Run into a section in a Shakespeare play you don't quite understand? It happens a lot. All of the most important Julius Caesar quotes are explained here to help you better understand the play. If you haven't read Julius Cesar yet, you can find the full text of the play here.
Quote: Soothsayer: Beware the Ides of March. (I, ii, 18)
Analysis: These five words have become one of the most famous warnings in literature and history. This warning along with a multitude of other signs should have made Caesar aware of the impending assassination. Caesar's pride, however, does him in.
Quote: Cassius: Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world / Like a Colossus, and we petty men / Walk under his huge legs and peep about / To find ourselves dishonorable graves. (I, ii, 135-8).
Analysis: Cassius vents his worry about Caesar's growing power to Brutus. He compares Caesar to Colossus, a giant statue of the Greek God Apollo, which reportedly spanned the harbor entrance at Rhodes and was tall enough to allow ships to pass between its legs. As long as Caesar is in power, Cassius claims, men like him and Brutus will be petty and destined for dishonorable deaths.
Quote: Caesar: Let me have men about me that are fat, / Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights. / Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; / He thinks too much, such men are dangerous. (I, iii, 192-5).
Analysis: Caesar astutely characterizes Cassius. He is aware of the threat he poses. Cassius' description ironically fits Marc Antony as well, for after Caesar's death, Antony shows himself to be "lean and hungry."
Quote: Brutus: But 'tis a common proof / That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, / Whereto the climber-upward turns his face; / But when he once attains the utmost round, / He then unto the ladder turns his back. (II, i, 21-25).
Analysis: Brutus argues with himself the morning of March 15. He loves Caesar, but understands that human nature will turn Caesar into a tyrant. He compares Caesar's rise to power to climbing a ladder. Once one reaches the top, he forgets about the lower rungs that brought him there.
Quote: Brutus: Swear priests and cowards and men cautelous, / Old feeble carrions and such suffering souls / That welcome wrongs; unto bad causes swear / Such creatures as men doubt; but do not stain / The even virtue of our enterprise.
Analysis: Brutus truly feels killing Caesar is just and honorable. He feels swearing an oath would diminish its worthiness. This shows Brutus' honor as well as his naivete, the former gives the conspirators a good name, the latter dooms their enterprise.
Quote: Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once. / Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, / It seems to me most strange that men should fear, / Seeing that death, a necessary end, / Will come when it will come. (II, ii, 32-37).
Analysis: Caesar shows bravery in these lines. His actions, however, demonstrate recklessness. Little does Caesar know, his death will come in the next act.
Quote: Caesar: I could be well moved, if I were as you; / If I could pray to move, prayers would move me; / But I am constant as the Northern Star, / Of whose true-fixed and resting quality / There is no fellow in the firmament. (III, i, 58-62).
Analysis: Caesar compares himself to the Northern Star and displays the arrogance of which the conspirators accuse him. He claims himself unmatched in regards to his greatness.
Quote: Caesar: Et tu, Brute? (III, i, 78)
Analysis: Caesar's dying words express his disappointment that Brutus takes part in the assassination. Whether he is saddened that his friend has betrayed him or he realizes he's not as great as he once thought is unclear.
Quote: Antony: Friends, Romans, countrymen / Lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar not to praise him. (III, ii, 75-6)
Analysis: And here begins the greatest political speech ever recorded. Its opening lines are ironic. Antony does nothing but praise Caesar, eventually leading the crowd to mutiny.
Quote: Antony: O masters! If I were disposed to stir / Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, / I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong, / Who you all know, are honorable men. (III, ii, 123-6)
Analysis: Antony's funeral oration continues. Antony uses verbal irony, calling Brutus and Cassius "honorable men" to incite the mob. He tells the mob to mutiny by telling them he's incapable of doing such a thing, another example of irony.
Quote: Antony: This was the most unkindest cut of all. (III, ii, 184).
Analysis: Antony refers to Brutus' stab wound and further turns the crowd against Brutus.
Acts IV and V
Quote: Octavius: He's a tried and valiant soldier. Antony: So is my horse, Octavius, and for that / I do appoint him store of provender. (IV, i, 27-30)
Analysis: Act IV begins with a look at Antony's more cunning side as he compares the third member of the triumvirate to a horse, no longer useful.
Quote: Caesar's Ghost: Thou shalt meet me at Philippi. (IV, iii, 285).
Analysis: The stress gets to Brutus as Caesar's spirit appears to him and foreshadows his doom at Philippi.
Quote: Brutus: Think not, thou noble Roman, / That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome, / He bears to great a mind. But this same day / Must end that work the Ides of March begun.
Analysis: Brutus expresses these thoughts to Cassius before the battle at Philippi, foreshadowing his own death.
Quote: Antony: This was the noblest Roman of them all. (V, v, 68).
Analysis: Antony recognizes Brutus' goodness and nobility after Brutus' death.
This post is part of the series: Julius Caesar Study Guide
- Summary of Julius Caesar
- Julius Caesar Study Guide & Character Analysis
- Famous Quotes from Julius Caesar
- Figurative Language in Julius Caesar
- Julius Caesar Study Questions and Answers