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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Summary


Here you will find a Julius Caesar summary (William Shakespeare's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Julius Caesar Summary Overview

In Rome, Flavius and Murellus, two tribunes, witness a public gathering celebrating Julius Caesar's recent triumph over Pompey's sons. Despite a Soothsayer's warning, Caesar continues to celebrate his victory. Among his entourage are Brutus, Cassius, and Antony, key military and political figures. Brutus and Cassius, both close to Caesar, engage in a deep conversation expressing their concerns over Caesar's rising power and popularity among the citizens. Cassius further manipulates Brutus's fears of Caesar becoming a king, hampering the republic's spirit, by citing instances of Caesar's physical weakness and their own complacency that facilitated his rise to power. Meanwhile, Rome is besieged by violent weather and ominous signs. Brutus returns home, contemplating Cassius's warning about Caesar's unfit rule. Cassius then devises a scheme to convince Brutus to conspire against Caesar. He forges letters from worried Roman citizens about Caesar's growing dominance and plants them in Brutus's house. Brutus, believing the letters to be an expression of the public's will, joins Cassius and his co-conspirators, despite his wife Portia's concerns. On the other hand, Caesar's wife Calpurnia begs him not to attend the Senate due to her disturbing nightmares. However, Decius, one of the conspirators, convinces Caesar to ignore the omens and he departs for the Senate, oblivious of the impending conspiracy. The conspiracy against Caesar culminates in his assassination by Brutus and his co-conspirators at the Senate. Antony, Caesar's ally, pledges allegiance to Brutus while secretly vowing vengeance for Caesar's death. Brutus and Cassius address the public at the Forum, justifying their actions. They momentarily pacify the crowd until Antony manipulates public sentiment against them through his cunning speech, turning the citizens into an enraged mob. The story concludes with Octavius, Caesar's adopted son and successor, allying with Antony and Lepidus to fight against Brutus and Cassius. Brutus, driven by guilt and grief over the suicide of his wife Portia, eventually impales himself on his own sword. Antony hails Brutus as the most honorable Roman, acknowledging that unlike the others, Brutus was driven by his love for Rome, not personal ambition.

act 1 scene 1

Tribunes Flavius and Murellus come across several commoners on a Roman street, whom they mockingly tell to go home and resume their work: “What, know you not, / Being mechanical, you ought not walk / Upon a labouring day without the sign / Of your profession?” (I.i.2–5). Murellus gets into a dialogue with a cobbler about his job and misinterprets the cobbler's witty responses, which annoys him. Flavius questions the cobbler for not being at his workplace. The cobbler reveals he's on a break to watch the triumph, a grand parade celebrating military success; He's eager to see Caesar's parade featuring the captives from a recent fight against Pompey, his nemesis. Murellus reprimands the cobbler and downplays Caesar’s victory over Pompey and the ensuing triumph. “What conquest brings he home? / What tributaries follow him [Caesar] to Rome / To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels?” he questions, implying that Caesar's win isn't worth a triumph as it doesn't involve conquering an external enemy for Rome's glory (I.i.31–33). He recalls the times when the commoners would gather to cheer for Pompey's victorious returns, and criticizes their disloyalty as they now celebrate his defeat. He orders them to “pray to the gods to intermit the plague / That needs must light on this ingratitude” (I.i.53–54). After the commoners leave, Flavius tells Murellus to go to the Capitol, where a temple stands on its hill, victorious generals make sacrifices on its altars, and to remove any crowns on Caesar's statues. He plans to disperse the crowds watching the triumph and asks Murellus to do the same. They believe by controlling the public's enthusiasm for Caesar, they can control his power (“These growing feathers plucked from Caesar’s wing / Will make him fly an ordinary pitch”).

act 1 scene 2

Caesar, Antony, Calpurnia, Portia, Decius, Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Soothsayer, Flavius, and Murellus gather in a public square. Antony, prepared for a celebratory run, is advised by Caesar to touch his wife, Calpurnia, due to a Roman belief that this could cure her infertility. Antony agrees, respecting Caesar's command. The Soothsayer warns Caesar of the Ides of March. Despite the repeated warning, Caesar disregards it and the crowd disperses, leaving Brutus and Cassius. Brutus confesses his inner conflict to Cassius, but assures him it won't impact their relationship. They converse about Brutus's self-perception. Cassius points out Brutus's inability to recognize his own worth and offers to reflect it back to him. Brutus expresses concern about the crowd wanting to crown Caesar king, stating his preference that this does not happen. Despite his love for Caesar, Brutus values honor more and fears death less. Cassius agrees, sharing personal stories of Caesar's physical weakness, questioning Caesar's aptitude for leadership. Cassius believes they're subservient to Caesar due to their inaction rather than fate. He argues there's no difference between the names “Caesar” and “Brutus”, suggesting equal status. Brutus, though reluctant, promises to consider Cassius’s words. When Caesar returns, he expresses his distrust of Cassius to Antony, noting his suspicious behavior. Caesar requests Antony's opinion of Cassius, then departs. Brutus and Cassius ask Casca about the procession. They learn that Caesar declined a crown thrice and had a seizure, but this did not diminish the crowd's affection. Casca also mentions Cicero's incomprehensible Greek speech and that Flavius and Murellus lost their posts for removing Caesar's statues' decorations. Left alone, Cassius hopes to manipulate Brutus's nobility and plans to plant forged letters of support for Brutus and concern over Caesar's rising power in Brutus's home.

act 1 scene 3

Casca and Cicero encounter each other on a city street in Rome. They discuss the freakish weather and odd events happening around them, including sightings of men ablaze but unharmed and a lion near the Capitol. Casca is convinced these strange occurrences are ominous warnings of impending danger. Cicero, however, believes that men often misinterpret events to fit their own beliefs. Cicero then leaves after inquiring about Caesar's plans to visit the Capitol the next day and cautioning Casca about staying out in the unsettling atmosphere. Cassius arrives and converses with Casca, expressing his belief that the unusual signs are godly warnings about a dreadful government. He likens the night to Caesar, stating that both are fearsome and unpredictable. Casca informs Cassius that the senators intend to crown Caesar king the next day. Upon hearing this, Cassius pledges to overthrow the impending tyranny, criticizing Rome for succumbing to Caesar's rule. Cassius then shares that he has rallied several influential Romans to resist Caesar's reign. Cinna, a fellow conspirator, shows up and Cassius reveals his plan to gain Brutus's support. Cassius tasks Cinna with planting forged letters in Brutus's Senate chair, house, and on his statue to influence Brutus against Caesar. Cassius believes Brutus is almost swayed and hopes the letters will completely turn him. They agree that Brutus's involvement will lend credibility to their plot, as Brutus is highly esteemed by the public and his participation would essentially sanitize their intentions.

act 2 scene 1

Brutus is restlessly roaming his garden. He requests his servant for a light and privately asserts that Caesar's death is a necessity. He doesn't doubt that Caesar will become the king but fears that such power might corrupt him. He's never seen Caesar misusing power before, but he still deems it improbable for Caesar to attain supremacy without eventually disdaining the less privileged. Brutus likens Caesar to a snake's egg that could grow dangerous if hatched; therefore, he decides to “kill him in the shell”. His servant arrives with a letter found near the window. The letter criticizes Brutus for his inaction while Rome faces danger: “Brutus, thou sleep’st. Awake, and see thyself” (II.i.46). He interprets this as a rebuke against Caesar, sees it as a collective voice of Rome, and resolves to act on the letter's challenge to “speak, strike, redress” (II.i.47). A knock interrupts their conversation. The servant ushers in Cassius and other conspirators, including Casca, Decius, Cinna, Metellus, and Trebonius. Cassius introduces everyone and pulls Brutus aside. He proposes an oath, but Brutus disagrees, asserting their common cause is strong enough. The group contemplates involving Cicero for his public reputation, but Brutus disagrees. Cassius then proposes killing Antony as well, but Brutus objects, fearing it would make their actions appear too violent. Brutus insists their aim is to eliminate Caesar's spirit rather than the man himself. He wants Caesar’s death to be forthright but not brutal, so it seems like a cleansing act, not murder. Cassius still worries about Antony, but Brutus pacifies him, promising Antony will be insignificant once Caesar is gone. Cassius expresses uncertainty about Caesar's presence at the Capitol due to the augurs' warnings, but Decius claims he can persuade Caesar by appealing to his valor. The conspirators agree to hide their true intentions and depart. Brutus’s wife, Portia, comes into the garden, perplexed by his unusual behavior. Brutus brushes it off as a sickness. She insists that as his wife she deserves to know about his worries. Appeased, Brutus commends her and promises to discuss it later. Ligarius enters, looking ill. He wishes to be part of a noble cause and assures he'd recover if Brutus is involved in such. Upon confirmation, Ligarius is delighted and follows Brutus to learn more about the plan.

act 2 scene 2

Caesar roams his home in his nightdress, unable to sleep due to his wife, Calpurnia's, disturbing dreams. She has screamed about his murder thrice in her sleep. He sends a servant to request priests to perform a sacrifice and report the outcome. Calpurnia pleads with Caesar not to leave the house because of the numerous ominous signs. Caesar dismisses her fears, but Calpurnia, usually dismissive of prophecies, describes the eerie happenings in the city: the dead roaming, apparitions wandering, a lioness birthing in the streets, and the sky lit by lightning. She insists these signs suggest danger, and he mustn't ignore them. Caesar argues that the divine plans cannot be altered. He interprets the omens as applicable to the world and not specifically threatening to him. Calpurnia counters that these signs foretell the demise of great men like him. Caesar responds that cowards die several times in their thoughts due to fear, whereas the brave, who refuse to contemplate death, die but once. He cannot fathom why people fear the inevitable death. The servant returns, informing that the augurs suggest Caesar stays home due to an ominous sign found in a sacrificed animal's entrails – a missing heart. Caesar, however, rejects the advice, stating he will not hide out of fear. Despite Calpurnia’s insistence for Antony to be his substitute at the Senate, Caesar finally concedes. Decius arrives to accompany Caesar to the Senate. Caesar instructs him to inform the senators of his absence. Calpurnia suggests he feign sickness, but Caesar refuses to lie. When Decius asks for a reason to give, Caesar replies he just wishes to stay home. He also reveals Calpurnia's nightmare of his statue spouting blood like a fountain and Romans joyously bathing in it, which she perceives as a bad omen. Decius contradicts Calpurnia's interpretation, suggesting the dream signifies Romans drawing vitality from Caesar's strength. He reveals that the Senate plans to crown Caesar that day, and his absence might make them rethink. He also warns that if Caesar is seen as easily influenced by a woman or fear, his public image could be damaged. Caesar admits his fears now appear insignificant. He calls for his robe and readies to leave. Cassius, Brutus, Ligarius, Metellus, Casca, Trebonius, Cinna, and finally Antony, all arrive to accompany him to the Senate.

act 2 scene 3

Artemidorus enters the scene, engrossed in a letter he's composed for Caesar. This letter is a warning about Brutus, Casca, and the other plotters, urging Caesar to exercise caution. He positions himself on Caesar's pathway to the Senate, ready to give the letter when Caesar walks by. Artemidorus is heartbroken at the thought of the conspirators' jealous ambition potentially harming Caesar's virtue. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that his letter, if read, can save Caesar's life.

act 2 scene 4

Portia dispatches Brutus's attendant to the Senate to keep an eye on the happenings and update her about Caesar's condition. A fortune-teller makes an appearance, and Portia inquires whether Caesar has departed to the Capitol. The fortune-teller confirms that he knows Caesar hasn't embarked on his journey; his plan is to intercept Caesar en route because he intends to speak a few words with him. He then stations himself on the street, banking on the chance that Caesar's procession will allow him an audience with the influential figure.

act 3 scene 1

Artemidorus and a Soothsayer eagerly await Caesar's arrival on the street. With him are Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Decius, Metellus, Trebonius, Cinna, Ligarius, Antony, and some senators. Artemidorus gives Caesar a letter of high importance, but Caesar dismisses him, prioritizing state matters. Even though Artemidorus insists on immediate reading, Caesar shrugs him off. Inside the Senate, Cassius feels anxious about their assassination plan being exposed. Trebonius successfully diverts Antony from the Senate room. Metellus requests Caesar to lift his banished brother, Publius Cimber's, exile. Caesar, referring to himself as unyielding as the “Northern Star” (III.i.60), refuses to rethink his decision despite repeated pleas. Casca initiates the attack on Caesar, and the others join him, Brutus being the last. Betrayed by Brutus, Caesar utters, “Et tu, Brute?—Then fall Caesar” (III.i.76) and dies. The murderers celebrate their victory while chaos ensues, and Antony flees. Brutus convinces the conspirators that they have done Caesar a favor by eliminating his fear of death. They decide to parade in the marketplace with their bloodstained swords, proclaiming peace and liberty. Meanwhile, Antony's servant delivers Antony's pledge of allegiance to Brutus. Though Brutus is relieved, Cassius remains skeptical. Antony enters, shocked at Caesar's dead body. He expresses readiness to die beside Caesar if the conspirators intend to kill him too. Brutus reassures him, explaining their actions were for Rome's benefit. Antony accepts their reason and even shakes hands with them, leaving Trebonius's hands bloody. Antony, alone now, begs forgiveness from Caesar's spirit for his peace pact with the killers. He praises Caesar's courage, leading to Cassius questioning his loyalty. Antony clarifies he wants to align with them but needs a solid explanation of why Caesar was a threat. Brutus promises a satisfactory explanation and allows Antony to deliver a funeral speech. Despite Cassius's concerns, Brutus remains firm, believing his generosity will earn public approval. Antony takes Caesar's body, promising to present the killers favorably in his speech. Alone again, Antony anticipates a civil war following Caesar's death. He fears Caesar's unavenged spirit will bring chaos to Rome. Antony advises Octavius's servant to keep Octavius away from Rome for his safety and suggests attending the public funeral to gauge the public's reaction to the assassination.

act 3 scene 2

Brutus and Cassius step onto the Forum stage accompanied by plebeians. Cassius walks away to address a different section of the crowd while Brutus speaks to the crowd still present. He emphasizes his honorable intentions, stating he killed Caesar not out of hatred, but love for Rome. He suggests that Caesar's ambition would have led to Roman slavery. No one objects to his argument. Antony enters with Caesar's body, and Brutus informs the crowd that Antony will join the new government. The crowd praises Brutus's actions and silences as Antony prepares to deliver Caesar's eulogy. Antony takes the stage and the crowd discusses their new perspective of Caesar as a tyrant. Antony states he comes to bury Caesar, not to praise him. He counters Brutus’s claim of Caesar’s ambition by highlighting Caesar's contributions to Rome and his sympathy for the poor. He recalls Caesar's multiple refusals of the crown, questioning if that indicated ambition. He denies trying to challenge Brutus’s words, but to share his own perspective and urge the crowd to mourn for Caesar. Antony tears up, moving the crowd. They question if Caesar's successors will be more ambitious. Antony hints at inciting rebellion but refrains from defaming Brutus or Cassius. He presents Caesar's will, which the crowd insists he reads. Antony hesitates, claiming he's spoken too much, but the crowd demands he proceeds. Antony descends and readies to read Caesar's will beside his body. He shows the crowd the wounds inflicted by Brutus and Cassius, recounting Caesar's death. He unveils the body, leading to an emotional reaction from the crowd. Antony insists he isn't attempting to provoke them against the "honourable men". Despite his assertions, the crowd declares their intent to riot. Antony then reveals that Caesar left each Roman man a sum of money and planned to open his private lands for public use. Overwhelmed, the crowd disperses to cause chaos. A servant enters and informs Antony that Octavius is at Caesar's house and Brutus and Cassius have been driven from Rome. Antony ponders the consequences of the disorder he's incited.

act 3 scene 3

Cinna, the poet, not to be confused with Cinna, the conspirator, strolls down the city streets. Suddenly, he's surrounded by a mob of commoners who demand his identity. Upon hearing his name, they mistakenly associate him with the co-conspirator Cinna. Even after Cinna the poet clarifies the mix-up, the mob refuses to believe him. As a result, they brutally attack him, eventually leading to his death.

act 4 scene 1

Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus meet in Antony's residence, checking a list and determining who needs to be executed. Lepidus consents to his brother's death on the condition Antony does the same for his nephew. Antony, in an effort to conserve funds, proposes they scrutinize Caesar's will to possibly divert some of his wealth. Once Lepidus leaves, Antony questions Octavius about Lepidus' suitability to govern Rome with them. Octavius trusts Lepidus, but Antony is skeptical. Octavius commends Lepidus as a “tried and valiant soldier,” but Antony equates him to a mere animal - a “barren-spirited fellow” and a simple tool (IV.i.28–36). They then shift their discussion to Brutus and Cassius, who are said to be amassing an army. It becomes Antony and Octavius' responsibility to stop them from usurping power.

act 4 scene 2

Brutus is at his camp, talking to Lucillius, Titinius, and Pindarus. Lucillius delivers a message from Cassius and privately tells Brutus that Cassius is increasingly unhappy with him. Brutus is concerned about a potential rift between them. Cassius then appears with his troops, accusing Brutus of mistreatment. Brutus denies this, asserting that he'd never treat Cassius unfairly because he sees him as a brother. He proposes they further discuss the matter privately in his tent.

act 4 scene 3

Cassius confronts Brutus for condemning their comrade over bribes despite his pleas to spare him. Brutus retaliates by blaming Cassius for taking bribes himself and reminds him of their mission to eradicate corruption when they slayed Caesar. Cassius warns Brutus from provoking him further as he is a soldier and doesn't shy away from a fight. They trade insults, and Brutus reveals his financial troubles and how Cassius ignored his plea for help. Cassius blames the miscommunication on the messenger and accuses Brutus of no longer loving him. He invites Antony and Octavius to kill him as he's lost his closest friend and ally, and he doesn't want to live. He even presents his dagger to Brutus, saying, “Strike as thou didst at Caesar; for I know / When though didst hate him worst, thou loved’st him better / Than ever thou loved’st Cassius” (IV.iii.109–111). Brutus advises Cassius to sheath his dagger, claiming they're both just irritable. They reconcile and forgive each other. Meanwhile, a poet scolds them for their dispute, but they laugh it off, having already made amends. The pair share wine, and Cassius comments on Brutus's earlier fury. Brutus blames his outbursts on his emotional turmoil, especially after hearing about his wife, Portia's suicide. Titinius and Messala, bearing news from Rome that Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus have executed a hundred senators, join them. They find it odd that Brutus hasn't heard about Portia, and upon Brutus's insistence, Messala breaks the news of her death. Brutus proposes marching to Philippi to confront the enemy, which Cassius initially resists but eventually agrees. While the rest leave, Brutus remains in his tent with Lucius, asking Varro and Claudio to sleep there for urgent morning messages. Brutus stays awake while others sleep and sees a ghostly figure identified as the “Ghost of Caesar”. He wonders if he's dreaming and questions the apparition's identity. The Ghost introduces himself as Brutus's “evil spirit” (IV.iii.288) and promises they'll meet again at Philippi. After the Ghost vanishes, Brutus wakes his servants, inquiring about any unusual sightings, to which they deny.

act 5 scene 1

Octavius and Antony, surrounded by their forces, are on the Philippi battlefield when a messenger informs them of the enemy's readiness. Antony, a seasoned warrior, suggests Octavius attack from the left. Octavius declines, choosing to attack from the right and advises Antony to cover the left side. Antony expresses his displeasure at Octavius questioning his orders but Octavius remains resolute. Brutus, Cassius, and their troops, including Titinius, Lucillius, and Messala, enter the battlefield. Octavius and Antony debate whether to strike first, but they decide to hold their ground. The leaders meet, where insults are hurled, and Octavius vows to avenge Caesar's death. He promises not to sheath his sword until he adds those who betrayed Caesar to the casualties. They continue their verbal tirade before returning to ready their respective armies. When Antony and Octavius leave, Brutus and Lucillius converse privately. Similarly, Cassius and Messala also have a private discussion. Cassius reveals to Messala that it's his birthday, but he's disturbed by recent ill omens, including scavenger birds hovering above their troops. Cassius returns to Brutus, expressing his worries about the uncertain future and the possibility they may not meet again if they lose. Cassius asks if Brutus would allow himself to be paraded as a captive in Rome. Brutus responds, stating he would rather die and that this battle is the culmination of Caesar's assassination. They bid each other a possible final farewell and leave.

act 5 scene 2

A conflict unfolds offstage and the subsequent scene, barely spanning six lines, portrays the initial clash of the opposing forces. Brutus dispatches Messala to convey to Cassius his observation of a frailty in Octavius's military and his intent to seize this opportunity.

act 5 scene 3

Cassius and Titinius observe the ongoing battle from a hill. Cassius regrets the turn of events as Brutus's early attack has backfired. Pindarus reports that Antony's troops have infiltrated Cassius's camp and suggests moving to a safer location. But Cassius stays put. He spots burning tents and learns they are his. He also sees troops approaching and sends Titinius to identify them. Cassius instructs Pindarus to keep an eye on Titinius. Pindarus reports that Titinius is surrounded and then cheered by the unknown men. Misinterpreting this as Titinius's capture, Cassius is devastated. He hands his sword to Pindarus, blinds himself, and asks Pindarus to end his life. Pindarus obliges. Cassius's final words are about Caesar avenging his death using the same sword. Surprisingly, Titinius appears with Messala, noting that the battle continues. Antony's forces overpowered Cassius's, but Brutus's troops defeated Octavius's. They stumble upon Cassius's body and realize the misunderstanding that led to Cassius's suicide. Cassius mistook the cheers celebrating Titinius's reunion with Brutus's troops as cheers of enemy's victory. Messala leaves to inform Brutus while Titinius, filled with guilt and grief over Cassius's death, kills himself. Brutus, Messala, and their men arrive. Brutus mourns over the bodies, remarking, “O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet”: Caesar's revenge is felt even posthumously. Brutus has Cassius's body removed and they prepare to engage with Antony's and Octavius's forces once again.

act 5 scene 4

Brutus gets ready for a subsequent fight against the Romans. On the battlefield, Lucillius feigns to be Brutus, leading to his capture by the Romans. He is presented to Antony by his soldiers, who identifies Lucillius. Antony commands his troops to ascertain Brutus' fate, whether he is still living or not, and implores his men to handle their captive kindly.

act 5 scene 5

Brutus is among the last of his troops, anticipating his end. He requests his men to help him commit suicide by holding his sword so he could run onto it. He mentions seeing Caesar's Ghost in battle and feels his death is imminent. Despite his men's plea for him to escape, Brutus insists on them retreating first, promising to follow. He asks one soldier to stay and assist in his honorable suicide. As he runs onto the sword, he claims that his self-inflicted death is twice as noble as his act of killing Caesar, and asks Caesar's spirit to rest, saying, “Caesar, now be still. / I killed not thee with half so good a will” (V.v.50–51). Following this, Antony, Octavius, Messala, Lucillius, and their forces arrive. Discovering Brutus's corpse, Lucillius expresses relief that his leader wasn't taken alive. Octavius absorbs Brutus's soldiers into his own ranks. Antony delivers a eulogy over Brutus's body, praising him as the noblest Roman, who acted out of public interest, unlike other conspirators who were driven by envy of Caesar. Octavius agrees and arranges for an honorable burial for Brutus, ordering the body to be moved to his tent. They then leave to celebrate their triumph.

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