Julius Caesar Additional Summary

William Shakespeare

Free Summary

Act I, Scene 1

On a street in Rome, two tribunes named Flavius and Marullus are angrily confronting a crowd of commoners. Rome used to be ruled by a triumvirate of three men, but because of the recent civil war, Julius Caesar has emerged as the single most powerful man in Rome. This troubles Flavius and Marullus because they think that Caesar’s growing power will threaten the stability of the Republic. They yell at the commoners for celebrating Caesar’s return, reminding them that they once supported Pompey, one of the triumvirate who was killed in the civil war. After they drive the commoners off the streets, Flavius and Marullus decide to remove all the decorations from statues of Caesar.

Act I, Scene 2

Caesar and a procession of people—including his wife, Calphurnia; his friends; and a few conspirators against him—are on their way to the Coliseum for a celebratory footrace. On the way there, a soothsayer calls out a warning to Caesar, telling him to “Beware the ides of March.” Caesar dismisses the man, and the procession continues to the Coliseum. However, Brutus and Cassius remain behind. Brutus tells Cassius that he has been distracted by conflicting emotions lately, admitting he is afraid that the people have chosen Caesar to be king. Cassius takes this opportunity to start undermining Caesar as a man who is too weak to be a sole ruler. After this conversation, the games end and the rest of the procession return. When Caesar sees Brutus and Cassius together, he feels uneasy, but dismisses the threat because of his vain self-assurance. He and his followers leave, but a sarcastic tribune named Casca stays to tell Brutus and Cassius what happened at the race. Apparently, Antony presented Caesar with a symbolic crown three times, and Caesar refused it each time. When Casca describes how Caesar fainted afterward (he has epilepsy), Casca reveals that he doesn’t approve of Caesar. The scene ends with a soliloquy by Cassius. He reveals that he is conspiring against Caesar and wants to trick Brutus into joining the conspiracy.

Act I, Scene 3

A month later, on the night before the ides of March, there is a storm raging in Rome. Casca meets Cicero, a senator, on the streets and describes all the frightening and unusual signs he has witnessed lately. Then Casca meets Cassius, who is not concerned at all about the storm because he thinks they are divine warnings against Caesar. Cassius tells Casca that the senators plan to make Caesar king and convinces Casca to join the plot to kill Caesar. Another conspirator, Cinna, enters and tells them that the other conspirators are waiting at Pompey’s Theater. They decide to first go to Brutus’s house and give him one last push to join the conspiracy.

Act II, Scene 1
Brutus is in his garden, unable to sleep because he is wrestling with conflicting emotions about Caesar. On one hand, Caesar is a good friend and has not done anything to abuse his power yet. On the other hand, Caesar’s ambition and vanity have the potential to harm Rome. Brutus decides to prevent Caesar from gaining any more power for the greater good of Rome, comparing him to a poisonous snake’s egg. Brutus’s servant brings some letters that Cassius had planted, urging Brutus to act against Caesar. Then, all of the conspirators arrive at the house. Brutus immediately takes charge of the plot. When they leave, Brutus’s wife, Portia, appears, demanding to know what has been troubling him. She convinces him that she is strong enough to keep his secrets by stabbing herself in the thigh. Brutus is moved by this and is about to tell her everything, but he is interrupted by the arrival of his friend Ligarius. Ligarius joins the conspiracy, and they both leave for Caesar’s house.
Act II, Scene 2
At Caesar’s house, Calphurnia is awakened by a bad dream in which a statue of Caesar is oozing blood and Roman citizens are bathing their hands in it. She begs Caesar not to leave the house, and he agrees. It is at this...

(The entire section is 1859 words.)

Synopsis of the Play

Synopsis of the Play
The play begins in Rome in 44 B.C. on the Feast of Lupercal, in honor of the god Pan. Caesar has become the most powerful man in the Roman Republic and is eager to become king. Caesar, however, has many enemies who are planning his assassination. When Caesar and his entourage appear, a soothsayer warns him to “Beware the ides of March,” (March 15), but Caesar is unconcerned.

Cassius tries to convince Brutus that Caesar is too ambitious and must be assassinated for the welfare of Rome. Cassius is determined to win Brutus to his cause by forging letters from citizens and leaving them where Brutus will find them. The letters attack Caesar’s ambition and convince Brutus that killing Caesar is for the good of Rome.

For a month, Brutus struggles with the problem; and on the morning of the ides of March, he agrees to join the others. The conspirators escort Caesar to the Senate and stab him to death.

Brutus addresses the agitated crowd and tells them why Caesar had to be killed. Then Mark Antony delivers his funeral oration and stirs the crowd to mutiny against Brutus, Cassius, and the others. The mob runs through the streets looking to avenge Caesar’s death. A civil war breaks out.

Brutus and Cassius escape to Greece where they raise an army and prepare to fight Octavius and Antony in a decisive battle.

When Cassius believes he has lost the war, he convinces his servant, Pindarus, to stab him. After Brutus is defeated in a second battle, he commits suicide by running on his own sword rather than being taken prisoner back to Rome.

The play ends with the restoration of order, as Octavius and Antony become the two most powerful men in Rome.

Estimated Reading Time
The play should take the reader about five hours to complete. Since it is a five-act play, you should allocate about an hour for each act, although the time may vary depending on the number of scenes in each act. The final two acts of the play read more quickly and they may be covered in less than an hour.

One-Page Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

At the feast of Lupercalia all Rome rejoices, for the latest military triumphs of Julius Caesar are being celebrated during that holiday. Nevertheless, tempers flare and jealousies seethe beneath the public gaiety. Flavius and Marallus, two tribunes, coming upon a group of citizens gathered to praise Caesar, tear down their trophies and order the people to go home and remember Pompey’s fate at the hands of Caesar.

Other dissatisfied noblemen discuss with concern Caesar’s growing power and his incurable ambition. A soothsayer, following Caesar in his triumphal procession, warns him to beware the Ides of March. Cassius, one of the most violent of Caesar’s critics, speaks at length to Brutus of the dictator’s unworthiness to rule the state. Why, he demands, should the name of Caesar be synonymous with that of Rome when there are so many other worthy men in the city?

While Cassius and Brutus are speaking, they hear a tremendous shouting from the crowd. From aristocratic Casca they learn that before the mob Marcus Antonius three times offered a crown to Caesar and three times the dictator refused it. Thus do the wily Antonius and Caesar catch and hold the devotion of the multitude. Fully aware of Caesar’s methods and the potential danger that he embodies, Cassius and Brutus, disturbed by the new turn of events, agree to meet again to discuss the affairs of Rome. As they part, Caesar arrives in time to see them, and suspicion of Cassius enters his mind. Cassius does not look contented; he is too lean and nervous to be satisfied with life. Caesar much prefers to have fat, jolly men about him.

Cassius’s plan is to enlist Brutus in a plot to overthrow Caesar. Brutus is one of the most respected and beloved citizens of Rome; were he in league against Caesar, the dictator’s power could be curbed easily. It will, however, be difficult to turn Brutus completely against Caesar, for Brutus is an honorable man and not given to treason, so that only the most drastic circumstances would override his loyalty. Cassius plots to have Brutus receive false papers that imply widespread public alarm over Caesar’s rapidly growing power. Hoping that Brutus might put Rome’s interests above his own personal feelings, Cassius has the papers secretly laid at Brutus’s door one night. The conflict within Brutus is great. His wife Portia complains that he did not sleep at all during the night and that she found him wandering, restless and unhappy, about the house. At last he reaches a decision. Remembering Tarquin, the tyrant whom his ancestors banished from Rome, Brutus agrees to join Cassius and his conspirators in their attempt to save Rome from Caesar. He refuses, however, to sanction the murder of Antonius, which is being planned for...

(The entire section is 1128 words.)