Act I, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
Flavius and Marullus: tribunes opposed to Caesar’s growing power
Roman Citizens: among them a cobbler and carpenter, supporters of Caesar
The setting is February 15, 44 B.C., the Feast of Lupercal, on a street in Rome. After the death of Pompey, Caesar has returned to Rome as the most powerful man in the Republic. The play begins on a Roman street with a confrontation between Flavius and Marullus (Roman tribunes) and a crowd of citizens out to celebrate Caesar’s arrival for the games. The tribunes are concerned about Caesar’s growing power and popular support and how it may destroy the Roman Republic. They scold the citizens and remind them of the love and support Rome once gave Pompey, who was killed in the civil war with Caesar. Flavius and Marullus drive the crowd from the streets. They decide to pull down any banners and decorations honoring Caesar, and scatter the crowds wherever they find them in an attempt to weaken popular support for Caesar.
The opening scene is expository. It establishes the time and place and gives the audience an indication of what happened before the play began. It shows the political climate in Rome and the conflict surrounding Caesar. Rome, once ruled by three men (a triumvirate) is now in the hands of only one, Caesar, whose ambitions include becoming king. The citizens, once loyal to Pompey, one of the triumvirate, now form the base of Caesar’s power. Others, represented by Flavius and Marullus, are opposed to Caesar and the threat he represents to the Roman Republic.
Flavius and Marullus drive the crowd from the streets. This shows how easily the crowd can be manipulated and controlled. Flavius and Marullus are concerned about the welfare of the Roman state and the negative impact that Caesar’s lust for power will have on its citizens. Yet the crowd seems unconcerned about politics. They are only interested in having a holiday from work, and it does not seem to matter if the celebration is for Pompey or for Caesar.
This fickleness of the commoners will surface several times throughout the play. Ultimately the commoners are used as a force to affect the politics of Rome. This will become a significant factor later in the play.
Also significant are the issues of interpretation and
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