Julius Caesar Summary

This play is a Shakespearean tragedy based on historical events, most probably written in 1599. Although named after Julius Caesar, it mostly centers around the inner life of Brutus, his killer, and his thoughts, feelings and internal conflicts. 

Mureullus and Flavious, two tribunes (or elected officials), cross paths with dozens of Romans gallivanting in the streets, who are disregarding their work duties in order to witness the triumphal parade of Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar has victoriously defeated the offspring of Rome’s deceased general Pompey in a battle. The pair chastise the Romans for neglecting their obligations and remove the adornments from the statues of Caesar. Caesar, along with Brutus, Cassius and Antony enter the stage. “Beware the Ides of March,” a Soothsayer calls out to Caesar. However, his cries are ignored and the victory celebration persists. 

Cassius and Brutus, long time cohorts of Caesar, speak amongst themselves. Cassius expresses to Brutus that he has been distant as of late. To this, Brutus replies that he has been battling inner turmoil. Cassius regales that he wishes that Brutus was capable of seeing himself the same way that others see him, insisting that Brutus is highly respected and honorable. Brutus states that he is worrisome that the citizens want for Caesar to be crowned king, a dynamic shift that would overturn the republic. Cassius agrees that Caesar is treated in a God-like fashion, despite being a mere man, no better than either of them. Cassius is reminded of events that proved Caesar’s physical limitations, and is in awe at how such a feeble man could become so powerful. He is quick to blame both Brutus and himself for lacking will and enabling Caesar to rise in power. He fails to see how the rise of a man of this calibre could be the work of fate. Brutus ponders what Cassius has said as Caesar returns. After seeing Cassius, Caesar expresses his lack of trust for him to Antony. 

Caesar leaves, and another tribune – a politician – by the name of Casca expresses to Cassius and Brutus that Antony had, during a celebration, offered to crown Caesar as king three timed and that the people applauded. However, Caesar refused the crown. It was said that Caesar had fallen to the ground and took to some sort of seizure while the crowd looked on. This display of weakness, however, did not change the devotion that the plebeians had for him. Brutus returns home to further reflect upon Cassius’s declaration that Caesar is not fit to rule, and Cassius begins to formulate a plan to pull Brutus into a ploy against Caesar. 

Later that evening, Rome is battered by violent storms and unspeakable omens. Brutus uncovers letters inside his home that appear to have been written by Roman citizens, presenting their concerns that Caesar has been afforded too much power. Unbeknownst to him, the letters were planted by Cassius, who knows full well that Brutus will always support the will of the people. Devoted to the republic, Brutus worries about the potential for a dictatorship, and worries that the people will be robbed of their voice. Cassius arrives to Brutus’s home, along with his cohorts, and Brutus chairs the meeting. Each of the men agree that they must coerce Caesar from his home and murder him. Cassius wishes to kill Antony as well, suggesting that he will prevent their plans. However, Brutus disagrees. He feels that too many deaths with bring them dishonor. With the men in agreeance to spare Antony, Cassius and his followers depart. Brutus’s wife, Portia, notices that her husband is dismayed and pleads with him to confide in her. He refuses. 

Caesar readies himself to travel to the Senate. Calpurnia, his wife, pleads with him to stay home, detailing a string a nightmares she has had recently in which she has witnessed a statue of Caesar covered in blood and a group of men washing their hands in blood. Caesar brushes off her pleas and insists that he must carry on. At last, Calpurnia is successful in convincing him to stay home, but soon Decius arrives and convinces Caesar that his wife has misinterpreted her dreams and the recent omens. Caesar makes way for the Senate in the company of the men who conspire against him. 

As Caesar travels through the streets, and dredges closer to the Senate, the Soothsayer once again tries unsuccessfully to grab his attention. A Roman citizen Artemidorous gives Caesar a letter warning him of the plan against him. However, Caesar refuses to read it, insisting that his personal concerns are not an urgent matter. Once at the Senate, the men conspiring against him engage with Caesar, bowing at this feet. One after the other, they stab him to death. Once Caesar witnesses his dearest friend, Brutus, amongst the group of men, he refuses to fight and dies. 

The men who have slayed him bathe their hands in his blood, just as Calpurnia had seen in her dreams. Antony, having been called away under false pretenses, pledges his commitment to Brutus, but mourns the loss of Caesar. Antony wishes to know why they murdered Caesar and Brutus promises to provide him with the answers he seeks at a funeral oration. Antony requests permission to speak over the body of Caesar and he is granted this right. However, Cassius remains suspicious. When the men leave, Antony vows to avenge Caesar. 

Cassius and Brutus attend the forum to address the public. Brutus proclaims to the crowd that, despite his having loved Caesar, he loved Rome more and Caesar presented a tremendous threat to the liberties of the people. Antony appears, along with the body of Caesar, and Brutus turns the pulpit over to him. Continually referring to Brutus as an ‘honorable man’, Antony’s speech is rich with sarcasm, and questions many of the points that Brutus made in his own speech. Antony points out the tremendous successes that Caesar had brought to the Roman people, and noted how many times he turned down the offer to be crowned ruler of the land. He then holds up Caesar’s will, but refuses to read it, suggesting it will only bring upset to the masses. The crowd begs him to read the will. Standing next to Caesar’s corpse, Antony describes the horrible fate he was met with, showing every wound he endured. He then reads the will, which states that Caesar has left money to every citizen and has requested that his private gardens become open to the public. The people are devastated for the loss of such a generous man. Brutus and Cassius are labelled traitors, and the citizens vow to drive them from Rome. 

Meanwhile, Octavius, the adopted son of Caesar is appointed as his successor. He quickly forms a triumvirate - a three man coalition - with Antony and Lepidus. They prepare themselves to fight Brutus and Cassius, who have been thrown into exile and are preparing troops outside of the city limits. In their camp, Brutus and Cassius argue about money and honor, but quickly reconcile. Brutus exclaims that he is grief stricken at the news of his beloved Portia’s suicide. The men continue to prepare themselves for battle with Antony and Octavius. Brutus is visited by Caesar’s ghost, who insists that the two of them will meet again on the battlefield. 

Octavius and Antony lead their army toward Brutus and Cassius. Antony has coached Octavius on when and where to attack, but Octavius insists that he will make the orders, asserting himself as the next ruler of Rome. The generals meet on the battlefield, and take up arms. 

Cassius watches on as his men flee, and hears tales that Brutus’s army is not faring well. Cassius instructs one of his men to go and investigate. The man witnesses Titnius, Cassius’s best friend, being captured. Cassius, in a fit of despair, orders Pindarus to murder him with his own sword. He dies insisting that Caesar has been avenged. Titinus arrives shortly after, he was not captured after all. What had been witnessed was the celebration of a victory. Seeing his friend, Cassius, lying dead on the ground, Titinius is overcome with grief and kills himself. 

Soon, the news of the men’s deaths reaches Brutus, and he prepares once more to battle the Romans. After his army is defeated, Brutus asks one of his men to take his sword while he runs towards it – and dies. At last, Caesar can rest in peace. Octavius and Antony arrive. Antony speaks over the corpse of Brutus, labelling him as the noblest Roman of them all. Brutus wholeheartedly believed that he was acting for the benefit of Rome and is buried in an honorable way.