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The role, fate, and characterization of Marullus and Flavius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar


In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Marullus and Flavius are tribunes who oppose Caesar's rise to power. They scold the plebeians for celebrating Caesar's triumph and remove decorations from his statues. Their fate is exile or execution for defying Caesar's authority, highlighting the consequences of resisting the new regime. Their characterization underscores the tension between republicanism and dictatorship in the play.

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Discuss the importance of Marullus and Flavius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene i,  by William Shakespeare, conveys the problem in Rome in 44 B.C. The commoners love Caesar for his triumphant return to Rome after many victorious battles.  The people equate Caesar with gods.  The crowd, who are primarily working men, have dared to take the day off to celebrate Caesar being offered the crown as Emperor of Rome. 

In opposition to the commoners are two tribunes: Marullus and Flavius.  They were supporters of Pompey, a great Roman leader.  He was murdered by the Egyptians with Caesar's approval. The tribunes shame the crowd for being so fickle.  Once they yelled for Pompey, but now they celebrate his killer. 

Marullus tells them to go home and beg forgiveness from the gods.  After the people leave, the tribunes are left alone to talk.

Flavius suggests that the two of them separate and go through the streets talking off any decorations from the statues of Caesar.  As they do this, the tribunes should send the other people in the streets home as well.  

And drive away the vulgar from the streets;
So do you too, where you perceive them thick.
These growing feathers pluck'd from Caesar's wing
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch.

Certainly, this would have been a serious offense since it was government officials who were derobing the statues. Shakespeare uses this incident to prepare the audience for what will happen in the next scene when Cassius shares his ill-will toward Caesar with Brutus.  The tribunes and their animosity for Caesar hint at what is to come.

Later, in Act I, Scene ii,  Casca informs the other conspirators that Marullus and Flavius have been caught taking the scarves/decorations from Caesar's statues.  They have been silenced for their crime.   Casca informs Brutus and Cassius about the tribunes:

I could tell you more news too:
Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar's
images, are put to silence.

It is unclear about what this means.  It may mean that the tribunes have been killed. Another  interpretation is that the word silenced means that they have been jailed and stripped of their roles as tribunes.  Whatever actually happens to them, this incident foreshadows the killing of the conspirators after Caesar's assassination.

Now the stage is set for Cassius and the conspirators to carry through with their plans. Shakespeare has prepared the audience for the "Ides of March."

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What happens to Flavius and Marullus in Julius Caesar and why?

The play begins with Flavius and Marullus, Tribunes of the People, angrily upbraiding certain commoners for taking a holiday to celebrate Caesar's triumph. The position of Tribune was traditionally the only great public office in Rome reserved for plebeians but, by this point in the history of the Republic, many wealthy plebeian families were effectively indistinguishable from the patricians.

The two Tribunes treat the commoners with aristocratic scorn. When the commoners have departed, the Tribunes agree that they will go through the city removing any decorations the people have placed on images of Caesar. Marullus is somewhat hesitant to take this action. It is the feast of the Lupercal, when such celebrations were common and mandated, but Flavius insists:

It is no matter; let no images
Be hung with Caesar's trophies.

This is the last we see of Flavius and Marullus, but Casca later tells Cassius:

Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs off Caesar's images, are put to silence.

The precise meaning of this is open to interpretation. Clearly, the two Tribunes have been seen taking the decorations off the statues of Caesar, as they planned to do in the first scene. They have been "silenced" as a punishment for this action. Commentators disagree as to whether this means they have been killed or stripped of their titles and forbidden to speak in public. The latter is more likely, as this is what happened to the historical figures on whom Shakespeare's Flavius and Marullus are based.

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In Julius Caesar, how are Marullus and Flavius characterized?

Flavius and Marullus are two Roman tribunes who appear in the first scene of the play. Their characters are similar in that both men have remained loyal to Pompey in his defeat and detest that the commoners have filled the streets to celebrate Caesar's return after his victory over Pompey's sons.

Marullus seems especially emotional in his attempts to drive the crowds from the streets, reminding them of their former love for Pompey and of the manner in which they once cheered him, so loudly that "Tiber trembled underneath her banks." He holds Caesar in contempt:

Wherefore [do you] rejoice? What conquest brings [Caesar] home?

What tributaries follow him to Rome,

To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels?

Marullus feels bitterness that Caesar's return has become a holiday in Rome.

Of the two, Flavius assumes leadership and authority. It is he who organizes a plan to diminish the celebration of Caesar's return. He tells Marullus they will go their separate ways to take down any decorations they might find. When Flavius questions if they may do that, considering it is also the feast of Lupercal in Rome, Marullus dismisses the his concern: "It is no matter." He is adamant in his resistance to Caesar: "[L]et no images / Be hung with Caesar's trophies." Marullus considers Caesar to be a political threat to freedom in Rome, someone who would "keep us all in servile fearfulness." He is bold in his actions to prevent that from happening, and Marullus follows his lead.

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What happened to Marullus and Flavius in Julius Caesar?

The Feast of the Lupercal is celebrated on February 15, 44 B. C. in Rome.  This is the setting for the beginning of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.  There is another reason for celebration.  Caesar has returned to Rome after defeating Pompey’s sons in Spain.  It is rumored that he will be offered the crown of Rome.

There are factions in Rome that are disgruntled about Caesar’s return.  When he fought both Pompey and his sons, Caesar impacted the government and brought civil war to Rome.  There were many who loved Pompey and disapproved of his murder.

In Act 1, Scene I, the commoners and tradesmen are out in the streets readying for the festivities and to see Caesar in the streets. Two tribunes confront the plebeians and ask them to go home and remember Pompey. Marullus tells them to ask forgiveness of the gods for their thankless actions toward Pompey.

The tribunes Flavius and Marullus are protectors of the common man’s rights. Today their job is to keep civil disorder from breaking out. After the commoners disperse, the tribunes discuss what they should do. Statues of Caesar have been placed along the streets. Crowns and robes cover the statues.  They make the decision to go and take off the decorations from the statues so Caesar will know that everything is not good.’

Let no images
Be hung with Caesar's trophies. I'll about, 
And drive away the vulgar from the streets; 
So do you too, where you perceive them thick.
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch…

Marullus fears that this will disrupt the celebration of the people as well. These ritual festivities were important to the social order of the government.  Marullus seems to sense that by entering into this civil disorder he is committing a crime.

This fear foreshadows what happens.  In Act 1, Scene ii,  Casca tells Cassius and Brutus that the tribunes Marullus and Flavius, Caesar’s political enemies, have been caught disrobing the statues.  They have been put to silence.

Shakespeare does not explain the meaning of this phrase. Historically from Roman and Elizabethan times, there are three possibilities:

  • the tribunes could be executed
  • they could be tortured and their positions taken from tgem
  • they could be silenced by having their tongues cut out.

The truth will not be known since Shakespeare left the reader to decide.

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How and why did Flavius and Marullus die in Rome?

We do not know from the play specifically the time at which Marullus and Flavius are, we assume, executed, but we do know why. In the very first scene, we see the two of them with various Commoners in the street during the Feast of Lupercal. Marullus questions why the commoners "rejoice in [Caesar's] triumph," reminding them of Pompey, whom they once loved, when Caesar now "comes in triumph over Pompey's blood." Flavius, agreeing, suggests that they should "disrobe the images" of Caesar where they come across them hung with garlands and flowers. This scene serves to establish both the fact that some in Rome are disgruntled about Caesar's rise to power, and also the reasons behind these feelings.

This is the last we see of Flavius and Marullus. In scene II, Casca says that he has news for the conspirators—Marullus and Flavius have been "put to silence" for the acts we saw them planning in the first scene. We can infer that this has been orchestrated by Caesar's supporters, who disapproved of any kind of action against him, however civil. Casca mentions this in support of the conspirators' feelings that Caesar has too much power in Rome.

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How and why did Flavius and Marullus die in Rome?

It is assumed that they were executed for having the decorations for Caesar's victory taken down from the statues of Caesar. This is mentioned in Act I, scene ii, when Casca reports:

"I could tell you more news too. Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarves off Caesar's images, are put to silence."

Some scholars believe that "put to silence" means they were imprisoned or forced out of office, including the notes for David Bevington's The Necessary Shakespeare.

The time of day this occurred is unclear. If it was an execution, it would have to have been during the day sometime as it was public enough for Casca to be reporting the news alongside the news of Caesar's thrice refusal of the crown. If it was imprisonment or removal from office, it probably could have occurred at anytime.

Check the links below for more information, and good luck!

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