Act V, Scenes 2 and 3: Summary and Analysis
Cato: Brutus’ brother-in-law and a soldier in his army
The battle begins as Brutus orders Messala to send all of his legions against Octavius’ army. While Brutus gains the advantage on another part of the field, Cassius is in retreat, surrounded by Antony’s forces. Pindarus, the slave of Cassius, enters with a warning for his master to fall back further. But Cassius decides that he has retreated far enough. He asks his friend, Titinius, to ride his horse and determine if the soldiers in his tents are friend or enemy. As Pindarus climbs the hill to report Titinius’ progress, Cassius considers the real possibility that his life has reached its end on his birthday. Pindarus describes Titinius overtaken and surrounded by horsemen, and as Titinius dismounts, he is captured by the cheering soldiers.
Cassius, ashamed that he has lived to see his best friend taken by the enemy, promises to give Pindarus his freedom in exchange for Pindarus ending Cassius’ life by stabbing him.
After Cassius’ death Pindarus runs from the battlefield, and Titinius, holding a wreath of flowers, returns with Messala and the news of Brutus’ victory. They discover the body of Cassius and Messala leaves to tell Brutus the bad news. When Titinius is alone with Cassius’ body, he places the wreath on Cassius’ head and then he kills himself with Cassius’ sword, as a final act of loyalty to his friend.
When Brutus enters with young Cato and Messala, they find two dead bodies to be mourned. Brutus says that the carnage is the spirit of Caesar, who is “mighty yet . . . and turns our swords / in our own proper entrails.” (Sc. 3, 105–107)
Since the first fight was not decisive—Cassius was defeated by Antony, while Octavius was defeated by Brutus—preparations are made for the final battle.
Throughout the play Brutus has been the noble hero, who has made errors only because of his honesty, moral principles, or political naivete. In this scene Cassius, perhaps the least noble of the main characters in he play, rises in stature. Here, however, he makes the one mistake that will prove fatal. His army is in retreat and on the verge of mutiny. They are surrounded by Antony, when Brutus’ troops, gaining the advantage over Octavius, stop fighting to loot the dead bodies instead of supporting Cassius’ army. When Pindarus, the slave Cassius captured years before in Parthia, announces, “Mark Antony is in your tents, my lord. / Fly therefore, noble Cassius, fly far off,” (Sc. 3, 10–11) the “noble” Cassius is determined to make his stand and not retreat. When Cassius asks his friend Titinius to take his horse and ride down to see who is in his tents, Titinius indicates his love, honor, and respect for Cassius by his quick actions. He is ready and willing to put his own life on the line for his friend. “I will be here again even with a thought.” (Sc. 3, 20)
Cassius’ fatal error comes when he infers from Pindarus’ account that Titinius was captured by enemy troops. It is another example of how subjective interpretation effects the actions of another. True to his word, Cassius makes good on his pledge to Brutus to commit suicide rather than...
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