Download Julius Caesar Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Act I, Scene 2: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Caesar: the most powerful man in the Roman Republic after the death of Pompey

Calphurnia: Caesar’s wife

Brutus: friend of Caesar, concerned about the welfare of Rome

Cassius: brother-in-law of Brutus and leader of the conspiracy against Caesar

Casca: a conspirator against Caesar

Antony: a close friend of Caesar

Soothsayer: one who sees the future and tries to warn Caesar

The setting for this scene is another Roman street on the Feast of Lupercal. Caesar enters at the head of a procession (triumph) with a flourish of trumpets, accompanied by his wife, friends, and some of the conspirators who will later stab him to death. They are on their way to the Coliseum for the traditional footrace to celebrate the Feast of Lupercal, a fertility festival in honor of the god Pan. Caesar stops the procession and calls for Calphurnia. He then orders Antony, who is dressed to run, to touch Calphurnia during the race. The Romans believed that a barren (sterile) woman touched by the winner of the race on the Feast of Lupercal would “Shake off their sterile curse.” (11) As they are about to move off, a soothsayer calls to Caesar from the crowd. He warns Caesar, “Beware the ides of March.” (March 15) (21) But Caesar dismisses the man as “a dreamer” and the procession continues to the Coliseum.

Cassius and Brutus remain behind. Cassius voices his concern about Brutus’ seeming coolness toward him. Brutus assures Cassius that they are still friends, explaining to Cassius that he is simply distracted. During their conversation they hear three shouts from the Coliseum, and Brutus admits he is afraid the people have chosen Caesar to be king.

Cassius then begins his campaign to undermine Caesar and his growing power. He tells Brutus that the Romans have allowed Caesar to grow too powerful and tries to show Brutus why Caesar is unfit to rule Rome. Cassius says he once saved Caesar from drowning during a swimming race, and another time he saw Caesar with a fever, crying “As a sick girl.” (135) Cassius appeals to Brutus to do something before Caesar destroys the Roman Republic. Brutus says he will not live under the control of a king, and he is even ready to die for the good of Rome.

After the games end, Caesar and his entourage return. When he sees Cassius and Brutus together he recognizes the potential threat that Cassius represents. He tells Antony, “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. / He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.” (204–205) He says that Cassius is never at “heart’s ease” when he is in the company of someone who is better than he (Caesar). But Caesar quickly dismisses the threat posed by Cassius “for always I am Caesar.” (222)

Casca, cynical and sarcastic, describes to Brutus and Cassius what happened at the Coliseum. The crowd cheered when Antony presented Caesar with a crown three times, which Caesar refused each time. According to Casca’s account, the people cheered so much that their bad breath knocked Caesar down and he passed out. Brutus, however, says that Caesar has epilepsy.

Before he fell, Casca says, Caesar told the crowd that they could cut his throat if he displeased them, and Casca says he would have done it if he had a knife. When he recovered from his seizure, Caesar apologized for his words and actions, winning the forgiveness and sympathies of the crowd. Casca also tells Cassius and Brutus that Flavius and Marullus “for pulling scarves off Caesar’s images, are put to silence.” (296–7) This might mean they were put out of office, imprisoned, or even put to death.

Cassius recognizes Casca as another potential ally against Caesar and invites him to supper. He tells Brutus to consider all the things they have discussed. When Cassius is alone he says in a soliloquy (a speech made by a character who is alone on the stage) that he will write letters in different handwriting and leave them where Brutus will find them. He hopes the letters will convince Brutus that...

(The entire section is 1,349 words.)