Julius Caesar Quotes in Context
by William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Julius Caesar Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"A Dish Fit For The Gods"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This saying has, through usage, come to signify the highest praise for products of culinary art. Its original context, however, has a quite different meaning. Brutus is a noble Roman, who, through a combination of personal conviction and the persuasion of Cassius, has become a conspirator against Caesar. Brutus, despite his personal friendship for Caesar, is convinced that the latter's personal, dictatorial rule will destroy the ancient freedoms of Roman citizens, and that he therefore must die. But Brutus refuses to allow the conspirators to assassinate Antony as well as Caesar. And when it comes to killing Caesar, he urges Caius Cassius that the murder be done boldly, knowingly, not in rage and not in butchery.

BRUTUSLet's be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,And in the spirit of men there is no blood.O that we then could come by Caesar's spirit,And not dismember Caesar! But alas,Caesar must bleed for it. And gentle friends,Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds.. . .

"Ambition Should Be Made Of Sterner Stuff"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Mark Antony, young friend and protégé of the murdered Caesar, is delivering a funeral oration over the body of his mentor. He has been permitted by Brutus and his fellow assassins to give a speech because they are sure the crowd sides with their cause–to free Rome from Caesar's dictatorial rule and to safeguard the ancient Roman freedoms in doing so. Antony pretends to sympathize with their deed, but knows in his heart that they are butchers. He must dissemble to gain time to wreak vengeance on them. Now, he is skillfully playing upon the crowd's emotions, winning sympathy and support for the dead Caesar and himself.

ANTONYHe [Caesar] was my friend, faithful, and just to me;But Brutus says, he was ambitious,And Brutus is an honourable man.He [Caesar] hath brought many captives home to Rome,Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.Ambition should be made of sterner stuff,Yet Brutus says, he was ambitious;And Brutus is an honourable man.. . .

"Ambition's Debt Is Paid"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Following his stirring victories over Pompey, Julius Caesar has returned to Rome and is swept up in the plaudits of "the common herd." In the rush of this popular acclaim, there is rumor that Caesar is on the verge of allowing himself to be crowned emperor. Such a period of political instability is the season of discontent both for those who, fed by personal ambition, see their own opportunities for power thwarted and also for those who are apprehensive lest the law of the land is to be subordinated to the individual and the freedom of the Republic lost forever. These two kinds of individuals are, of course, philosophies apart, but rebellion makes strange bedfellows. Thus it is that the ambitious aristocrats Cassius, moved by envy in his hatred of Caesar and possessed of "an itching palm," and Casca, who holds in high disdain the "tag-rag" multitude which heaps accolades upon Caesar, are joined in rebellion against their Roman leader. As for Brutus, he is as idealistic as his compatriots are practical. His love of Caesar is great, but his love for Rome greater. In the desperate efforts which he is convinced are necessary to save the Republic, he becomes a part of that which, were it for personal gain, he would loathe. Following the moment of Caesar's murder, he attempts to quiet the distracted populace:

CAESAREt tu Brute? Then fall Caesar.CINNALiberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead.Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets.CASSIUSSome to the common pulpits, and cry out,Liberty, freedom, and enfranchisement!BRUTUSPeople and senators, be not affrighted,Fly not, stand still. Ambition's debt is paid.. . .METELLUSStand fast together, lest some friend of Caesar'sShould chance–BRUTUSTalk not of standing. Publius, good cheer,There is no harm intended to your person,Nor to no Roman else: so...

(The entire section is 5,731 words.)