Julius Caesar Plot Summary
The play opens with Flavius and Murelles angrily deriding the people of Rome for celebrating the victories of Caesar over a man who they once cheered equally. Caesar has returned to the city in Triumph over Pompey and as his retinue parades through the city, he receives a warning from a Soothsayer warning him to “beware the Ides of March”. He ignores the man though and proceeds to celebrate.
Cassius and Brutus discuss the nature of things with Cassius telling Brutus how well received he is. The two go on to discuss their fear that Caesar might be given the crown and become King of Rome. Cassius relates his unwillingness to bow to a man he finds inferior, recounting instances in which Caesar showed great weakness. Caesar however reveals his own distrust for Cassius as a man who thinks too much.
Casca arrives and reveals that Caesar was offered the crown three times and that he refused it each time. He also relates the seizure Caesar had before the crowd, showing weakness and that the crowd cheered him on regardless. Brutus returns home to contemplate where his loyalties might lay while Cassius begins to plot how he will turn Brutus against Caesar.
That night Brutus finds letters from Roman citizens that Cassius has forged declaring Caesar as too powerful. Brutus’s fear of a dictator-led Republic, instilled by Cassius, forces him to change allegiances and when Cassius arrives with the conspirators against Caesar, Brutus takes charge. They all agree to lure Caesar away and kill him and though Cassius wants Antony dead, Brutus disagrees. When the conspirators leave, Brutus refuses to tell his wife, Portia, any of what has happened.
The next day, Caesar prepares to go to the Capitol. His wife, Calpurnia, begs him not to, describing nightmares and the many omens in recent days. Caesare refuses to listen though and eventually departs for the senate with Decius leading the way. As he approaches the Senate, the Soothsayer approaches him again with a warning but Caesar ignores him. A man named Artemidorus hands him a letter of warning about the conspirators which he also ignores. The conspirators greet him at the Senate, bow before him and stab him one by one until he is dead.
Antony arrives after the murder and feigns support of the conspirators, all the while marking them each for revenge. He asks them their reasons for the murder and Brutus replies that he will reveal the reason during the funeral. Antony requests permission to speak over the body as well and is given it, but as the conspirators all leave, Antony reveals he shall get his revenge.
Brutus and Cassius arrive at the Forum and address the crowd, with Brutus claiming the murder was done because it was best for Rome and that Caesar’s ambitions were a threat. They are placated until Antony takes the stage and begins his own speech. Antony quickly turns the crowd against Brutus and outlines why his claims were false. He reveals the will and shows the body of Caesar to the crowd, revealing that Caesar has left a small portion of his money to every citizen of the city. The crowd is angry that such a great man was murdered and turns against Brutus and Cassius.
Eventually Octavius, Caesar’s adopted son, returns and forms a coalition with Antony and Lepidus to fight Brutus and Cassius. The latter are outside the city in exile raising armies. Brutus and Cassius argue about all different manners of things and Brutus reveals that Portia has committed suicide in his absence. That night as they prepare and Brutus sleeps, he sees the Ghost of Caesar who subsequently warns him that they will meet again on the battlefield.
As Octavius and Antony march their armies toward Brutus and Cassius, Octavius begins to assert the authority his adopted father left him as the next ruler of Rome. The two sides eventually meet on the field and begin fighting.
When Cassius witnesses what he believes is his dear friend Titinius being captured by the opposing forces he orders Pindarus to kill him. After he is dead, Titinius returns and reveals that he was not captured but was celebrating with his men. He kills himself in grief over the death of Cassius.
When Brutus learns that Cassius and Titinius have died, he takes on the Roman armies by himself. When he loses the fight, he impales himself on his own sword, declaring Caesar’s satisfaction in his death. Antony speaks highly of Brutus for his nobility for Rome, that his intentions were not greedy or envious but altruistic and for the benefit of Rome. Octavius then orders that Brutus be buried in the highest honor.
Julius Caesar Character List
A close friend of Caesar, Brutus also opposes the placement of a single man in the role of sole leader of a nation. He believes in a strong government guided by the votes of the many. Because of his strong sense of honor, Brutus is more easily turned against Caesar because he believes what he does is for the good of Rome. He is the ideal of Roman virtue and can easily separate his private and public roles. Because he is so loyal to both Caesar and his role in the state, Brutus is the tragic hero.
As the powerful and brilliant Roman General and Senator, Caesar returns to Rome after a victory in his military campaign. When he returns, Brutus and others who are jealous of his popularity begin to worry that he aspires to become King. He however repeatedly turns down the crown and shows no interest in the offer. His major fault though lies in that he does not separate his private and public lives. He eventually falls victim to the cheers of the crowd and ignores all of the omens and threats against him.
As Caesar’s friend and closest confidant, he eventually turns to the coalition of Brutus and Caesar’s murderers to save his own life. He later delivers an amazing speech at Caesar’s funeral that convinces the crowd to turn to his side and denounce Brutus as a traitor. He manages to turn the crowd to revolt against the conspirators.
As a long time friend of Caesar and fellow General, Cassius is angry and upset that Caesar has become such a powerful force to the Romans. He masterminds the turn of Brutus against Caesar by forging letters from Roman Citizens declaring their support for Caesar’s death. He is very realistic about the political world and willing to do whatever he needs to do to overthrow Caesar’s popularity.
He is Caesar’s appointed successor and adopted son. He is traveling when Caesar is murdered and joins with Antony when he returns, intent on fighting Cassius and Brutus. Antony does his best to control Octavius and his intentions but Octavius proves to be much the same as his father and eventually seizes power of the government.
He is one of many public figures that opposes Caesar and his rise. He relates how Antony offered the crown three times and was turned down. He does not believe that Caesar is being truthful though and sees him as an actor who is slowly lulling people to his cause.
As Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia puts much import into omens. She warns him against visiting the Senate on the Ides of March after the Soothsayer’s omen. He ultimately ignores her in his ambition though
As the daughter of a Roman who joins the conspirators, Brutus’s Wife Portia is left out of much of his discussions and thoughts during the play. Later on, Portia kills herself because of the power that Antony and Octavius take for themselves.
Flavius begins the play by deriding the people for cheering Caesar when they at one time cheered the man Caesar had just defeated. He is eventually punished for his removal of favors from Caesar’s statue during the Triumph parade.
Known as an incredible skilled speaker, Cicero speaks during Caesar’s triumph parade. He dies at the order of Antony and Octavius.
He joins Antony and Octavius in taking their revenge against Caesar’s death. Antony does not like him but Octavius trusts him enough.
He is with Flavius when they deride the people for their cheering of Caesar and likewise is removed from his position for removing favors from Caesar’s statue.
Julius Caesar Scene Summaries
Flavius and Murellus, two officials of Rome, arrive and find the streets filled with commoners. They order them to return to home and work and question a cobbler why it is he is out in the street and not working. The Cobbler reveals that he is taking a holiday to celebrate the return of Caesar and witness his Triumph and procession through the city after defeating Pompey.
The two do not appreciate this excuse though and attempt to belittle the importance of Caesar’s victory. They describe it as a meaningless victory over a man that Rome once welcomed as a hero. It does not bring glory to Rome, nor does it have any military impact. The people of Rome are thus becoming disloyal to those that came before.
The two decide to return the commoners to their homes and remove the decorations they have been placing on the statue of Caesar at the Capitol. They are worried that he is becoming too powerful and hope to weaken that strength before the people get carried away.
With his retinue in tow, Caesar enters the square. Following the group is a crowd of commoners, Flavius and Murellus. A Soothsayer approaches him from the crowd and announces to the Caesar that he must beware the Ides of March (the fifteenth day of the month). Caesar immediately dismisses the warning though and continues his procession. As Caesar continues to enjoy his accolades, Brutus and Cassius discuss Brutus’s recent change of humor. Brutus describes his mood as a case of conflicting thought and inner turmoil.
After the crowd shouts for Caesar once more, Brutus comments that he believes they will make him King and he does not agree with such a course. He loves Caesar as his good friend and colleague, but would not want to see Rome run by a single man. Cassius expands by explaining how little he is willing to kneel before a man he finds to be no more than his equal. He describes two instances in which Caesar was near death and showed great weakness, including one in which Cassius had to save his life.
They continue to discuss Caesar, commenting on their own position in the State, having been not nearly as active as Caesar in political matters. Cassius derides the importance of a single man over all other men as an atrocity. Brutus quietly agrees but remains thoughtful, agreeing to think on Cassius’s words. They finish their conversation and depart as Caesar returns with Antony. He comments that he finds Cassius to be too full of thoughts, a dangerous sort of man. He continues to describe Cassius as a man he must watch before he and his retinue once again leave.
Brutus and Cassius return and converse with Casca, asking what happened during the course of the procession. They learn that Caesar was offered the crown three separate times by Antony and turned it down each time. He describes Caesar having fallen to the ground in a seizure before the crowd as well. However, the crowd cheered him regardless, uncaring of his weakness. Finally, he relays that Flavius and Murellus lost their posts for the desecration of Caesar’s statue.
After Brutus and Casca exit, Cassius addresses the audience, revealing his plan to draw Brutus to his side by forging letters from Roman citizens against Caesar and in favor of Brutus.
Casca and Cicero meet together on a street and discuss the strange happenings in the city. The weather is frightful, with great storms, along with the strange appearances of men with burning hands, lions near the Capitol and an owl sitting in the market during the day. They ponder what might bring about such odd occurrences before Cicero departs, having learned from Casca that Ceasar will attend the Capitol the next day.
Cassius enters as Cicero leaves, wandering openly in the thunder and lightening. Cassius replies that he Gods are angry and are sending signs to the Romans to warn against the “Monstrous State” referring to both the nature of the city and the government itself. He then compares the weather and oddities of the night to Caesar and his actions in the Capitol.
Casca reveals to Cassius that Caesar will be made King the next day to which Cassius reacts violently. He pulls his dagger and swears that he must be given the strength to defeat the tyrant that is Caesar. He derides the city itself for so easily giving in to such a man and reveals that he has gathered support in a resistance movement against Caesar. Casca agrees and joins Cassius in his anger.
A man name Cinna, a fellow conspirator against Caesar, enters and Cassius reveals the next step in his plan against Caesar. They must turn Brutus. Cassius gives Cinna the letters he forged and tells him to place them in Brutus’s Senate chair and to throw into his home. Casca comments that they need Brutus on their side to bring a sense of worth to their cause against Caesar.
In Brutus’s home, the general paces worriedly over the fate of Rome. He worries what might happen if Caesar is crowned king and cannot decide what he should do to counteract such a possibility. He ponders whether his friend, who he believes to know so well, could be swayed by the call of power. He cannot believe that any man could resist such a call, so he resolves that the only course is to kill Caesar.
A moment later, Brutus’s servant arrives with a letter found beside the window. It is addressed from citizens of Rome and derides Brutus for his lack of action and declares a universal distaste for Caesar becoming king. The letter solidifies for Brutus the need to take action against Caesar for the good of Rome. After he finishes reading the letter Cassius arrives with Casca, Metellus, Trebonius, Cinna, and Decius, his fellow conspirators.
They begin the discussion of what to do with Caesar and his advisers. It is agreed that Caesar must be killed, but the question of whether to bring Cicero into the fold is pondered at length. In the end, Brutus stands against it because Cicero is too independent of a voice. Another argument ensues over whether they should kill Antony, but Brutus once again objects, stating that any more bloodshed would be excessive. He does not want a bloody murder, but a stately death that can be used to make a point to the Romans and show that the actions were noble.
After the men have left, Portia, Brutus’s Wife, enters and asks him what has him so distant in recent days. He does not respond other than to say he feels ill. This upsets her further and she continues to ask, claiming a right as his wife. He does not respond though, and a knock comes at the door, allowing him to turn her away.
At home, Caesar paces in his night garments, having been unable to sleep. His wife is plagued by nightmares of Caesar’s murder and now she begs him to remain at home because of so many ill omens. He tries to ignore her, but she persists stating that she never gives in to such superstition but with dead men in the streets, ghosts and lions at the capitol and lightning falling, the warnings cannot be ignored.
Caesar continues to state that he does not fear death and that brave men, because they do not fear death are only subject to the sensation of dying once while cowardly men die repeatedly in their own minds. When a servant enters the room and relays that Augurs as well have recommended for Caesar to remain home, Calpurnia begs him to send Antony to the Senate and Caesar finally gives in.
However, only moments later, Decius arrives to accompany Caesar to the Senate. Caesar relays that he has decided to stay home and tells Decius of his wife’s dreams and the ill omens. However, Decius cleverly disputes the very meaning of Calpurnia’s dreams, describing the blood on Caesar’s statue as a symbol of Rome gaining stronger from Caesar’s blood. He tells Caesar that the Senate has decided to crown him that day and if he stays home they might change their minds. Eventually, by playing on his fear of public opinion and the possibility of public service and power, Decius is able to convince Caesar to accompany him to the Senate. The other conspirators soon enter and Caesar prepares to leave.
Artemidorus arrives and reads a letter that wrote for Caesar with a warning about Brutus, Casca and the other conspirators. He blocks the route of Caesar and prepares to hand it to him. He worries that the virtue of Caesar will be destroyed by those who are so ambitious and greedy as the conspirators.
Portia sends a servant to the Senate to watch and observe the events taking place there and see how Caesar does. A soothsayer arrives and Portia asks him if Caesar has left for the Senate yet. The Soothsayer reveals that he has not left yet and that he intends to block his path and relay a message for him along his route. He hopes that Caesar might listen to a man such as him if only for a minute.
As Caesar approaches, Artemidorus and the Soothsayer wait. With his retinue following, Caesar enters the street and confronts Artemidorus. He hands Caesar the letter and warns him of the dangers that could befall him. He responds that he isn’t worried about his personal problems though and dismisses the man’s warnings as crazy.
The retinue arrives at the Senate and immediately Cassius assumes that the plot has been unveiled. Trebonius does his part by pulling Antony away from the Senate and Metellus requests of Caesar the pardon of his brother from exile. Caesar refuses though as the exile was a lawful decree and the group then falls to their knees before Caesar repeating the request. Caesar refuses even as more Senators arrive to kneel before him. Finally, when Casca arrives and kneels before Caesar, he stabs him, quickly followed by the knives of the other conspirators. The famous last words of Caesar, “Et tu, Brute? – Then fall Ceasar” are spoken before he finally dies.
Brutus urges the others to bathe their hands in the blood of Caesar and take their bloody swords to the Marketplace to declare Peace and Freedom. Cassius agrees and declares that the scene will be repeated for years to come as a ritual. As they prepare to do so, Antony’s messenger arrives and announces that Antony intends to serve Brutus in Caesar’s stead if they promise not to punish Antony. Brutus agrees and sends for Antony, trusting the declaration absolutely. However, Cassius is slightly less willing to agree and shares his reservations.
Antony then enters the scene and remarks on Caesar’s corpse. He declares that if they would like to kill him they should do it right then as he would be happy to die beside Caesar. Brutus begs him off for asking for death and declares that their actions were done of pity and not cruelty. Their actions were a token of love and sympathy for the people of Rome. Antony tells Brutus that he does not doubt their reasons for killing Caesar and shakes each of the conspirators’ hands.
Antony then speaks to the spirit of Caesar and asks forgiveness for being kind to the conspirators directly beside his body. He continues and praises Caesar’s loyalty. All the while, Cassius grows more wary and questions the loyalty of Antony. Antony repeats his willingness to ally with the conspirators though so long as they reveal why they killed him.
Antony requests to bring to the body with him to the Marketplace and say a few words in memory of Caesar. Brutus agrees while Cassius argues against the decision. He warns that Antony has the power to move the masses against them with a speech in favor of Caesar, yet Brutus states that he will simply preface the words of Antony and explain to the public why they killed Caesar as they did. Despite Cassius’s misgivings about Antony’s intentions, they all depart with it agreed that Antony might speak to the people over Caesar’s body. After they leave the scene, Antony remains alone. He begs forgiveness again for allying himself with the conspirators and prophesizes that much blood shed and strife will arise from the murder. He states that as long as the death of Caesar is unavenged, his spirit will wander and cause chaos in the realm.
When Octavius’s servant enters and sees the body of Caesar, Antony warns him to return to Octavius and keep the man outside the city. As the adopted son and heir of Caesar, Octavius would be at great risk within the city. He asks the messenger to return to the Forum to listen to his speech though so that they might decide how to proceed with Octavius after they know how the public reacts.
Brutus and Cassius arrive with a large crowd of Romans. Cassius leaves to speak to another part of the crowd and Brutus begins to speak to those on stage. He describes their reason for killing Caesar – how their love for Rome overshadowed their love for Caesar and that the man was too ambitious and dangerous for the city. None of the crowd disagrees with him and he ends by stating that no one has been offended.
Antony then enters with Caesar’s body and Brutus introduces him, stating that he had nothing to do with the murder. The crowd cheers for the kindness of Brutus but he quiets them to give Antony the chance to speak. He then leaves the stage.
With the crowd talking amongst themselves, decrying Caesar as a power hungry dictator, Antony prepares to speak. Antony begins his funeral oratory by describing Caesar as an ambitious man and Brutus as an honorable one. He describes Caesar as his friend though and one who brought much wealth to Rome. He states that Caesar sympathized with the poor among them and reminds everyone that when offered the crown, Caesar refused it three separate times. He carefully weaves in more instances of Caesar’s kindness and leadership, musing as to whether he was actually ambitious or not.
He stops and weeps for a moment while the crowd begins to remember the deeds of Caesar and wonder at the reasons for the conspirators’ actions. Antony resumes his speech and states that he would gladly bring about rebellion and mutiny but not to harm Brutus or Cassius as both are good men. He pulls out Caesar’s will and when the crowd begs him to read it he at first refuses. He continues to speak highly of the conspirators but his words have already turned the crowd against them as they declare them traitors.
They eventually convince Antony to read the will. Antony takes a minute to point out the hole-ridden body of Caesar and where Brutus, a man who loved Caesar – stabbed him so viciously. He uncovers the body and allows the crowd to view it, angering the crowd even further. Antony however, once again states that they should not mutiny against ‘honorable’ men. He states that he is not the speaker that Brutus is, that if he were he might urge them to rebel, but that as Antony he can only tell them what he knows.
The crowd is enraged though and willing to rebel. Antony request silence to finish and proceeds to read the will. The will states that Caesar’s personal wealth will be divided amongst every man in Rome and that it was his plan to allow his parks and gardens to be made public. The crowd is so enraged by his murder now that they riot, running through the city. Octavius’s servant enters and relays that Octavius has returned and taken Caesar’s house while Brutus and Cassius have fled the city in exile.
A poet by the name of Cinna walks through the city streets. He is not and has no relation to the conspirator but when a group of citizens asks him his name they drag him away. He pleads for his life and repeats that he is not the conspirator but they proceed and beat him to death regardless.
Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus all meet and go over a list of names to decide which of the conspirators must die first. Lepidus and Antony both agree that they will allow the deaths of their family members in turn and Antony tries to discover a way to reroute the money in Caesar’s will to save money. Antony reveals his distrust for Lepidus after he leaves but Octavius trusts him wholly despite those doubts. Octavius declares Lepidus to be a loyal man, but Antony compares him to animals and calls him a tool of their endeavors. They turn their conversation to the army that Brutus and Cassius are raising outside the city and the necessity of their bid to stop it.
In Brutus’s camp, Lucillius, Titinius and Pindarus meet and offer a message from Cassius. It appears that Cassius is growing upset with Brutus and their ties are becoming weaker. Cassius then arrives and accuses Brutus of wrongdoing. Brutus pulls him aside to speak privately though as he feels they should be on good terms still.
Cassius’s own anger is because of a man Brutus had condemned for taking bribes, even though the man was a friend of Cassius and he requested that Brutus not charge him. Brutus responds that Cassius himself has been taking bribes and wonders if the death of Caesar was in vein with his murderers being more corrupt than Caesar ever was.
They continue to insult each other and Brutus outlines why he is so disappointed with Cassius including the fact that Cassius refused to offer money to Brutus when it was requested. Cassius blames the messenger for carrying the wrong message though and then accuses Brutus of having stopped loving him. The two continue to argue until they eventually decide their arguments are ill-temper and embrace in forgiveness.
The two then drink wine, with Cassius expressing his surprise over Brutus’s rage. Brutus relays that he has been emotionally burdened in recent days with the death of his wife, Portia. It is revealed that she committed suicide by swallowing fire. Soon afterward Titinius and Messala enter the tent and relay that Octavius, Antony and Lepidus have killed one hundred senators in their cleansing of the Senate.
Brutus, after questing Messala about the death of his wife, suggests they bring their troops to Philippi to fight. Cassius disagrees, wanting to wait at their current location for the Romans. However Brutus persists and they decide to march the next day. The others leave with Brutus alone in his tent with his servant.
While his servant and messengers sleep, Brutus tries to read and is greeted by the Ghost of Caesar. He wonders if he might be dreaming and asks for the identity of the specter. The Ghost doesn’t reply directly but states that they will meet again at Philippi. When he leaves, Brutus wakes his servants and asks them what they saw; they saw nothing.
At the battlefield of Philippi, Octavius and Antony arrive with their armies. A messenger relates that the enemy is ready and Antony begins by telling Octavius to attack from the left. However, Octavius rejects Antony’s advice and decides to attack from the right. Antony wants to know why Octavius ignores his advice despite his experience as a military commander, but Octavius remains firm on his statements.
When Brutus and Cassius’s armies arrive, Octavius – now referred to by Antony as Caesar – asks if they should attack first. Antony tells him they will wait for the other side to attack first and they go to meet the two conspirators. The groups insult each other and Octavius calls for the avenging of Caesar’s death and that he will not lay down his sword until the traitors have fallen.
After Antony and Octavius leave to prepare their armies, Brutus and Cassius call their generals to discuss matters. Cassius reveals that it is his birthday and describes recent omens including the circling of ravens over their troops. He returns to Brutus and they discuss what will happen if they are defeated. Brutus declares that he would rather die than be paraded through Rome as a captive. The two men wish each other farewell as though they will never see each other again and depart, preparing for the final battle which will decide the struggle for power.
The battle ensues and this short scene merely depicts the surge of either side against each other. Brutus sends a message that he sees a weakness in Octavius’s forces and that he seeks to exploit it.
Cassius stands beside Titinius on a hill, watching the battle and worrying over their losses. It appears that Brutus was correct about Octavius being weak, but was too eager to exploit it and rushed their attack, now turning the battle against them. Pindarus then arrives with a message that Antony has entered Cassius’ camp and that Cassius should flee. He sees his own tents burning below and so sends Titinius off with a horse to see whose troops are approaching from afar.
Pindarus climbs a nearby hill and reports back to Cassius what is happening to Titinius. As Titinius rode to meet the others he is surrounded by them, after which he dismounts his horse and the men cheer. Cassius assumes this to mean Titinius has been captured and is very upset. He then calls Pindarus back to him and gives him his own sword, asking Pindarus to kill him. He closes his eyes and soon is dead. Cassius’s last words relate that Caesar has been avenged by the very same sword that killed him.
However, only moments later, Titinius arrives with Messala commenting on how the battle continues. Even though Cassius’s troops were defeated by Antony’s Brutus is rallying hard against Octavius. They then see the body of Cassius and Titinius realizes what must have happened. When he rode out, it turned out that the men were really Brutus’s troops, happy to see Titinius. Messala leaves to inform Brutus of the news while Titinius then stabs himself to death in grief.
Brutus then enters and upon seeing the bodies accounts their deaths to the might of Caesar even after his death. Brutus orders the bodies removed and everyone returns to the battle against Antony and Octavius’s men.
Brutus prepares for one more battle. Lucillius pretends to be Brutus and is captured in the field by the Romans before bringing him before Antony. Antony recognizes him and sends his men to find the real Brutus.
In the final moments, Brutus has decided to take his own life so as he cannot be captured. He claims that he saw Caesar’s Ghost on the battlefield and he has taken such an omen as call for his own death. He requests that one of his men holds his sword so that he might impale himself, but they all refuse, urging him to flee with them and escape Octavius and Antony’s forces. He sends them away, telling them to flee and save their own lives, but keeps one man behind. He asks again for the man to hold his sword, which he does. Brutus then impales himself on his own sword and declares that Caesar’s death has been avenged.
A moment later, Antony and Octavius enter and find the body of Brutus. Lucillius makes the comment that it was good that Brutus was not captured alive. Octavius declares that he will take on Brutus’s men himself and Antony speaks over the dead General’s body. He declares him as the noblest of all Romans and pure heart, only looking out for the good of all Romans. He believed to be doing what was absolutely best for the Roman people and for that his actions were noble. Octavius declares they will bury him with honor and that Brutus’s body shall lie in his own tent.