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Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is an all-time hit as a drama. This is the story of a real Roman emperor who was assassinated by his own trusted friend and a group of conspirators led by Caius Cassius. Although its language gives us a little trouble, its plot and dialogues are well written. Welcome to Rome, some time before Christ and meet Julius Caesar, Brutus, Cassius and Mark Antony.

While you read Shakespearean version of Julius Caesar, keep in mind that it is an imaginary presentation of the real Julius Caesar. Unfortunately, much of what we know about the real Caesar too is either fictional or exaggerated.

  • Julius Caesar – Emperor of Rome; assassinated by Cassius, Marcus Brutus and many others who were jealous of him.
  • Calpurnia – Caesar’s wife. She had advised Caesar not to go out on 15th March. Caesar failed to listen her.
  • Marcus Brutus – Caesar’s best friend. He later joined the conspirators and stabbed Caesar.
  • Cassius – The villain. He was jealous of Caesar. He poisoned Brutus’ mind and convinced him that Caesar would become a disaster for Rome. 
  • Mark Antony – A loyal friend of Caesar. He had no involvement in Caesar’s assassination. He turned the mob against Cassius and Brutus.
  • Conspirators – Cassius, Brutus, Casca, Cinna, Trebonius, Metellus, Publius, Decius Brutus and many others.

The explanations and notes given here are from selected acts and scenes from Julius Caesar. This includes the following incidents:

Most Important Questions
  1. Why did Calpurnia stop Caesar from going to the Senate House?
    1. Calpurnia’s fears – She had a terrible dream. She saw Caesar’s statue, in the centre of the city,
    2. Pouring blood and so many happy Romans washing their hands in the blood of Caesar.
    3. There was another dream, dreamt by their watchman. The watchman saw a lioness giving birth to her cubs in the street;
    4. Ghosts coming out of their graves; angry warriors fighting upon clouds above the Capital City; blood drizzling from the clouds; cry of the horses and groan of the dying men.
  2. How did Caesar dismiss Calpurnia’s fears?
    1. Caesar’s over confidence – Caesar didn’t believe in dreams. He said the dreams were warnings in general, not for him.
    2. He said cowards die many times due to fear fear of death; the brave die only once; men know they have to die once yet they are scared of death;
    3. Caesar and Danger are the sons of the same mother and Caesar is the elder. Danger is scared of Caesar, not Caesar.
  3. How did Decius Brutus interpret Calpurnia’s dream?
    1. Decius was one of the conspirators; he had to get Caesar to the Senate House for getting killed;
    2. He interpreted the dream in a very convincing manner; he said the statue of Caesar in the centre of the city pouring blood meant the Caesar Effect;
    3. People would get a new life from Caesar; Caesar would give a new life for the Romans; great people would come for his hairs to keep in his memory;
    4. People would laugh and rejoice at Caesar’s coronation.
  4. Conspirator’s dramatic entreaty to Caesar to release Publius Cimber and the assassination of Julius Caesar
    • Metellus Cimber bowed in front of Caesar; begged him to release his brother Publius Cimber; Caesar refused; he said he was as static as the North Star; he asked Metellus to present reasons rather than prayers.
    • Brutus came to Caesar and repeated Metellus’ prayer; he kissed Caesar’s hands. Caesar was amazed to hear this from Brutus.
    • Cassius came to Caesar and begged him to release Publius Cimber; Caesar grew angry with Cassius; said he was not as base/cheap as Cassius was; he said he was Royal in nature and would not let the law of the land be misused by anyone.
    • Casca – Casca draws his dagger and stabs Caesar; Casca shouted “I choose to speak to him with my dagger!”
    • Following this, Trebonius shouts that they have had freedom by killing Caesar.
  5. Antony’s arrival to the scene of death and his subsequent reactions and Prophesy
    1. When Caesar was assassinated, Antony had been away. When he arrived the scene of murder, Antony was shocked to see Caesar dead and the conspirators including Marcus BRUTUS among the assassins;
    2. Antony breaks off but he remains calm and composed; he pretends to be friendly with Cassius and his gang; he requests Brutus to give him permission to speak on Caesar’s funeral;
  6. Cassius tries to stop Brutus from letting Antony speak but Brutus disobeys Cassius and gives permission under conditions:
    • Do not blame Cassius and him and the other conspirators;
    • Speak any good of Caesar;
    • Speak at the same pulpit where ever Brutus speaks;
    • Speak only when Brutus had ended his speech.
  7. Antony’s Prophesy
    1. When Antony was left alone with Caesar’s body lying on the ground, Antony let his heart out and prophesied/foretold Rome’s bloody days.
    2. At first he begged Caesar’s pardon for being friendly with the conspirators.
    3. Antony began by praising Caesar. He said that Caesar was the noblest man among all men. 
    4. He then cursed the conspirators (Cassius, Marcus Brutus, Decius Brutus, Casca, Cinna, Trebonius, Metellus Cimber, etc.)
    5. He prayed for a curse that would strike all the Romans. He predicted civil war in Rome that would burden Rome’s streets.
    6. He said that bloody scenes and dead bodies would be very common in Rome.
    7. He prophesied that even mothers would smile when they hear the news of their children’s death and that no one would have pity for anyone. (It sounds an over exaggeration yet what happened in Rome in the next days proved Antony true)
    8. Antony said that Caesar would rise from the world of Dead and come back to Rome with the Goddess of Revenge, Ate, and her deadly soldiers, to destroy Rome.
    9. Dying men, Antony prophesied, would beg the men alive to bury them and the whole world will come to know the brutal assassination of Caesar.
Brutus’ Speech
  1. Brutus’ Speech
    1. Brutus was very much over confident. He underestimated Antony’s oratory skills and disregarded Cassius’s requests not to let Antony speak on Caesar’s funeral.
    2. Brutus began with his explosive statement – “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more!”
    3. This statement well pleased the angry mob/crowd. People loved Brutus for his great act of murdering his best friend for them.
    4. Brutus went on to mentioning four of Caesar’s qualities such as:
      • Caesar’s being his lover/friend,
      • Caesar’s being fortunate/lucky
      • Caesar’s being valiant/brave
      • Caesar’s being ambitious/greedy
    5. Next, Brutus said that:
      • He rejoiced at Caesar’s being fortunate,
      • He honored Caesar for being valiant,
      • He grieved at the loss of his friend, but
      • He killed Caesar for being ambitious!
    6. Following this, Brutus asked the mob just 3 more questions. (Note how crafty Brutus was! He knew the answers!!)
      • Is there anyone among you who does not love his country?
      • Is there anyone among you who doesn’t love Rome?
      • Is there anyone among you who would like to be a slave?
        • The point of asking such crafty questions was that he knew the answers would be just NO and NO and NO. Brutus had a very well carved statement to place after these question so he said – “So, I killed Caesar to give you freedom!”
    7. Finally Brutus told the mob that he was ready to be killed in case the nation found him guilty in any way. He welcomed his countrymen to assassinate Brutus as Brutus had killed Caesar for being ambitious.
Antony’s Speech

Antony’s Speech | Not that Brutus was a bad orator, but that Antony was the best Orator! Welcome to Antony’s speech.

  • No one in the history ever started a speech to such an audience that least liked to listen. The mob needed no more explanation for Caesar’s assassination. They were contented with Brutus’ explanations. They considered the conspirators like great patriots and Brutus like their new emperor.
  • Antony began by supplying reasons and ended by supplying ammunition!
  • Reasons | Antony knew the power of reason
    • Caesar didn’t fill his private depository with the ransom money he had brought from the defeated countries. He filled it in the public treasury.
    • Caesar used to cry seeing the poverty in his country.
    • Caesar three times refused Antony’s offer of a kingly crown on the day of Lupercal festival.
  • Tears | A little crying soothes your guilt
    • Antony reminded the mob how much they had respected and loved Caesar.
    • Antony then pointed to the fact that people suddenly forgot Caesar and took sides with the conspirators!
    • Antony turned up to the Heaven and said that people had lost reasoning power.
  • Caesar’s will
    • First Antony showed the mob a parchment/scroll and told them that it was Caesar’s will.
    • The mob growing curious about the will, Antony confessed that he was not to read them the will. He reasoned that the will contained information that could inflame the guilt of the Romans. (By supporting the conspirators, the mob indirectly killed Caesar!)
    • He told them that they would die if he read the will because they were not made stones or wood or metal.
Mantle/overcoat
  • Antony showed the mob the bloody mantle that Caesar had put on at the time he was assassinated.
  • He showed them each hole in the mantle pierced by the conspirators, especially by Brutus.
Sarcasm
  • Throughout the speech, Antony employs sarcasm by calling the conspirators ‘honorable people.’
  • He lined up each crime and conspiracy and ended each with a closing statement calling the conspirators honorable.
  • The effect of the use of this sarcasm first confused the mob, then convinced the mob and finally angered the mob.
Important Dialogues
  1. Et tu Brute?
    Brutus was one of Caesar’s best loved friends. Caesar had always placed his trust in Brutus than in any one else. But the sight of this very Brutus among the conspirators was more than a shock for Caesar. Et tu Brute reveals a betrayed friend’s helpless situation demanding an explanation for his friend’s turning against him for whatever reasons.
  2. “And you have come in happy time.”
    On the day when the Senate had planned to crown Julius Caesar as the emperor of Rome, Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife stopped him from going out of home due to her personal fears resulted from her dreams. Unwillingly thinking of sending Mark Antony to send this message to the Senate, Caesar was cheered by the unexpected coming of Marcus Brutus and therefore exclaimed that he came in the right time.
  3. “I never stood on Ceremonies.”
    Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, had bad dreams that foretold her something amiss for Caesar and she wanted Caesar to stay home. She told that she had never believed in superstitions as the others had yet was forced to believe the warnings in the dreams she had.
  4. “When beggars die there are no comets seen;the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
    When ordinary people die there will be no change in the sky but when great people die there will be a lot of turmoil and commotion in the sky. Comets may fall, storms may blow and thunder and lightning will fill the sky.
  5. “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never tastes of death but once.”
    Due to the fear of death the cowards experience a lot of death during their lifetime while the really brave people die only once.
  6. “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.”
    I have heard about many world wonders but I do not consider any of them more amazing than people’s fear of death. Everyone knows that one day he has to die and no one can escape from death yet he afraid of it.
  7. “And you are come in very happy time, To bear my greetings to the senate-house.”
    On the day when the Senate had planned to crown Julius Caesar as the emperor of Rome, Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife stopped him from going out of home due to her personal fears resulted from her dreams. Unwillingly thinking of sending Mark Antony to send this message to the Senate, Caesar was cheered by the unexpected coming of Marcus Brutus and therefore exclaimed that he came in the right time.
  8. “Shall Caesar send a lie? Have I in conquests stretched mine arm so far to tell the grey beards the truth?”
    When Decius Brutus came to call Caesar, Calpurnia told him Caesar was not feeling well so as to stop Caesar from going to the Senate House. But Caesar found it cowardly to tell a lie to the old senators. He found it cowardly because he was a warrior who defeated any one he attacked and one whom no mighty king could defeat.
  9. “Most mighty Caesar, let me know some cause, Lest I be laughed at when I tell them so.”
    Decius Brutus didn’t know why Caesar was not coming to the senate house. As his mission was to take Caesar out of his house at any cost he demanded a reason for his not coming so that he could manipulate it for his end.
  10. “From you great Rome shall suck reviving blood and that great men shall press for tinctures, stains, relics and cognizance.”
    Decius Brutus misinterpreted Calpurnia’s dream in such a way that the tactful man removed all fears in Caesar. He said that the blood that came from Caesar signified the new spirit and life that Rome would get if Caesar became the new emperor. He also said that Caesar’s fame would reach the whole world and great men of the would love to keep objects used by Caesar to keep his memory.
  11. “That every like is not the same, O Caesar, the heart of Brutus yearns to think upon.”
    Brutus and Caesar were great friends and Caesar was not aware of the fact that his friend had turned against him and joined the conspirators to kill him. Brutus wants Caesar to understand that one cannot judge a person’s mind from his appearance.
  12. “These couching and lowly courtesies might fire the blood of ordinary men, and turn pre-ordinance and first decree into law of children.”
    Metallus Cimber was showing all kind of respect to Caesar by bending and crying for the release of his brother Publius Cimber who had been banished by Caesar. Caesar wants Metallus understand that he was not like the other men about decision making. Their decisions keep on changing in tune with situations whereas Caesar’s decisions cannot be altered. He further says that the ordinary rulers tend to ignore the value of a country’s constitutions for the sake of their dear and near ones because they do not know how important are the rules for a nation.
General Questions & Answers
  1. Why did Calpurnia request Caesar not to go to the Senate House?
    Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife had evil dreams hinting an imminent death of Caesar. She discussed it with an interpreter of dreams and was told to be careful about Caesar’s life and therefore requested Caesar to stay home.
  2. What was the watchman’s dream?
    The watchman had a dream that pointed to Caesar’s death. He saw a lioness giving birth to its cubs in the street while two armies fought on clouds. Blood rained down from the clouds. Graves opened and ghosts came out and ran through the city.
  3. What was Calpurnia’s dream? What did it mean?
    Calpurnia saw in her dream a statue of Caesar in the city centre. From it rained blood as if water from a fountain. She saw great men of the world washing their hands in that blood, smiling. She feared that someone was keen about killing Caesar and that there was a conspiracy to kill him and that many people would be happy with Caesar’s death.
  4. How did Caesar try to dispel Calpurnia’s fears?
    Caesar appeared to have taken no serious care of Calpurnia’s fears and doubts. He said that her dream had no direct indication to his death. Moreover, he claimed that he was a brave man and that the brave don’t fear death at all. Caesar went on explaining that the dream can point to the death of someone else if at all it meant anything.
  5. What was Decius Brutus’ mission? How did he accomplish it?
    Decius Brutus was sent by Cassius to bring Julius Caesar out of his house to be murdered. But when Decius reached Caesar’s home he was shocked to hear that Caesar was not going to come due to a dream Calpurnia had. The very smart Decius made Caesar narrate the dream and exclaimed that the dream had been misinterpreted. Then Decius interpreted the same dream in his most crafty way and presented it as a good omen to Caesar. He said the lost glory and life of Rome could be restored only by Caesar. Decius went another degree ahead and lured Caesar’s desire to be crowned as the emperor of Rome saying someone else would be crowned as emperor if Caesar didn’t go to the Senate House.
  6. Discuss the blunders committed by Marcus Brutus?
    Among all his blunders, the biggest one committed by the simpleton Brutus is that he believed Cassius. Following that he indulged in a series of foolish and thoughtless acts. Giving Antony permission to speak at Caesar’s funeral against Cassius’ opposition was the first. He was overconfident that Antony would not stir the minds of the mob better than him. As with the vile Cassius, Brutus blindly believed Antony too. Again, Brutus left the market-place leaving Antony to speak. Moreover Brutus believed that Caesar was an ambitious man.
  7. Why did Cassius want Brutus stand with him to assassinate Caesar?
    Cassius grew jealous of Caesar’s mounting popularity and the possibility of becoming the new emperor of Rome. He wanted to assassinate Caesar for his good more than for Rome’s. But he was very much sure of the consequence of killing Caesar who was the beloved of the whole of Rome especially of Brutus. So Cassius targeted to Brutus and wanted him to join the conspiracy for two reasons: one to use him as the sharpest weapon to assassinate Caesar and the other to easily convince the mob. Cassius was right in his planning. When Caesar was first attacked by Casca, Caesar drew out his sword to fight back the conspirators but soon went weak at the sight of his beloved Brutus drawing his sword to stab him. Brutus, with the help of his great popularity and name rather than his oratory skills, convinced the mob when it demanded an explanation for killing Caesar. Thus, Cassius used Brutus as a shield and played the master conspirator.
  8. How did Brutus convince the Roman mob of the importance of assassinating Caesar?
    Brutus had great confidence in his oratorical powers. He was very emotional at the time of his speech explaining why Caesar had to be killed for Rome. His was a short speech with questions whose answers were very simple. Brutus said that his love for Caesar was always the same but killed him because his love for Rome and Romans was greater than that. He told them that Caesar was very ambitious and it was very necessary to kill Caesar to provide a free existence for all Romans. Brutus also reminded that what he did to Caesar was what every Roman was supposed to do to him if he had behaved like Caesar. Brutus talked to the fragile sentiments of the fickle minded Romans and achieved a temporary victory over their minds.
  9. Antony’s speech has stood out ever since it was made and will stand out for ever. Why is Mark Antony’s speech so extraordinary?
    Antony’s speech stands a masterpiece of oratory. He was a magician who played tricks with words. He stirred the minds of thousands of Romans with measured use of highly flammable words and expressions. He made a war against the most dangerous enemies with an army of fickle minded people. Antony had no firm stand to make his speech nor was he half as important as Brutus was. He had to speak to the crowd after it was spoken to by Brutus. He was not allowed to blame any conspirator. Yet Antony dropped a rain of shell on the conscience of the Romans and won their support and stirred their minds against the conspirators. Antony’s success was the success of his speech. He began his speech in such a manner that his hearers and his enemies thought that he too was with Brutus and Cassius.
    But the Antonian style was different; he was a good actor, a good psychologist and the greatest orator. He confused the people with credible facts. He made them feel guilty by reminding how great Caesar was and how much they used to love them. He made them cry showing the wounded mantle that Caesar had worn when he was stabbed. He made them mourn for Caesar by revealing the content of the will Caesar had made for them. He fumed their minds with revenge against the conspirators who had killed their great Caesar who had given them money and land. While doing all this, Antony kept on praising.
  10. Comment on Antony’s ironical praising of the conspirators. OR Why did Antony repeatedly call the conspirators ‘honorable people’ in his speech?
    Antony’s speech was all set to stir and instigate unsteady minds of the Roman public who had believed that it was good that Caesar died. Revenge in his mind, Antony stood to speak good about Caesar but he was not allowed to blame the conspirators in any case. So, to blame the conspirators and to bring out their evil conspiracy, Antony praised Caesar on one side and disqualified his glories because the honorable Cassius and Brutus had told Caesar was ambitious. This ironical presentation slowly confused the mob and the public began to doubt if Brutus’ claims were right or if Caesar were really ambitious. This doubt gradually gave way to their realization that Caesar was a great man and the Brutus and Cassius committed unforgivable crimes to Caesar and the Romans.
  11. Do you think Antony did for Caesar as much as what a good friend does? OR Antony’s speech was a tribute to his friendship with Caesar; explain.
    Both Antony and Brutus were Caesar’s true friends. But somewhere on the way Brutus committed his greatest crime by believing the envious Cassius that Caesar was ambitious and that he had to be assassinated for the good of Rome. But Antony was a loyal friend of Caesar and he proved that by avenging Caesar’s death through his instigating speech even though it was quite risky for his life.
  12. Why did Antony refuse to read the will?
    In fact Antony wanted the mob to make him read the will rather than he did it himself. He intensified their interest and curiosity in the will yet pretended to be unwilling to read it. Even though Antony didn’t read the will he gave the mob an indirect hint regarding the content of the will that contained benefits for all Romans. He wanted them feel guilty of supporting the conspirators for killing Caesar who had made a will so good for them.

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