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Act V, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis

The setting is on the battlefield at Philippi. Antony and Octavius, at the head of their armies, are preparing to begin the battle. Through spies Antony knows the enemy is not ready for the fight. A messenger brings word that the battle is at hand. Before the combat, Antony and Octavius go into the field to exchange insults with Brutus and Cassius. They call each other traitors to Rome. Cassius says to Brutus that Antony would not be alive if Cassius had his way on the ides of March. They break off and plan to settle matters with their swords.

Cassius confides in Messala that he is reluctant to fight this battle on his birthday. He has seen signs that have convinced him that they are going to lose. But he is resigned to face whatever comes. Cassius and Brutus discuss what they will do if they are defeated. Both agree that they will not be led as captives back to Rome. Although Brutus is opposed to suicide, he will die before he is taken prisoner. They say their final good-byes and prepare for the battle.

The battle to decide the fate of Rome is at hand. The growing conflict between Antony and young Octavius is foreshadowed by their exchange prior to the battle. Antony tries to tell Octavius to fight on the left side of the field, but Octavius asserts himself and refuses to be ordered by Antony. When Antony asks him why he opposes him, Octavius responds, “I do not cross you, but I will do so.” (21)

In the play the four generals never face one another in a decisive battle or even a fight. Instead, their confrontation is one of words, insults, and accusations, before the war begins. When Antony attacks Brutus and Cassius as villains and flatterers, Cassius takes the opportunity to tell Brutus, “I told you so.” “Now, Brutus, thank yourself! / This tongue had not offended so today / If Cassius might have ruled.” (49–51) His...

(The entire section is 500 words.)