as their ancestors had maintained a Republic for over five hundred years.
In act 1, scene 2, Caesar enters the streets of Rome, and he is promptly confronted by the Soothsayer who warns Caesar to "Beware the Ides of March." (1.2.21) Caesar continues through the streets. Cassius and Brutus stay behind and hear a shout from the crowd in the distance.
BRUTUS. What means this shouting? I do fear the people
Choose Caesar for their king. (1.2.84-85)
This is the first time the word "king" appears in the play, but it's clear that Brutus and Cassius have been thinking about Caesar's aspirations to be king.
Cassius and Brutus hear another shout from the crowd.
BRUTUS. Another general shout!
I do believe that these applauses are
For some new honors that are heap'd on Caesar. (1.2.138-140)
Caesar and his train return through the streets past Cassius and Brutus, who stop Casca and ask him what happened.
BRUTUS. Ay, Casca, tell us what hath chanced today...
CASCA. Why, there was a crown offered him, and being offered him: he put it by with the back of his hand, thus, and then the people fell a-shouting.
BRUTUS. What was the second noise for?
CASCA. Why, for that too.
CASSIUS. They shouted thrice. What was the last cry for?
CASCA. Why, for that too.
BRUTUS. Was the crown offered him thrice?
CASCA. Why, there was a crown offered him, and being offered him: he put it by with the back of his hand, thus, and then the people fell a-shouting. (1.2.222-236)
It's interesting to note that Cassius says that he and Brutus heard the crowd shout three times, but they actually heard the crowd shout only twice, at 1.2.83-84, and 1.2.137-138.
BRUTUS. Tell us the manner of it, gentle Casca.
CASCA. ... I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown, yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one of these coronets and, as I told you, he put it by once. But for all that, to my thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he offered it to him again; then he put it by again. But, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his fingers off it. And then he offered it the third time; he put it the third time by; and still as he refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their chopped hands and threw up their sweaty nightcaps and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown, that it had almost choked Caesar, for he swounded and fell down at it. (1.2.239-250)
In fact, Caesar was subject to epilepsy, and at that moment he suffered a seizure.
BRUTUS. 'Tis very like: he hath the falling sickness. (1.2.259-260)
Brutus notes that Caesar looked sad as he passed by Cassius and himself. It's possible that Caesar looked sad because he would likely have accepted the crown the third time it was offered to him, except that his epileptic seizure prevented him from doing so.
CASCA. Indeed they say the senators tomorrow
Mean to establish Caesar as a king,
And he shall wear his crown by sea and land,
In every place save here in Italy. (1.3.91-94)
Cassio laments to Casca that "the Romans are but sheep" (1.3.112), being led by Caesar, the wolf.
On the day that Caesar was to go to the Senate—the Ides of March—Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, awakes from a nightmare.
CAESAR. Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out,
“Help, ho! They murder Caesar!” (2.2.2-3)
Calpurnia implores Caesar not to go to the Senate. In her nightmare she saw "Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds, / In ranks and squadrons and right form of war, / Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol" (2.2.19-21). Caesar orders and an animal sacrifice, which also foretells danger for Caesar if he goes out of his house.
Decius Brutus has been tasked by the assassins with making sure that Caesar goes to the Senate that day. When Decius arrives to take Caesar to the Senate, Caesar has all but decided not to leave his home, but Decius reinterprets Calpurnia's dream.
DECIUS. This dream is all amiss interpreted;
It was a vision fair and fortunate.
Your statue spouting blood in many pipes,
In which so many smiling Romans bathed,
Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
Reviving blood, and that great men shall press
For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance.
This by Calpurnia's dream is signified. (2.2.87-94)
Caesar remarks that Decius has explained the dream well, but he's still a little doubtful about going to the Senate.
In order to convince Caesar to leave his home, Decius tells Caesar something that he knows will get him out of his house and on his way to the Senate.
DECIUS. ...And know it now, the Senate have concluded
To give this day a crown to mighty Caesar.
If you shall send them word you will not come,
Their minds may change. ... (2.2.97-100)
That's all Caesar needed to hear.
CAESAR. How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
I am ashamed I did yield to them.
Give me my robe, for I will go. (2.2.109-111)
Whether this particular course of events played out for the real-life Caesar or not, Shakespeare's Caesar was driven by a desire to be king of Rome. Ultimately, his ego led to his assassination.