The play opens on a crowded and noisy street in Rome as Julius Caesar returns from battle, where he stomped Pompey's sons into the ground.
FYI: Pompey is a guy who used to rule Rome with Caesar (they were called "tribunes"). After disagreeing with Caesar about how Rome should be run, Pompey was defeated in battle and assassinated. Just to be sure that Pompey's family and supporters couldn't come after him, Caesar chased Pompey's sons to Spain and defeated them in battle, too.
Murellus and Flavius, Roman tribunes who are friends of Brutus and Cassius, come upon a group of common people running about the street in their Sunday best when they should be working. The pair asks about the commoners' professions and what they're up to and finds out that they're on the way to celebrate and honor Julius Caesar.
Murellus and Flavius point out that rather than celebrate this victory, the people should get on their knees and pray against whatever evil will come from Caesar. They imply that Caesar will be tyrannical, having outlived the other two men who should share his power.
Before parting ways, Murellus and Flavius disperse the crowd and remove the party favors the people have left around Caesar's statue. They hope this will slow Caesar's roll a little bit as he prepares to overthrow the republic and make himself king.
Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2 Summary
Caesar, Brutus, their wives, and all sorts of other folks are gathered in a public place. They're ready to celebrate the feast of the Lupercal, an annual party which involves a bunch of Romans dressed in leather loincloths running around the city lashing whoever they find with a goatskin whip. Seriously.
Caesar's friend Antony will be running in the festival this year, and Caesar tells Antony not to forget to "touch Calphurnia." She is Caesar's wife, and the whip is supposed to cure her "barrenness." (Before we forget, this is the same "Antony" who shows up later in Shakespeare's steamy play Antony and Cleopatra.)
After broadcasting his wife's business in the street, Caesar hears a soothsayer (a prophet or fortuneteller) call out to him in the crowd. Caesar now hears the famous warning to "beware the Ides of March," but he ignores it.
Brutus and Cassius meet and talk while everyone else moves on to the next event. Cassius says his good friend Brutus hasn't seemed very friendly recently. Brutus reassures Cassius that "it's not you, it's me," claiming that he's been preoccupied with some thoughts that he'd rather keep to himself.
Cassius then starts to suggest things that Brutus's own humbleness won't let him acknowledge. Cassius hints that Brutus has a reputation for being a really honorable guy, and that everybody agrees about this except Caesar. As Brutus begins to catch the whiff of treachery in Cassius's talk, Cassius assures Brutus he's being serious about the whole "noble" thing and not just flattering him. Without saying so, Cassius suggests that a lot of respected Romans think it would be really nice if someone like Brutus led Rome, even though it would mean "disposing" of Caesar.
Their conversation is interrupted by shouts, and Brutus ends by pointing out that he loves Caesar but hopes the Roman people haven't crowned him king. (Remember, they live in a republic, which has no place for monarchs.)
Brutus adds that he loves honor more than he fears death, which spurs Cassius to continue suggesting they do something to stop Caesar.
Cassius harps on the fact that Caesar isn't any better than them, so they have no reason to be his subjects.
In fact, Cassius says, Caesar is a gutless wonder. Cassius tells a story of how Caesar challenged him to a race on the Tiber River, but Caesar got so tired that Cassius had to rescue him from drowning. Cassius describes how Caesar became sick in Spain, had a seizure, and whimpered. Cassius is clearly implying that Caesar is weak and not fit to be a king.
There's some more shouting that seems to imply that the people are the crowning Caesar, which helps Cassius's cause.
Cassius drives his point home: Brutus is just as good as Caesar, and they would be cowards if they didn't do something to stop Caesar becoming the "first man" of Rome. Cassius then appeals to Brutus's family history. Apparently one of Brutus's ancestors helped establish the Roman Republic by fighting the tyrant Tarquin. Cassius is basically calling for Brutus to uphold the family name.
Brutus promises he's not suspicious of Cassius's motives or flattery but asks him to lay off trying to get him to kill Caesar for a little bit. Brutus will think about whatever Cassius has to say, and he gives Cassius hope with the final thought that he'd "rather be a villager" than call himself "a son of Rome" if things continue on the current path (meaning, if Rome ceases to be a republic). Which would be fine, except Brutus has no interest in being a villager.
When Caesar returns, Brutus notices he and the rest of his crew look pretty unhappy.
Caesar spots Cassius giving him the stink eye and calls out instructions to Antony: he'd like to be surrounded with fat, happy men, because the "lean and hungry look" of Cassius strikes him as dangerous. Antony assures Caesar that Cassius is noble and not dangerous.
Caesar continues to say mean things about Cassius: that he doesn't like music, or smiling, or people who are better than him. (Who is this guy, the Grinch?) Obviously, Caesar has figured out that he should not trust Cassius.
Just then Brutus and Cassius confer with Casca, who has been at the festivities with Caesar. Brutus asks what has put Caesar in such a bad mood.
Casca tells him that the crowd was gathered to watch Caesar receive a (symbolic) crown. Antony offered Caesar the crown three times, Caesar refused it all three times, and three times the crowd cheered wildly (presumably because of the humility of their fearless leader).
Casca thinks the crowd was stupid for not noticing how hard it was for Caesar to resist taking the crown. Each time Caesar refused it a little less wholeheartedly. Apparently the whole thing was so upsetting that it prompted one of Caesar's epileptic seizures in the middle of the marketplace. Caesar had fallen down and started foaming at the mouth, unable to speak.
Even weirder, before Caesar had the seizure, he stood up before the crowd and opened his jacket, offering the crowd his throat to cut. When he came to, he apologized for any weird behavior, blaming it on his sickness, and everyone happily forgave him. Casca is convinced the people would've forgiven him for stabbing their mothers, as they are foolish sheep.
Brutus asks if Cicero, the great orator, had anything to say about this. Casca says Cicero did speak, but Casca couldn't understand it because he was speaking Greek. (Casca, not an orator himself, doesn't know Greek.) Hence the phrase, "It's all Greek to me." (See, you're smarter every day.)
Casca also notes that Murellus and Flavius (remember them from Scene 1?) have been punished. They've lost their positions after their little adventure stripping the people's ornaments off of Caesar's statues. Finally, Casca agrees to have dinner at Cassius's place sometime, though he's pretty rude about it.
After Brutus and Cassius part ways, Cassius thinks he'll convince Brutus to get on the conspiratorial bandwagon eventually, even though the man is noble, or honorable. Cassius is convinced that Caesar treats Brutus with favoritism, making it harder for Brutus to rebel against him. (It's always harder to kill someone who's nice to you.)
Still, Cassius thinks he'll sway Brutus by faking some letters and throwing them through his window at night. The letters will supposedly be from citizens praising Brutus, and, between the lines, Cassius will suggest that Caesar is too ambitious and should be put down by someone like Brutus. Cassius is certain he can shake Brutus's loyalty to Caesar.
Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 3 Summary
Cicero runs into Casca on the street that night. Casca's a little shaken up. Though he's seen his fair share of bad nights, he says that the sky is dropping hot fire is definitely a first. Casca thinks maybe there's a civil war in heaven, or maybe the gods are raining down fury because the world has displeased them.
This would all be crazy talk except that Casca's seen worse than bad weather tonight. A slave boy's hand was lit on fire by a torch, and yet it didn't burn. Then there was a surly lion at the Capitol. Also a bunch of women were terrified by a vision they swore they saw of men walking the streets covered in flames. Casca reports the strangest thing of all: a nighttime bird was in the market, during the daytime! Since it doesn't get any crazier than that, it's clear all these things are bad omens. (Seriously? A nighttime bird? Nooooo!)
Cicero thinks they should hold off on crazy interpretations of the flaming men, lions, and various insomniac birds. He says people basically interpret things to mean whatever they want them to mean.
After confirming that Caesar will be at the Capitol tomorrow, Cicero leaves.
Casca then runs into Cassius, who has been presenting himself to the heavens to be struck by lightning. A tad concerned by this behavior, Casca asks Cassius if maybe he should have trembled at the gods' warning instead of going out for a lightning tan.
Cassius thinks Casca is an idiot. Obviously the heavens are making the world disco-fabulous to signal their serious displeasure with the state of affairs in Rome, where a certain someone, though he is no better than Cassius, has grown too powerful for his own good.
Casca, dumb as a box of rocks, asks whether Cassius is talking about Julius Caesar. Spoken like a true politician, Cassius does the old "maybe, maybe not."
Either way, Casca says the Romans are acting like cowards by doing nothing to stop the tyranny, which will only get worse. Casca has heard that tomorrow the senators will crown Caesar king, and that he plans to wear his crown everywhere but Italy.
Cassius points out where he'll wear his dagger, and basically blabs his plan to murder Caesar.
The thunder stops (drama!), and Cassius contends that Caesar is only a tyrant because people are stupid and beg to be taken advantage of.
Cassius pretends to be surprised about revealing so much in front of Casca, who he suggests might like being Caesar's stupid stooge.
Casca takes the bait and pledges not to tattle. More important, he pledges to join in on the conspiracy to kill Caesar. Conveniently, there's a meeting of all the conspirators starting right now at the old theater, Pompey's Porch. They're waiting for Cassius.
Cinna, another conspirator, happens to be on his way to that same secret meeting, and they all stop for a chat. Cinna mentions it would be really nice if Brutus was also interested in killing his friend, Caesar.
To further this goal, Cassius sends Cinna on an errand to plant some letters Cassius has written in various places where Brutus will find them. Cassius has impersonated other Romans in the letters, all of which praise Brutus and suggest that somebody should really off Caesar for Rome's sake.
Cassius confides to Casca that they'll have Brutus on their side in no time. Casca is glad; as Brutus is well regarded and will make all the nasty things they do seem virtuous and worthy.
Cassius agrees they really do need Brutus, and by morning they'll have confirmation on whether or not he'll join them.
Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 1 Summary
Brutus contemplates the conspiracy in his garden late into the night. He has reached the conclusion that Julius Caesar must die. Brutus can't justify Caesar's death by any personal acts of Caesar's; Caesar has just got to go for the public good.
Brutus reasons that, although Caesar isn't bad now, getting a crown would change his nature. Brutus admits he's seen no evidence that ambition would change Caesar, but he reckons it isn't worth taking the chance.
Thus Brutus decides action must be taken now, as Caesar is like a serpent's egg – dangerous once hatched. (Time to make an omelet.)
While doing all this thinking, Brutus sends his servant Lucius to light a candle in his room. Lucius returns with a letter he's found (Cassius's invention). The letter says Brutus should recognize his own noble nature and do something before Rome falls to the tyranny of a monarch. Brutus is taken in and promises that, for Rome's sake, he won't fail.
Lucius then confirms that it's the Ides of March (the fateful day Caesar had been warned about). After this healthy bit of foreshadowing for the audience, Brutus admits he's been kept up every night since Cassius planted the fear of tyranny in his mind.
The group of conspirators then shows up at Brutus's door to try to win Brutus over to their cause. They're all disguised and looking shady.
Cassius introduces all the conspirators, and Brutus asks to hold everyone's hand for the Roman version of Kumbaya over their murdering plan.
Cassius suggests they swear an oath to their cause, which Brutus opposes violently. They are Romans, and Romans don't do oaths – they're just true to their word, even if that word is murder.
Then they all have a little debate about whether to include Cicero, but it's decided he'd never be a follower and shouldn't be invited to join Team Secret Conspiracy.
It's important here to note that the minor conspirators are easily swayed one direction or another regarding whether Cicero should be asked to join, at first thinking he'd be great and then insisting he's totally unfit. They're easily persuaded.
Cassius then suggests they also kill Antony (Caesar's young friend) while they're at it, though Brutus thinks this would be overkill. (Get it? Ugh.) He talks about how they should murder Caesar nobly, carving him up like a dish for the gods, not like a "carcass fit for hounds." The conspirators should think of the murder as an act of sacrifice for the state and not as a bloodbath.
Brutus also contends that because Antony is like Caesar's arm, once they kill Caesar, Antony will be powerless. An arm without a head can do nothing, and Brutus is sure they have nothing to fear from Caesar's friend.
Trebonius, another conspiratorial lackey, suggests that Antony will be sad after the murder but will eventually laugh about the whole thing. (Right…)
The clock strikes three (actually, ancient Rome had no clocks, but Shakespeare wasn't much of a historian), and they agree to part. Before they do, Cassius points out that Caesar has been cautious lately because of all the bad omens floating about. (Remember the lion in the Capitol? The birds of night flying at day? Yep. Those.) Cassius further worries that Caesar's prophets might convince him to take a sick day from the Capitol.
Decius tells everyone not to worry; he'll show up at Caesar's place in the morning to make sure Caesar goes to the Capitol. He can sway Caesar easily with fairy-tale interpretations of whatever worries Caesar.
In fact, everyone will meet at Caesar's to make sure he shows up to the Capitol for the murder. It's a team effort. (Goooo Team Secret Conspiracy!) Cassius prompts them to be "good Romans" and keep their word.
Brutus tells them to make sure they don't look like suspicious murderers. (Brilliant!)
After everyone leaves Brutus, his wife, Portia, whom he left in bed, shows up to have a little husband-wife chit chat. The other night Brutus gave her a mean look at dinner and dismissed her when she wanted to talk about what was bothering him. (Apparently the plan to murder Caesar didn't make it into pillow talk.) Portia pleads with him to tell her what's making him so unhappy.
Brutus claims he's just a bit sick, and Portia says that pacing about at all hours of the night is surely not the best cure. She points out it must be a sickness of the mind that plagues him. (Brilliant!)
She says she has a right to know who the masked men who were just at their house in the middle of the night.
Portia claims she does more than simply serve Brutus, and she asks that he confide in her as a beloved wife rather than ignore her like a kept woman (A reoccurring theme here is that of powerless women). Though she knows she's a woman, she's his wife and the daughter of noble Cato, and she can keep a secret, no matter what it is.
Brutus then asks the gods to make him worthy of such a noble wife. Just then, there's a knock at the door. Brutus sends Portia back to bed, promising to tell her everything later.
Ligarius, a guy who one of the conspirators wanted to bring onto the team, has shown up. Although he's sick, he says he's filled with spirit after hearing of the killing plan. The two walk and talk about the murder afoot.
Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 2 Summary
Caesar's also up late, pacing around in his nightgown, lightning and thunder as the backdrop. His wife Calphurnia has cried out "Help, ho! They murder Caesar" three times in her sleep, which he's taken as a bad sign. (What a genius!)
Caesar tells a servant to order the priests to make a sacrifice and see if they can rustle up a good omen.
The now-awake Calphurnia approaches Caesar and demands that he not leave the house that day. Caesar of course refuses her. He claims that danger can't look him in the eye. (It's like he invented Chuck Norris!)
Still, Calphurnia is pretty dead-set (ha!) against Caesar leaving. She's not a superstitious lady, but she's seen lions walking around, the dead rising from their graves, and warriors in the sky, and she's dreamt of the Capitol covered in blood. All of this makes her worry with good reason.
Caesar points out that the gods will get their way, no matter what he does. Here he delivers the famous line, "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the Valiant never taste of death, but once." He sees no reason to fear death, since death comes to everyone in the end.
Caesar then gets word that the sacrifice didn't go so well: the beast they killed didn't have a heart! Caesar – maybe arrogant, maybe brave – takes this to mean that he would have no heart (or courage) if he stayed home today. He then claims he's more dangerous than danger itself.
Calphurnia pleads with Caesar to stay home. If anyone asks, he can say it's his wife that kept him home so he won't look like a coward for not showing up at the Capitol. He doesn't agree until she's gotten down on her knees. He decides to humor her and have Antony cover for him with some excuse about feeling ill.
It's about morning now, and Decius shows up as promised to take Caesar to the Capitol. Calphurnia asks Decius to tell the Senate that Caesar is sick. Caesar points out that he's conquered nations and is not worried about some old senators knowing why he had to stay home.
Caesar tells Decius to just tell the Senate he won't come – they don't deserve any more of an explanation than that. Still, Caesar says, because he loves Decius, he'll tell him the real reason he's staying home. (Definitely a bad move.)
He confides in Decius that Calphurnia had a dream in which Caesar's statue poured blood from a hundred spouts, like a fountain, and that happy Romans surrounded the statue bathing their hands in the blood.
Decius is a quick thinker, and he knows he's got to get Caesar to the Capitol to kill him. So he deliberately misinterprets the dream. He says that of course Caesar had blood spilling all over happy Romans. Decius claims the dream means Rome will be revived by Caesar's blood, and everybody will want a little bit of that wonderful infusion. (Decius really means that Rome will be sustained by Caesar's spilled blood – not his current, happily circulating blood.)
To end all discussion on the topic, Decius offers Caesar the cherry on top: today the Senate is planning on crowning Caesar king, and if he doesn't show up they might change their minds. They'll make fun of him for being a scaredy-cat and staying home because of his wife's dreams. Decius claims he only says these things out of love.
Caesar takes the bait, calls Calphurnia foolish, and heads off with Decius to the Capitol.
It's eight in the morning by this time, and all the other conspirators have gathered at Caesar's house to make small talk as promised.
Caesar invites them all to have a friendly morning drink with him before they go, and Brutus privately laments that Caesar can't tell that his supposed friends are his soon-to-be murderers.
Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 3 Summary
Artemidorus, a soothsayer, reads aloud (to himself) a note that he's written to Caesar. In the note, he lists all the conspirators that Caesar should stay away from and warns of their plot. Artemidorus plans to pass the note to Caesar as he walks to the Capitol. He hopes the note will save Caesar's life.
Julius Caesar Act 2, Scene 4 Summary
Portia, Brutus's wife, is a mess. She tells Lucius, the servant, to run to the Capitol, then yells at him for not leaving, even though she hasn't yet given him any instruction on what to do when he gets there.
Portia is worried, but she doesn't even know what Lucius should look for. Brutus didn't look well when he left the house that morning, and she decides Lucius should look after her husband and see what Caesar is up to and whom he's surrounded by. Though she hasn't heard the murder plan directly from Brutus's mouth, it's clear she suspects something awful.
Portia then starts with a fright, thinking she has heard a noise, though Lucius claims he's heard nothing.
A soothsayer (they pop up a lot in ancient Rome) arrives at Brutus's house to tell Portia that Caesar hasn't come to the Capitol yet. The soothsayer hopes to meet him on the way there, with an offer to befriend him.
Portia worries about this and asks whether something is being plotted against Caesar – why does he need more friends? The soothsayer says he hasn't heard of anything, but he fears something will happen.
The soothsayer heads off in hopes of finding a place to speak with Caesar himself and not be crushed by the crowd.
Portia grows even fainter. She asks that heaven speed Brutus in his "enterprise." Worrying that Lucius has overheard her, she covers herself with a paltry lie, pretending that the "enterprise" is some small request Brutus has made that Caesar won't grant. She does know something, and she's not saying what.
Finally Portia tells Lucius to tell Brutus that she's "merry," and that she'd like Lucius to bring back news of Brutus. She clearly isn't merry, dear reader, and seems to suspect the worst.
Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 1 Summary
The crowd of traitorous senators and a bunch of hangers-on surround Julius Caesar just outside the Capitol. Decius, a traitor, offers a "suit" or a request from Trebonius to Caesar.
After a vague but ominous interaction between Caesar and the soothsayer, Artemidorus pleads with Caesar to read his suit (letter) first, as it is dearest to Caesar. (This note tells Caesar of the plot and names the conspirators.) Caesar, the picture of humility, says that, because he puts the affairs of Rome before his own, he'll read Artemidorus's suit last. Artemidorus presses him, and Caesar brushes him off: "What, is the fellow mad?" (Note the rising action at this point in the play)
Before Caesar has time to consider that he's committed the biggest mistake of his life, he is hustled to the Capitol by Cassius. Cassius says Caesar shouldn't just give audience to every Roman in the street – he needs to hurry to the Capitol.
As Caesar enters the Capitol, Senator Popilius wishes Cassius good luck in "today's enterprise."
Naturally, the conspirators flip out a little bit – Popilius, who is now chatting up Caesar, seems to know about the plot. Brutus, calm and collected, assures everyone that they're just scaring themselves. Popilius smiles with Caesar, who looks unconcerned, so he clearly hasn't just heard about the murder plot. (Here we have what is called a character foil – a character that serves as a contrast to another character)
Meanwhile, Trebonius is busy luring Antony away, and the plan is falling into place. Metellus will come up close to Caesar, pretending to have some request, and everyone will gather around him to fall into killing position. Cinna says Casca will strike first.
The team breaks and hustles as Caesar calls the Senate to order.
Metellus is the first to come before Caesar, and he begins to kneel, but Caesar cuts him off. Pretentiously referring to himself in the third person, Caesar says such stooping might appeal to lesser men, but it won't sway him. Caesar declares that Metellus's brother (Publius, whom Metellus is making a request on behalf of) will remain banished. Further, no amount of begging and pleading will shake the great Caesar, it only makes him scorn the beggar. (Caesar, in his arrogance, definitely makes it harder to be sympathetic towards him here.)
As Metellus is making his plea for his brother Publius, Brutus joins in and kisses Caesar's hand, which totally surprises Caesar. Cassius falls to Caesar's feet.
As Caesar is surrounded, he declares he definitely won't change the law to accommodate Publius. He declares himself to be "as constant as the northern star." While every man might be a fiery star, all the stars move except the northern one. Caesar identifies with that star, so he's not about to change his mind.
The conspirators press on, and Caesar demands that they go away, saying that their pleading is as useless as trying to lift up Olympus, mountain of the gods.
Critic T.S. Dorsch, once said that Caesar makes ‘”such extravagant expressions of arrogance that all sympathy for him is alienated, and the action of the assassins is for the moment almost accepted as justifiable.” Do you agree?
Caesar is shocked when Brutus decides to kneel. Suddenly Casca rises to stabs Caesar. Brutus stabs him too.
Caesar's last words are some of literature's most famous: "Et tu, Brute? [You too, Brutus?] – Then fall, Caesar!" It seems Caesar is willing to fall if one of his most noble friends, Brutus, would betray him. This is moving, even after the whole, "I'm the most special star in the whole galaxy" speech.
Immediately after Caesar falls, Cinna proclaims, "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!" and tells everybody to run and spread the message in the streets.
Brutus realizes that all the other folks standing around in the Capitol watching Caesar bleed might be a bit shocked. He tells them to stay and relax, as "ambition's debt is paid," meaning Caesar's death is the cost and consequence of Caesar's ambition.
Casca directs Brutus and Cassius to the pulpit, probably to address the crowd, when Brutus notices he can't find Publius. Cinna points out that Publius is looking shocked by the great mutiny, and Metellus urges the conspirators to stand together in case Caesar's friends in the Capitol want to start a fight.
Brutus then challenges everyone to come back to their senses. No one wants to hurt anybody, and he hopes no one wants to hurt them. Brutus, maybe sensing that the plan to become heroes for killing Caesar has not come to pass, adds that only the men who've done this deed will bear its consequences.
Trebonius enters to confirm the worst: Antony has run to his house, shocked by the act, and people are shrieking in the street like it was Doomsday.
Brutus then basically says: "We all know we'll die eventually, and life is just the process of waiting for the days to pass before it happens." (Maybe Brutus should get a hobby, or a support group.) Brutus goes on to suggest that, as Caesar's friends, they've done him a favor by shortening the period of time he would've spent worrying about death. Interesting logic.
Weirdly, Brutus then calls everyone to bathe their hands up to their elbows in Caesar's blood and to cover their swords with it, so they can walk out into the streets and the marketplace declaring peace, freedom, and liberty in the land. (This is notably reminiscent of Calphurnia's dream.)
Cassius says he's sure this bloodbath will go down in history as a noble act, and everyone agrees that Brutus should lead the procession into the street, as he has the boldest and best heart in Rome.(Note here that this is the turning point of the play)
Just then, Antony's servant enters, causing the marching band of merry, bloody men to take pause.
Antony has sent word with his servant to say Brutus is noble, wise, valiant, and honest, and, further, that while Antony loves Brutus and honors him, Antony also feared, loved, and honored Caesar. Antony thus pledges to love Brutus if he can get some assurance that it's safe to come around for a visit sometime and hear the story of why Brutus thought it was OK to kill their leader. Regardless, he'll be faithful to Brutus from now on.
Brutus tells Antony's servant that his master will be safe if he comes to the Capitol. Brutus is sure glad they can all be friends again.
Cassius, however, is still suspicious of Antony, and as the resident expert in treachery, he's usually right about spotting it in others.
Antony shows up and makes a great show over Caesar's body, weeping and wailing. He worries aloud about who else will be killed over some secret grudge the conspirators might hold.
Antony then pleas with the conspirators to kill him right now if they want him dead, as to die by swords still fresh with Caesar's blood would be the greatest death ever, hands down.
Brutus then pleads with Antony that, though the conspirators' hands are bloody, their hearts are pitiful. After all, someone needed to do this terrible deed for Rome, to drive out fire with fire. Brutus promises Antony he will only meet with love.
Brutus promises to soon explain the reason they've killed Caesar. Right now, though, they've got to go out and quiet the public, which is a bit frightened of the men who stopped for a quick dip in Caesar's blood.
Antony says he has no doubt that Brutus probably had some very good reason to kill Caesar, and he shakes bloody hands with the conspirators all around. He then looks on Caesar's corpse and begins a long-winded speech in praise of Caesar, whom he has betrayed by becoming loyal to his murderers. (Flashback to the beginning of the play when the cobbler is asked why they do not mourn the death of Pompey, but instead rejoice in the streets at the rise of Caesar. Antony here is no better than the hypocritical Romans from the beginning of the play.)
Cassius interrupts this dramatic posturing and flat-out asks whether Antony is with them or against them.
Antony says he was committed to the conspirators, but then he notices Caesar's corpse again (still lying on the ground at their feet), and the plan to be down with the murderers suddenly looks a little less savory. Still, Antony will remain their friend if they can provide some reason to believe Caesar was dangerous. Brutus promises they can and must.
Antony's only other little request is that he be allowed to take the body to the marketplace and to speak at Caesar's funeral.
Brutus, ever trusting, readily gives in to Antony's request, but Cassius senses foul play and pulls Brutus aside.
Cassius warns Brutus to bar Antony from speaking at Caesar's funeral, as he's likely to say things that will incite the people against the conspirators. (Cassius is probably insecure for just reasons.)
Brutus will solve this problem by going to the pulpit first and explaining in a calm and rational manner his reasons for killing Caesar. (Rationality always goes over well with angry mobs, right?) Brutus will explain that the conspirators have given Antony permission to speak (meaning he's not an adversary), and that Caesar will have all the lawful burial ceremonies. Brutus is certain this will win them good PR all around.
Just to make sure, Brutus makes Antony promise not to say anything inflammatory at Caesar's funeral. (I thought Brutus wasn’t for promises/oaths?) Instead of blaming the killers, he should speak of Caesar's virtue by focusing more on Caesar's life than his death.
Antony promises and is left alone to give a little soliloquy (an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful of or oblivious to any hearers present (often used as a device in drama to disclose a character's innermost thoughts), in which he reveals that he fully intends to incite the crowd to bloody murder against the conspirators. In fact, there'll be so much blood and destruction that Caesar might show up from hell with the goddess of discord at his side, and mothers will smile to see their infants’ torn limb from limb. (Ew...) Well, the man has a plan.
Just then a servant arrives with the news that Octavius is on his way. Octavius is Julius Caesar's adopted son and heir, and Caesar had recently sent him a letter asking him to come to Rome.
Antony tells the servant to hold Octavius where he is, just seven leagues from Rome, as it's not safe for him in the city yet. He says Octavius should come after Antony has had a chance to give his speech and kick-start the mob rioting.
The servant lends Antony a hand to carry Caesar's body out of the Capitol. (Somebody get a mop!)
Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2 Summary
Brutus and Cassius hit the streets, surrounded by crowds of common folks. So many people are clamoring to hear them that Cassius takes one group off while the others stay to listen to Brutus speak.
Brutus ascends to the pulpit and the crowd falls silent. He delivers an earnest, honest, and simple speech.
First, he says that the people should trust his honor, which they know to be true. He asks if anyone can say they loved Caesar more than he did. No one can.
Brutus says he rose against Caesar not because he didn't love him, but because he loved Rome more. If Caesar were still living, they'd all be slaves. While Caesar has a lot of good things, he had to die for his ambition. To have let him live would be to submit to slavery, and that's downright un-Roman, by golly!
Brutus asks whether anyone doesn't love Rome and freedom, and of course the answer is no. So obviously Caesar had to die. Duh!
Everybody is buying this, but then Antony shows up with Caesar's body. Brutus introduces Antony to the crowd and closes his speech by restating that he slew his best friend for Rome's sake and that he will turn the same dagger on himself if his country ever needs his death. (Anyone smell some foreshadowing brewing?)
Everyone is so happy with Brutus that there are some calls to give him a statue among his ancestors and to make him the new Caesar. Hip hip, hooray! (These folks are really missing the democratic message of his speech.) Brutus politely dismisses himself and asks everyone to stay and listen to Antony's speech.
The crowd is firmly behind Brutus, and they shout out that Caesar was a tyrant and Brutus has done them all a favor.
Then Antony takes over, with the famous speech beginning: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar."
The crowd is as good as sold there, but Antony manages to stealthily bring it around to the opinion that Caesar has been killed wrongfully. He begins by insisting that Brutus and the other murderers are honorable, but then proceeds to slowly undermine that statement by pointing out how their chief gripe against Caesar, his ambition, could not be true. Antony gives examples of how Caesar loved his people, bringing in money to the country, weeping with the poor, and even refusing the crown three times. Clearly, he suggests, Caesar wasn't ambitious at all, but was devoted and loving to his citizens. (Note another turning point of the play)
Antony uses a little reverse psychology on the crowd, getting them to clamor to hear Caesar's will by insisting that they shouldn't hear it. He descends to read them the private document but gets sidetracked by mourning over Caesar's body. (Get it together, man!)
Again Antony insists Brutus is honorable, but then points out the gash Brutus made in his friend's bloody body. Antony repeats this pattern over and over, until all are in agreement to burn, slay, and otherwise do not-so-nice things to Brutus and the other conspirators.
They're so caught up and ready to go a-rioting that they forget about Caesar's will. Antony has to remind them that they wanted to hear it.
After the mob gets the news that Caesar left them some nice gardens and 75 drachmas each, they decide to cremate Caesar in the holy place and burn down the traitors' houses with the same fire. (Even the mob has a sense of poetic justice.)
As the mob sets off to carry out the chaos and killing, Antony delights that his plan has worked.
He then gets the news that Octavius has come to Rome with Lepidus. Both men are waiting for him at Caesar's house. Good fortune is upon them, as they'll be the new triumvirate (the three-man team that ruled Rome).
We learn that Brutus and Cassius have fled the city like madmen.
Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 3 Summary
The poet Cinna, who is traveling the streets, gets caught up by the mob.
After asking him a few questions, they confuse him with Cinna the conspirator. He pleads that they've got the wrong guy, but the mob has no mercy. They decide to tear him to pieces anyway for his bad poetry. As they drag him offstage, they list the names of the conspirators whose houses they're off to pillage and burn.
Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 1 Summary
Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus are gathered with a checklist of the men they plan to murder for conspiracy. Lepidus agrees that his brother can be killed as long as Antony agrees for his nephew to be killed.
Lepidus is sent to collect Caesar's will, to see if they can divert some of his money their way.
As soon as Lepidus has gone, Antony begins to talk trash about him. Antony thinks Lepidus is weak, so it's a shame that he'll be sharing power with Antony and Octavius in the triumvirate. Antony says he only took Lepidus's word about who should die because he's more experienced than Octavius.
The plan is to let Lepidus bear the burden of ruling while doing as he's told by the other two.
Octavius is more in the pro-Lepidus camp and insists that he's a good solider. Antony replies that his (Antony's) horse is a good soldier too – good at being led and ordered. To them, Lepidus should only be a puppet.
They then discuss the fact that Brutus and Cassius are raising an army, which they have to fight by allying their friends and funds.
They go off to sit in council and discuss how they'll fight their enemies and weed out the traitors.
Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 2 Summary
Brutus and his friend Lucilius meet Pindarus, servant and friend to Cassius, with Titinius, another mutual buddy. (Wow, that's a lot of "us"es.)
Brutus says Cassius, who isn't there yet, has engaged in or overseen some shady business that makes Brutus wish they had never killed Caesar. Still, if Cassius is on his way, that's OK.
Lucilius admits, when asked by Brutus, that Cassius wasn't his usual friendly self. To Brutus, it sounds like the friendship is cooling.
Cassius's army will stay in Sardis (in what's now Turkey) that night, and the cavalry will arrive with Cassius.
Cassius enters and announces that Brutus has done him wrong. Brutus is shocked: how could he wrong someone who's like a brother to him? The two men are about to have a spat, and they agree it's best to do it privately rather than let the troops know they're fighting.
They order their armies to be moved away so they can go to Brutus's tent and argue in private, with Lucilius and Titinius guarding the door.
Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3 Summary
The root of Cassius and Brutus's argument comes out: Brutus has condemned a man, Lucius Pella, for taking bribes from the Sardians. Cassius wrote a letter saying Pella shouldn't be punished, but Brutus ignored it. He accuses Cassius of being dishonorable for suggesting they let bribery slide.
Cassius resents being called greedy, but Brutus gets to the heart of the matter: they all killed Caesar for justice's sake, but when they start getting involved in petty robbery, it compromises their honor and calls into question their noble motives for killing Caesar.
Cassius and Brutus then argue, and Brutus is all "I don't even know who you are anymore." Brutus tells Cassius to get out of his sight, which doesn't go over well, and the two start threatening each other.
Brutus brings up an old problem: he had asked Cassius to send gold to pay his soldiers, but Cassius denied him, which was not cool. Cassius claims he didn't deny Brutus; it must've been some bad messenger's fault. Still, Brutus should be a good friend, Cassius says, and ignore his faults. That's what friends do.
Things come to a head when Cassius offers Brutus his blade and naked chest. Cassius points out that Brutus stabbed Caesar out of love, which is more than Cassius is getting from Brutus right now.
With the offer of murder on the table, they both realize they're being a bit moody and melodramatic. They agree that Cassius is showing his mother's temper again. From now on they'll be friends and not get angry at each other.
As they step out of the tent, they find a poet waiting to tell them they should be friends. It's really nice of the poet to be so concerned. They laugh at him and send him off, then they direct Lucilius and Titinius to get their armies ready to lodge for the night.
Then the big news about what put Brutus in such a bad mood comes out. Portia, Brutus's loving wife, was driven to grief by his flight from Rome and by Antony and Octavius's growing strength. Long story short, she has killed herself by swallowing coals. (Ouch.)
After he tells all this to Cassius, Brutus gets some wine and aims to drink the pain away, saying they should speak no more of his dead wife.
Messala and Titinius come in, and though Cassius would like to dwell on Portia's death a bit, Brutus is all business.
They've learned that Octavius and Antony have decreed that a hundred senators must die in Rome. Both men are now on their way to Philippi. Brutus says he's only heard the names of seventy senators, and that Cicero is one of them. Messala then pipes up that Cicero is dead, and tries to skirt around the issue of Portia's death with Brutus.
Brutus is less hurt than anyone expected him to be. He says Portia had to die only once, and he can bear that death.
The talk then turns to beating their enemies at Philippi. Cassius thinks it's better for them to sit tight until Antony and Octavius wear out their own armies with travel. That way Brutus and Cassius's army will still be fresh to fight.
Brutus points out, though, that the enemy army might gather strength as it goes. Because more and more men between Rome and Philippi don't support Brutus and Cassius, they might be willing to join Antony and Octavius's forces. Brutus thinks his and Cassius's army is at its peak right now. They'll only get weaker, so it's better to act right away.
They all agree to go to Philippi and meet Antony and Octavius's army.
Everyone decides to get a little sleep, and Brutus asks Lucius to play him a tune on his instrument, even though Lucius is sleepy.
Brutus has called in some soldiers to sleep in his tent and keep watch. Everyone sleeps but Brutus, who picks up his book to read.
Just then Caesar's ghost shows up, claiming he is "thy evil spirit, Brutus." Brutus is a bit shaken, and the ghost explains that he'll see him again at Philippi. Brutus is all "see you then, I guess."
After the ghost disappears, Brutus wakes the men who've been sleeping in his tent. None of them saw the ghost.
Brutus has one of the men tell Cassius to send his army off early in the morning; Brutus's army will follow. It seems Caesar's ghost has only cemented Brutus's willingness to meet his fate, whatever it be.
Julius Caesar Act 5, Scene 1 Summary
Octavius and Antony confer on the plains of Philippi.
Octavius is surprised to see that Brutus and Cassius's army has come to meet them, especially since Antony thought the enemy would stay put. Antony thinks the enemy is fronting: clearly Brutus and Cassius mean to appear courageous and brave, but Antony can see right through that.
Antony and Octavius set up a battle plan and are met by Brutus and Cassius – each with his army behind him – for a pre-battle parley, or negotiation.
As Brutus tries to get them to reason (and maybe avoid the fight), Antony and Octavius bait him. They claim Brutus's words are no good when they're accompanied by bad strokes (of the sword). Antony's like, remember that time you cried "Long live! Hail Caesar!" while you stabbed him in the heart? This is a sore point for Brutus.
There's some more back and forth, and folks get testy. Finally Octavius draws his sword and says he won't put it back again until he's dead or Caesar's 33 wounds (not that anybody's counting) are avenged.
After more of this taunting, Antony and Octavius challenge Brutus and Cassius to meet them on the battlefield.
As Brutus talks with Lucilius privately, Cassius confides in Messala that it's his birthday. Though Cassius claims to be an Epicurean (meaning he doesn't believe in "signs and omens" mumbo jumbo), he's inclined to begin thinking differently after seeing something weird on his way from Sardis: two eagles swooped down from the sky, feeding out of the soldiers' hands. In the morning they were replaced by "ravens, crows, and kites" that spread like a shadow of death over the army. (Not a good sign.)
Messala tries to sway Cassius from the bad-omen talk, but Cassius brushes it off, saying he's still ready to face his peril.
Then Brutus and Cassius speak and agree to say goodbye to each other in a way that would be fitting if this were to be their last meeting ever.
Cassius asks Brutus what he'll do if things get bad, possibly hinting at suicide. Brutus points out that he condemned his father-in-law, Cato (who had fought on Pompey's side), for killing himself instead of giving himself over to Caesar. He's not sure what he'll do if they're defeated, as he finds suicide to be cowardly, especially if no one's really sure how things might turn out of they stay alive.
Cassius points out that if they lose, Brutus will be dragged through the streets of Rome.
Without explicitly saying he's decided to kill himself if they fail, Brutus declares that he'll never be taken to Rome in chains. Unless Brutus plans to catch the next plane to Vegas, we've just seen the great man commit himself to suicide.
Brutus and Cassius part nobly, saying that if they never see each other again, this was a good goodbye.
Brutus ends on a sort of Debbie Downer note, saying that although they don't know how, this day will come to an end. This is nice foreshadowing if you like that sort of "death is inevitable" talk.
Julius Caesar Act 5, Scene 2 Summary
Brutus sends Messala to ride out and instruct the soldiers to bear down on Octavius's side of the enemy's army. That group lacks spirit and might easily fall after a good push.
Julius Caesar Act 5, Scene 3 Summary
Cassius and Titinius watch the battle from another part of the field.
When Cassius's standard-bearer (the guy who carries his battle flag) tried to run away, Cassius killed him and took up the flag himself. This guy is merciless!
Titinius doesn't comment on this behavior but points out that Brutus came down on Octavius's army too early. Though they were initially weaker, Octavius's men now appear to be overtaking Brutus's, and Antony is enclosing Cassius's. The situation is looking pretty dire for Cassius and Brutus.
Pindarus comes to Cassius and Titinius with the news that Antony has invaded Cassius's tents. He tries to get Cassius to run away, but Cassius is distracted by a set of troops in the distance.
Cassius sends Titinius off on horseback to see whether the troops are friends or enemies. He also sends Pindarus higher up the hill to watch and report on Titinius's progress.
Cassius notes to himself that his birthday is a good day to die, his life having come full circle.
Cassius is resigned to his fate, but he still fights on. Pindarus reports on Titinius play by play. A horde of horsemen has surrounded Titinius. Now they've overtaken him. And now they're shouting with joy. It looks like the worst has happened.
Cassius calls for Pindarus to stop watching. He laments that he's such a coward to have sent his best friend Titinius to his death. Pindarus returns to Cassius's side, and Cassius speaks to him.
Cassius reminds Pindarus how he took him prisoner at Parthia and spared his life on the condition that he do whatever Cassius asked him to. Cassius then tells Pindarus how to make himself a free man: he should kill him with the very blade he used to kill Caesar.
Pindarus stabs Cassius, who dies declaring that Caesar is avenged by the same sword that killed him.
Pindarus, now hovering around Cassius's body, claims that this wasn't the way he wanted to gain his freedom, and that if he had his own will (and hadn't been Cassius's servant), he wouldn't have done it. He declares that he'll run far away so no Roman will ever see (or enslave) him again.
Messala then enters the scene with Titinius (who – surprise! – is not dead), announcing the new state of the battle: they're basically even on both sides. Brutus has overtaken Octavius's forces, while Antony's forces have beaten Cassius's men.
The men are stoked to tell Cassius that all isn't lost, but then they see his dead body, which is in no condition to accept good news.
Titinius realizes that Cassius must have misunderstood what had happened on the hilltop.
Messala is more Action Jackson than super-sleuth; he goes off unhappily to inform Brutus of Cassius's death. Meanwhile, Titinius is left to find Pindarus.
It doesn't matter where Pindarus is, and Titinius doesn't even look for him. Instead, Titinius explains what actually happened in the scene that Cassius killed himself over. Titinius was indeed overtaken, but by friends of Brutus and Cassius on horseback. The shouts Pindarus heard were shouts of joy for Cassius's side. They overtook Titinius to put a wreath of victory on his head, which Brutus then wanted the rider to give to Cassius.
Titinius still has the doomed crown, which, in a dramatic moment, he places on dead Cassius's head.
Titinius then cries, "By your leave, gods! – this is a Roman's part," and proceeds to stab himself with Cassius's sword. Titinius dies beside his friend.
Messala and Brutus arrive just in time to find that Titinius has played Ultimate Mourning and killed himself.
Brutus cries out, "Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!" (He might be suggesting that the ghost is out convincing people to kill themselves, or he might be talking about his effect on the conspirators' consciences.)
Brutus laments that two of Rome's bravest men should lie here this way. He prophetically calls Cassius "the last of all the Romans," meaning the last of the old school Romans that prefer death to subjugation. Brutus says he knows he ought to cry over Cassius, but now is not the time for crying.
In the meantime, they decide not to hold the funerals in the camp, as funerals are no way to boost troop morale. Still, it's only 3 o'clock, which means there's time to try their luck against the enemy again, in the hopes something might be accomplished before dinnertime. Brutus gathers his remaining friends for the fight.
Julius Caesar Act 5, Scene 4 Summary
Everyone goes out onto the battlefield in a blaze of glory. Young Cato runs around shouting his name as a challenge to anyone who stands for tyranny and against the Roman Republic.
Lucilius is running around pretending to be Brutus.
Some enemy soldiers unceremoniously kill Young Cato. They're ready to kill Lucilius too, but he says he's Brutus, and they should be honored to kill him.
The soldiers take him prisoner and are excited to show off their catch to Antony. (They really believe he's Brutus.)
The captive Lucilius tells Antony that no one will ever take Brutus alive. Lucilius promises that when Antony finds Brutus, whether alive or dead, he'll still be Brutus, with the same noble character and unchanged by these events.
Antony tells his overeager soldiers that this guy isn't Brutus, but he's no less worth capturing. Antony orders the soldiers to keep Lucilius safe and to be kind to him, as he'd rather have such men for friends than enemies.
Antony then sends some folks off to find out whether Brutus is alive or dead. He goes to Octavius's tent to hear news of how things are going.
Julius Caesar Act 5, Scene 5 Summary
Elsewhere in the field, Brutus stops and asks his remaining friends to rest on a rock.
He calls Clitus aside and asks him to do something in a whisper. Clitus declines to do the mystery deed, saying he'd rather kill himself.
The process is repeated with Dardanius. The two men, Clitus and Dardanius, reveal to each other that Brutus has asked them to kill him.
They share the news while Brutus tears up a little bit.
Brutus calls Volumnius over now and tells him that Caesar's ghost has appeared to him twice, once at night and once again in the fields of Philippi. Brutus knows his hour has come and he would rather leap into the pit than loiter around and wait for his enemies to push him in.
He asks Volumnius to kill him, since they were old friends from school. Volumnius points out that this is the very reason he can't do it.
Just then the alarums (call to arms) are sounding, so Clitus urges everyone to get away before the enemy arrives.
Brutus speaks to his men valiantly. He says that even though he has lost to Antony and Octavius, he will find more glory in this day than either of them can hope to achieve through their vile conquest of Rome. As the alarums continue to sound out, Brutus tells everyone to flee and promises to follow after everyone else has left.
The only man left with Brutus now is Strato, who's slept through all the speeches and sadness. Strato has woken up just in time to be asked to hold Brutus's sword while he runs into it. Strato thinks this is a good idea and asks only to shake hands with Brutus before doing the deed.
Brutus' final words assure that what he does now is twice as pure as what he did to Caesar, who is avenged by this act: "Caesar, now be still, I kill'd not thee with half so good a will."
Antony, Octavius, and their armies, along with the captive Lucilius and Messala, now approach the site of Brutus's death.
Messala asks Strato where their master is, and Strato says that Brutus is free.
Only Brutus overcame Brutus, Strato says, and Brutus himself is the only one who gained honor in his death.
There's a bit of a conference, and Octavius will entertain all the men who nobly served Brutus.
Brutus's enemies are a lot friendlier to him now that he's dead. Antony declares Brutus the "noblest Roman" of them all, as he alone among the conspirators killed Caesar not out of envy but out of concern and care for the public good.
Octavius says Brutus will be buried as an honorable soldier, and his body will stay in Octavius's tent for the night.
After that, they agree it's time to celebrate and share "the glories of this happy day."
(If you want to know what happens to Antony, read Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.)