At a Glance
- Julius Caesar, whose popularity and ambition drive the Roman tribunes to assassinate him.
- Brutus, Caesar's friend, who kills him "for the good of Rome."
- Cassius, the leader of the conspiracy against Caesar.
- Mark Antony, who delivers a speech at Caesar's funeral that turns the people against Caesar's assassins.
- Octavius, Caesar's nephew, who forms a triumvirate with Antony and Lepidus.
- The soothsayer, who warns Caesar to beware the Ides of March.
- Calphurnia, Caesar's wife.
Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar is based in historical reality, depicting the assassination of Julius Caesar and the civil war between Cassius and Brutus on one hand, and Marc Antony and Octavius on the other.
In many ways, Julius Caesar is the central figure in the play (even as he is murdered in act 3, scene 1). Julius Caesar opens with Caesar at the height of his political career, having just defeated Pompey, to become the dominant force in Roman politics. He is a proud man, much concerned with his reputation (a quality which the conspirators prey upon, to lure him to the Senate on the day of his assassination). Caesar is someone who inspires tremendous loyalty among his friends and allies, and deep hatred among his enemies. His murder will throw the Roman world into yet another round of civil war.
One of the leading conspirators against Caesar, Brutus is driven not by personal hatred or ambition, but by fear of the threat Caesar represents against the Republic. Even his enemies, Antony and Octavius, after having defeated him at Philippi in act 5, scene 5, recognize him as a virtuous Roman. However, in many respects, his sense of honor is also a political weakness, which opens him to manipulation by others. He trusts Cassius even as Cassius uses dishonest tactics to draw him into the conspiracy, and later, he trusts Marc Antony to speak at Julius Caesar's funeral, giving Antony the opportunity to rally the crowd against him. By the end of the play, he and Cassius are defeated and their armies vanquished, while Antony and Octavius stand triumphant.
Cassius is the other key political figure among the conspirators and draws Brutus into the plot against Caesar. He is driven by personal enmity against Caesar. During the battle at Philippi, he is demoralized by what he believes to be a prophetic dream and ends his life by suicide.
Along with Brutus, Marc Antony is the other critical figure of the civil war and a close friend and follower of Caesar, driven by the desire to avenge Caesar's murder. He is a highly capable soldier and public speaker, as seen in the funeral speech, when he is able to manipulate public opinion against the conspirators. Between Antony and Octavius, Antony is the more experienced of the two, and at this point in time, he maintains the position of leadership in their campaign to avenge Caesar.
Octavius is later to become Augustus, first emperor of Rome. At this point in time, though, he is still young and comparably inexperienced. In the campaign to avenge Caesar, he takes the junior position, working alongside Antony.
The soothsayer first appears in the crowd during Caesar's victory procession in act 1, scene 2, warning Caesar of his impending doom. Soothsayers have the ability to read fate, and fate and prophesy hold real power in the world of Julius Caesar.
Calpurnia, Julius Caesar's wife, has a prophetic dream relating to Caesar's assassination. She is afraid for her husband, convinced that the vision will come to pass, and tries to convince him not to go to the Senate. She is able to sway him for a time—before the conspirators convince him otherwise.
List of Characters
Julius Caesar—Dictator of Rome
Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony)—Friend of Caesar and one of the leaders of Rome after Caesar’s death
Marcus Brutus—Friend of Caesar who kills him “for the good of Rome”
Cassius—Leader of the conspiracy against Caesar and brother-in-law of Brutus
Casca—The first conspirator to stab Caesar
(The entire section is 1,586 words.)