What is Act 1 (Scenes 1-3) of Julius Caesar based on?

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Scene 1 establishes the context for Caesar's subsequent assassination. The fraught exchange between the tribunes and a cobbler tells us two very important things. First, it tells us that Caesar is loved by the common people of Rome, the plebeians; and secondly, it tells us that he's equally loathed by large sections of the upper classes. In the opening scene, the fickleness of the masses is also highlighted. Plebeians, like the cobbler, are taking the day off work to celebrate Caesar's triumph over Pompey, when only recently they were singing Pompey's praises. It is this same fickleness that will allow Mark Antony to manipulate the crowd later on, when he gives his famous funeral oration.

Scene 2 shows Cassius expertly playing on Brutus's doubts about Rome's current direction to get him involved with the plot to murder Caesar. Brutus is Caesar's good friend, but he loves Rome more, and he believes that Caesar plans to make himself king and destroy his beloved republic. Cassius knows this, which is why he tries hard to persuade Brutus to join the conspiracy.

Scene 3, like the previous two, foreshadows important events in the play. The night is full of weird portents and omens, such as thunder and lightning and a man on fire walking through the marketplace. The conspirators interpret these strange goings-on as a sign that the gods smile upon their plot to assassinate Caesar. This gives them added resolve to murder Caesar at the Senate on the Ides of March.

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Act 1.1 sets the up the who, what, where and why for the audience.  It also gives us political insight into Caesar, who is now a sole power in a Rome that used to be ruled by triumverate (rule by three.)

Act 1.2 serves to separate those who are loyal to Caesar and those who like Brutus, are ambivalent about Caesar's ambition to monarchy and Cassius, who are outright hostile to Caesar (though Cassius acts in a very sneaky way) and plans to overthrow him by conspiracy.

Act 1.3 is the infamous "ides of March" scene.  Caesar is about to be assasinated.  Cassius is ramping up his efforts to make this happen.

For a more complete summary and analysis of each of these scenes, click on the links below.   

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