Use this Act I, Julius Caesar summary as a guide, not as a substitute for reading the play.
Scene 1 - Flavius and Marullus harass a crowd of commoners who are celebrating Caesar’s triumph over Pompey in a civil war. Shakespeare shows the commoners as easily swayed as Flavius and Marullus shame them.
Scene 2 - A soothsayer, one who predicts the future, warns Caesar to “beware the ides of March (March 15).” He ignores the warning, the first of many. Cassius attempts to persuade Brutus to do something about Caesar’s growing power. Cassius realizes he must get Brutus to join his conspiracy against Caesar for it to be successful. Casca comes along and relates how Marc Antony offers the crown to Caesar, who turns it down thrice before succumbing to an epileptic seizure. Brutus agrees with Cassius’ fears and says he will think about joining the conspirators. Cassius plots to send anonymous letters to Brutus in an effort to persuade him.
Scene 3 - The action jumps ahead to the night of March 14, one day before the Ides of March. Casca, Cicero, and Cassius roam the streets. Casca fears the storm is an omen of terrible things to come. Cassius feels the storm is a sign they must kill Caesar. They both agree that Caesar must be stopped and that Brutus is the key to success.
Scene 1 - Act II begins on the morning of March 15 at the home of Brutus, who is contemplating whether or not to join the conspiracy against Julius Caesar, his friend. Brutus receives an anonymous letter, which the reader knows is actually from Cassius. The conspirators arrive and they all decide to murder Caesar that day. Portia comes out and asks Brutus what is wrong. He gives a really lame excuse and Portia sees right through it, yet does not know what he plans to do.
Scene 2 - The scene has switched to Caesar’s home. Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife urges Caesar to stay home on account of the ominous storm and a dream she had portending Caesar’s death. Caesar agrees to stay home. Decius, one of the conspirators arrives, appeals to Caesar’s pride, and convinces him to come to the Capitol.
Scene 3 - Artemidorus writes a letter naming each conspirator and warning Caesar. Caesar never reads the letter.
Scene 4 - Portia sends a servant to the Capitol to find out what is happening. The soothsayer shows up and makes her even more nervous.
Scene 1 - Act III begins near the Capitol in Rome. Caesar refuses to read Artemidorus’ warning. It seems that everyone knows Caesar will die except Caesar. The conspirators pretend to persuade Caesar. They stab him. As Brutus thrusts in his knife, Caesar says, “Et tu Brute,” one of the most famous lines in Shakespeare’s plays. Marc Antony, Caesar’s loyal counselor/lapdog, flees. Brutus persuades the conspirators to allow Antony to live and to allow Antony to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Antony feigns loyalty while secretly plotting to start a civil war.
Scene 2 - Brutus speaks to a gathering of citizens at the public forum in order to explain the conspirators’ actions. He succeeds. The citizens love Brutus. Antony enters and delivers a riveting speech that turns the crowd against the conspirators. He encourages the crowd to kill them. The whole scene is one more example of how easily the commoners are swayed.
Scene 3 - Rome is in upheaval. The mobs are out of control. The mob kills Cinna the poet because he has the same name as one of the conspirators.
Scene 1 - Act IV begins at Antony’s house, a short time after Caesar’s assassination. Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus, ruling Rome as a triumvirate, discuss whom should be killed, how to change Caesar’s will, and how to win the civil war. Lepidus is sent on an errand. Antony rips him and recommends he and Octavius get rid of him.
Scene 2 - Brutus is disappointed with the progress of the war.
Scene 3 - Brutus and Cassius engage in a heated argument. They calm down. Brutus informs Cassius of Portia’s death. They discover that Antony and Octavius have murdered hundreds back in Rome. Brutus convinces Cassius that their armies should engage the enemy at Philippi, yet another error in judgment by Brutus. Cassius exits. Caesar’s ghost appears.
Scene 1 - Act V begins on the plains of Philippi. The four leaders meet and exchange insults. Cassius has ill feelings towards the day. Brutus and Cassius bid each other farewell.
Scene 2 - Brutus sends Messala with a message for his forces.
Scene 3 - Cassius retreats. He sends his friend Titinius to see if the nearby army is a friend or foe. Pindarus, Cassius bondman, reports that Titinius has been killed. Cassius asks Pindarus to kill him. He does. Titinius was not killed. he returns, sees Cassius dead, and kills himself. Brutus discovers the double death after defeating Octavius’ army. He prepares for the next battle.
Scene 4 - Cato dies. Lucillius is taken captive and pretends to be Brutus.
Scene 5 - Brutus’ army is defeated. Close to being captured he kills himself by running upon his sword. Octavius and Marc Antony discover his body. Antony calls Brutus “the noblest Roman of them all.” Octavius orders a proper funeral be given Brutus.
This post is part of the series: Julius Caesar Study Guide
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