Character Directory


Julius Caesar (102-44 B.C.) is an ancient Roman political leader assassinated by conspirators led by Marcus Brutus. Caesar's role is not a large one, but the character dominates the play even after his murder early in Act 3. He is an enigmatic figure, representative of the central theme of the play, the moral ambiguity surrounding his murder. The assassination victim is both a valuable leader and an arrogant tyrant; thus the conspiracy against him seems alternately malevolent and noble. 

Caesar is undeniably imperious. When he first appears in 1.2, surrounded by admiring followers, he is clearly accustomed to command. Irritated by the warning of the Soothsayer to beware the ides of March he coolly dismisses him. Knowing the outcome as Shakespeare assumed his audience would, we see immediately that Caesar's self-confidence is misplaced. Caesar's smug sense of power is strikingly evident in his language; he frequently refers to himself with the royal 'we', as in 3.1.8, and sometimes even in the third person, as when he declares his intention to defy bad omens and go the Senate, saying, 'Caesar should be a beast without a heart / If he should stay at home to-day for fear. / No, Caesar shall not. Danger knows full well / That Caesar is more dangerous than he' (2 2 42-45) His wife, Calphurnia, warns that his 'wisdom is consum'd in confidence' (2.2.49), and we clearly see that he is ripe for a fall. In the last moments of his life Caesar's arrogance extends almost to blasphemy, as he dismisses all argument with the order, 'Hence! Wilt thou lift up Olympus?' (3.1.74). The assassination, which follows immediately, seems entirely justified.    

On the other hand, Caesar is also presented as the foremost man of all this world' (4.3.22), as Brutus calls him He is certainly a strong leader; the only weaknesses attributed to him are physical: some deafness and mild epilepsy (1.2.210, 251) and the poor swimming and susceptibility to illness that Cassius complains of in 1.2.99-114, matters so patently unimportant that they tell us more about Cassius' petty envy than they do about Caesar. In 2.1.20-21 Brutus observes that Caesar has never let his emotions alter his judgment, and we learn the value of that judgment when we hear his acute portrayal of Cassius in 1.2.189-207. The funeral orations of Brutus and Antony in 3.2 offer evidence of his virtues, and indeed Caesar's greatness is evident in the respect that almost all the other characters show him. 

It may seem odd that a figure killed before the halfway point should be the title character of a play, but it is appropriate here, for Caesar's spirit continues to dominate the action after his death. Not only does Antony's revenge for Caesar's murder provide the plot of the play's second half, but the thought of Caesar recurs repeatedly to Brutus and Cassius as well.  Notably, each speaks of Caesar at his death. Moreover, Caesar's arrogance is taken up by Brutus in a subtle demonstration of the psychology of power. The survival of Caesar's spirit is made tangible by the appearance of Caesar's Ghost in 4.3 and at the battle of Philippi (reported by Brutus in 5.5.17-20).  Caesar's greatest importance lies in the action he stimulates, his assassination. The murder of the seemingly tyrannical Caesar triggers a civil war and-as Shakespeare and his audiences were aware—would soon lead to much greater despotism under the Empire of Octavius, later known as Caesar. Julius Caesar symbolizes a social good that is flawed by the potential evil of tyranny, as opposed to the social disruption created by Brutus' ideal of a political world in which no such evil exists.  

Shakespeare added salient details to the Caesar he found in his source, Plutarch’s Lives, humanizing the leader by inventing physical defects that the historical figure did not have: deafness and poor swimming. He also ascribed to Caesar a concern with superstition in his last days, stressing an intellectual corruption produced by power, in preparation for the audiences sympathetic response to the assassins when the murder is committed. On the other hand, he did omit a number of anecdotes from Plutarch that would have portrayed Caesar too negatively, leaving less room for doubt about the killing. For instance, Caesar is said to have looted a famous temple and to have acquiesced in dishonoring an earlier wife in order to divorce her More significantly, Shakespeare followed Plutarch in exaggerating Caesar's real threat to the privileges of the Roman aristocracy that spurred the assassins historically. In fact, modern scholars find, Caesar s policies were surely not directed towards creating a monarchy, as the conspirators-and Plutarch-believed. They were to some extent not directed at all, being largely driven by events. 

After his well-known conquests in Gaul and Britain Caesar had, at the time of the play, recently won a civil war against another Roman political and military leader Pompey the Great (106-48). As the head of a faction intent on admitting new members to Rome’s small ruling class, Caesar had fought a group of conservatives and had more nearly represented the republican ideals later associated with Brutus—in part because of Shakespeare's presentation—than Brutus himself did. He was in no sense a revolutionary, how had assumed the dictatorship, a legitimate office of the Roman government that carried extensive powers and was temporarily awarded to leading military commanders in times of crisis. Caesar had been dictator briefly in 49 B.C., but this time he had held the dictatorship for several years, using its powers to protect his gains in the civil war. In early 44 B.C. the Senate—which Caesar had greatly enlarged and filled with his followers—declared him dictator for life. This event sealed the conspirators' determination. 

It was rumored that Caesar intended to be crowned and to move the capital to Ilium, a Roman possession in the Near East. However, this was never likely—the ceremony in which he rejected the crown, as reported by Casca in 1.2, was planned by Caesar expressly to defuse these rumors—and it seems probable that Caesar was more conservative than the nobility feared. He assumed his extraordinary powers because the forces of Pompey's son still threatened him and because he was aware of the threat of assassination. To preserve the government, newly established after years of disorder, Caesar needed dictatorial power to suppress his enemies. He did, however, protect ancient privileges to a considerable degree, resisting pressures from his more radical followers for drastic reforms. 

Moreover, Caesar understood the need for a strong ruler to maintain order in a nation that had been disrupted by years of internal strife. He is said (though not by Plutarch) to have anticipated his end, observing that his assassination would produce terrible consequences for Rome; the actual result was the effective elimination of the old Roman aristocracy under the Empire. As Shakespeare felt, although he did not clearly see the underlying historical reality, Caesar's assassination unnecessarily disrupted the Roman state, already weakened by civil wars, and it only led to a much greater tyranny.


Octavius (Gaius Octavius Caesar; Octavian) (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) is an historical figure and character in Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra. Antony’s ally against Brutus and Cassius. (The same figure appears as Caesar in .) Octavius is a cool, self-possessed, and efficient leader, whether hearing out Antony's criticisms of Lepidus in 4.1, claiming command of the right wing—properly Antony's—before the battle of Philippi in 5.1, or ordering the honorable burial of Brutus in 5.5. Though his part is small, it is boldly drawn and clearly anticipates the briskly calculating victor of the later play.

Shakespeare captures something of the personality of the historical Octavius but ignores the events of his life for the most part. In his will, Julius Caesar formally adopted Caius Octavius—the grandson of his sister—and made him the heir to his name and three-quarters of his immense fortune. (In legally accepting this inheritance after Caesar's murder, Octavius changed his name to Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and to English-speaking historians he is generally known as Octavian from this time until his assumption of the title Augustus in 27 B.C. However, Shakespeare was probably unaware of this distinction, and the character is called Octavius throughout Julius Caesar.) Octavius, who had been a physically frail child, was a 19-year-old student in Athens when Caesar died. When he returned to Italy to claim his inheritance, he immediately asserted himself politically but was not taken seriously at first. However, the name of Caesar was a powerful one, and he was soon at the head of an army of the pro-Caesar forces assembling to combat the assassins.

Unlike in Julius Caesar, Octavius was a rival of Antony's from the outset, and their alliance—joining with Lepidus in the Triumvirate—was sealed only after 18 months of antagonism that approached full scale war. While his political acumen was considerable, Octavius was still inclined to illness and was not a competent military man; at Philippi he was notably unsuccessful, and the defeat of Brutus and Cassius was largely the work of Antony. However, Octavius was soon to assume the leadership of much of the Roman world—the situation with which Antony and Cleopatra opens—and his cool efficiency in the closing lines of Julius Caesar effectively foreshadows this achievement.


Mark Antony(Marcus Antonius) (c. 82-30 B.C.) is an historical figure, and character in Julius Caesar and title character in Antony and Cleopatra. In the former play Antony leads the forces opposing the assassins of Julius Caesar, led by Marcus Brutus. In the latter, his love for Cleopatra leads to his downfall and the triumph of Octavius Caesar. 

In Julius Caesar, Antony is a courageous but crafty schemer whose political skill brings about a civil war. He helps demonstrate the social harm done by the powerful when they pursue their political ends. On the other hand, Antony, a strong personality, is an emotionally honest man and a much more sympathetic character than the virtuous, but cold and domineering, Brutes. Thus, Antony is both a positive and a negative figure who contributes greatly to the moral uncertainty that is at the heart of the play.  

Part of Antony's power in Julius Caesar comes from Shakespeare's careful presentation of him. In the first two Acts he is an unimportant figure who speaks only 33 words, but other characters refer to him numerous times and acknowledge his potential greatness. Most significantly, Cassius desires that Antony be killed along with Caesar (2.1.155-161). He calls him a 'shrewd contriver' and accurately predicts that if he lives he will be a difficult opponent. 

These references prepare us for Antony's sudden dominance of the play in Act 3. Even before he appears, the message he sends to Caesar's assassins (3.1. 126-137) establishes his strong personal style; a confident and powerful tone, both rhetorical and emotional. He soon arrives in person, and his initial response to the sight of Caesar's corpse is direct, uncalculated, heartfelt grief. Even in the presence of the murderers he does not hide his initial outburst. But he quickly turns to the future and takes control when he arranges to speak at Caesar's funeral. 

His boldness and fervor are both powerful and charming, but Antony disqualifies himself for our moral sympathy with the long soliloquy (3.1.254-275) in which he proposes to provoke a ghastly civil war—he describes the bloody slaughter of innocent people in detail—in order to avenge Caesar's death. Antony's fine human qualities—his courage and intelligence—bring about tragic consequences. 

Our ambivalence about Antony is furthered by his magnificent funeral oration (3.2.75-254), one of Shakespeare's most renowned passages. The speech's virtues—its bold rhetoric, its manipulative presentation of evidence, its appeal to pathos—seem to be clever but cheap effects intended to exploit the passions of the unthinking multitude. Certainly the speech has this effect, as Antony knew it would. But one realises that Antony does not seek to advance himself personally, and that he does not resort to slander against Brutus, or downright dishonesty. Antony is genuinely grieved by Caesar's death, and his expression of it, while extremely inflammatory, is not false.  He actually feels the way he brings his audience to feel. And we, too, are moved to share his emotion, even as we are aware of Brutus' virtues in contrast with the mayhem Antony intends. 

In 4.1, in an episode invented by Shakespeare to intensify our response to Antony, he bargains away the life of his nephew Publius. In contrast with Brutus' refusal to kill Antony, this action seems particularly detestable. Moreover, Antony also proposes to loot Caesar's bequest to the people, and his attitude to his ally Lepidus, whom he regards as no more than a tool, reinforces a sense that he is a cynical politician. As we approach the play's climax at the battle of Philippi, we are inclined to favor Antony's foes, Brutus and Cassius.   

However, at the close of the play when Antony delivers his famous eulogy of Brutus (5.5.68-75), he is very generous, and the balance of our sympathy is somewhat restored. Antony not only acknowledges Brutus' noble motive in killing Caesar, he also observes that Brutus was unable to recognize the true nature of his fellow conspirators. Thus, Antony emphasizes once more the play's chief theme: that evil can attend good intentions when established rulers are unseated. 

In Antony and Cleopatra, written about seven years later, Antony again contributes much to the ambivalence that characterizes the work. He is both a major political figure and the protagonist of a love story. As a result of his love, his position in the world undergoes great change. Initially, he wields immense power, ruling half the known world—a status that Shakespeare emphasizes with a persistent stream of political affairs. However, he willfully throws this position away for the sake of his passion—a passion whose self-indulgence is stressed by repeated descriptions of the opulent luxury of Cleopatra's court. 

As a soldier, Antony has proven himself a model of Roman military virtues—the Romans are dissatisfied with his conduct in Egypt precisely because they value his earlier record as a 'mate in empire, / Friend and companion in the front of war' (5.1.43-44), whose 'goodly eyes . . . Have glow'd like plated Mars' (1.1. 2-4). His earlier successes enacted in Julius Caesar are referred to several times, as in 3.2.54-56. Antony values himself for the same reasons and regrets his 'blemishes in the world's report' (2.3.5), but he is trapped in another role by his intense attraction to Cleopatra. Under her influence he has become a voluptuary; he has abandoned his duty for the 'love of Love, and her soft hours' (1.1.44) in Alexandria. 

As a lover, Antony offers us a glimpse of the transcendent nature of passion, a theme that Cleopatra will triumphantly present—in Antony's name—after his death. In 1.1 when Cleopatra, as the wily courtesan, demands that he declare how much he loves her, Antony states that love cannot be totaled, for lovers must 'find out new heaven, new earth' (1.1.17). Thus, it is he who introduces the theme of transcendence through love, and this desire is emphasized by hints of the book of Revelation that frame his story in the play. Indeed, 'new heaven, new earth' is very close to the biblical text (cf. Rev. 21:1)—much more familiar to 17th-century audiences than it is to today's—and the imagery that marks his death confirms the association: 'The star is fall'n. / And time is at his period' (4.14. 106-107 [cf. Rev. 8:10; 10:6]). 

Although Cleopatra disrupts Antony's loyalty to Rome, he is not totally committed to her either. Though he only tears himself from her with difficulty, in 1.3, he\returns to Rome and makes a political marriage to Octavia. Further, his love for Cleopatra is mingled with distrust—with considerable justification, for the Egyptian queen only transcends the behavior of a courtesan after Antony's death—and he dies presuming she will strike a bargain with his conqueror, Caesar. Moreover, he dies not as a tragically committed lover, but rather more like a clever Roman politician—albeit a loving one—when he offers Cleopatra advice on the politics of Caesar's court. Antony demonstrates that the ideals of love and power are both insufficient, thus manifesting the duality presented by the play as a whole. 

Shakespeare followed his source—Plutarch’s Lives— fairly closely in his account of the historical career of Marcus Antonius, with two exceptions. As already noted, the playwright invented Antony's callous sacrifice of a nephew, and in Antony and Cleopatra he placed Antony's involvement with Cleopatra earlier in the sequence of events; in Plutarch the love affair did not actually begin until after Antony's marriage to Octavia. Thus Shakespeare’s Antony seems indecisive about his loyalties, if not actually disloyal to Cleopatra as well as to Octavia. However the change may simply have been motivated by dramatic strategy, for it is obviously better to begin the play with the love affair than to introduce it in the middle, after the political situation has evolved.  However, in Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare departed from the general impression of Antony left by Plutarch For the ancient historian, Antony was simply a moral failure, a man who threw away his life because he was unable to control his appetites. Antony's catastrophic moral collapse justified Caesar's war against him and his defeat was entirely for the good. Shakespeare however, made certain that we would see that Antony's vices contained germs of virtue, that his passion was firmly bound to a noble, if ill-defined, idea of love. 

Plutarch depended on pro-Caesar sources (see, e.g.,Messala) since the victorious Caesar permitted no others to survive, and thus his account is unfairly biased against Antony in the opinion of modern scholars The debauchery indulged in by Marcus Antonius was rather ordinary among the powerful Roman aristocrats of the time, and we cannot be certain that the political concessions he made to Cleopatra were in fact made at all, nor that they were as foolish as they seem in the sources. In any case, modern scholars generally agree that it was not his affair with Cleopatra that ruined Antonius, but rather his political and military failings—had he been more clever and ruthless, he might have enforced the maintenance of the joint rule that Caesar upset, or he might have triumphed himself, and ruled Rome.


Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (d. 13 B.C.) is an historical figure and character in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Lepidus is a member of the Triumvirate, the three-man governing committee that consists of Lepidus, Octavius, and Mark Antony. The Triumvirate rules Rome in the aftermath of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Octavius imprisons Lepidus and then fights Antony for sole control of the Empire. In both plays Lepidus is a markedly weaker figure than his colleagues, and their casual dominance of him helps establish an impression of Roman power politics that is important in each work.

A minor character in Julius Caesar, Lepidus appears only once, in 4.1, when the Triumvirs decide on a list of political enemies that must be arrested and executed as part of their campaign against Brutus and Cassius. After a brief exchange, Antony sends Lepidus on an errand and then belittles him to Octavius. He calls him 'a slight unmeritable man' (4.1.12) and a 'barren-spirited fellow' (4.1.36), and says he does not deserve a position as ruler. He compares him to an ass or horse, whose usefulness is limited and who will be turned out to pasture when he has fulfilled his role. Lepidus does not reappear in the play, and Antony's opinion of him seems appropriate. This episode may deepen our impression of Antony as a cynical political manipulator, or, may justify his boldness in seizing leadership in a power vacuum. In either view, Lepidus serves as a foil to sharpen our sense of Antony. In Antony and Cleopatra Lepidus is similarly weak, though he plays a more prominent role in affairs. He is dominated by Caesar as the two confer on Antony's absence, in 1.4. In 2.4 he pointlessly urges reconciliation between Antony and Caesar, who are already intent on it, and he has little to say once negotiations are underway. He is again a minor player in the talks with Pompey in 2.6, and at the subsequent banquet he is the butt of a humiliating joke as he has been pressured into drinking too much. He makes a fool of himself and finally must be carried away—in pointed contrast to Caesar, who ends the party with a complaint about the ill effects of wine. The episode is comical, but even a Servant recognizes its significance for Lepidus' position in high politics, saying, 'To be called into a huge sphere, and not to be seen to move in't, are the holes where eyes should be . . .' (2.7.14-15). Lepidus disappears from the play at this point, though his fate is later reported: Caesar has accused him of treason and imprisoned him 'till death enlarge his confine' (3.5.11-12). Once again, Lepidus provides an example of the necessity for sharp wits and hard morals in the world of power politics, though here the contrast reflects more on Caesar than on Antony. 

The historical Lepidus was indeed a lesser figure than his colleagues, though Shakespeare exaggerated this to emphasize the brutal competition of Roman politics. Lepidus was from a traditionally powerful Roman family. He supported Julius Caesar in his rise to power, and in the aftermath of Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. he naturally allied himself with Antony. By chance, he commanded troops in the vicinity of Rome at the time, and he was able to control the city. It was at this point that he probably held as much real power as he ever would. In Julius Caesar, events are telescoped; the Triumvirate only came together after an 18-month period, during which Lepidus was courted by Antony and Octavius, and by Brutus and Cassius. Upon the formation of the Triumvirate Lepidus was given control of Italy and Gaul, but soon Caesar took over these important commands and Lepidus was shifted to Africa, also important but more remote. From this base, Lepidus assisted-though only slightly—in the defeat of Pompey's forces in Sicily by Caesar's general, Agrippa, in 35 B.C., soon after the events of Act 2 of Antony and Cleopatra. However when Lepidus attempted to override Agrippa once the victory was assured, Caesar daringly entered Lepidus' camp, unarmed, and demanded ""surrender to arrest. Lepidus' basic weakness was disliked by his own troops, and they seized him. He was forced to publicly plead for mercy, after which he was formally ousted from the Triumvirate. His treatment was better than is implied in Shakespeare, however. He was permitted to retain his post as Pontifex Maximus—the chief clergyman of the state religion—and was mercifully exiled to a comfortable retreat where he lived out his life.


Cicero, M. Tullius is a senator of Rome. Cicero appears only to dismiss Casca’s concern about omens in 1.3. Earlier Casca had described in comical terms Cicero's pedantic use of Greek (It was Greek to me' [1.2.281]), and later Brutus rejects the suggestion that Cicero be included in the conspiracy against Caesar as an elder statesman. Brutus says that Cicero is too independent and will 'never follow any thing that other men begin' (2.1.151-152). Cicero's execution by Antony and Octavius is reported in 4.3. 176-177. 

Although he is an interesting background presence, Cicero is of no real importance to the play. Probably his inclusion simply reflects his immense stature as a writer. Cicero was perhaps the most influential of all classical authors. His works were highly respected in his own lifetime and throughout the period of the Roman Empire; during the Middle Ages he was revered as a master of rhetoric. In the Renaissance his works were well known to all educated people, and they influenced humanistic writers on a broad range of subjects. In Shakespeare's time Cicero was certainly one of the best-known ancient Romans, and it was therefore natural for the playwright to present him on stage. Cicero was often known in the 16th century as 'Tully', from his middle name, and he is so referred to in 2 Henry VI, 4.1.136, and Titus Andronicus, 4.1.14. 

Cicero was also a highly successful lawyer and politician. He was among the most important men in the Roman world at the time of the play. He was a leader of the opposition to Caesar's party, although he had no part in Brutus' plot, and after the assassination he denounced Antony in a series of speeches. As is reported in the play, he was executed as a result.


Publius is a witness to the assassination of Caesar. In 3.1 Publius accompanies Caesar to the Senate, and when the killing takes place, he watches horrified; he is the only figure on stage not in violent action. Brutus reassures him that no harm is intended to him or any other citizen, and he is sent to pass along this message to others. He remains silent throughout the episode.  

Publius is usually designated as a senator in the list of characters, but the text offers no indication of his status; the first such list only dates from Rowe’s 1709 edition of the plays. The same Publius may be referred to when Antony consents to the condemnation of his nephew, Publius, in 4.1.4-6. Although no such relationship has been mentioned before, the name recalls the earlier figure and intensifies the picture of Antony as a ruthless politician. Not only does he condemn his own relative to solidify his political position, but he also undoes Brutus' explicit mercy of 3.1. 

Publius, unlike the other named characters in Julius Caesar, does not appear in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives. Antony had no nephew named Publius, and no one of that name appears in Plutarch's account of the assassination. Having decided to present an innocent bystander in 3.1, Shakespeare simply invented an extra character and gave him a handy Latin name (one that he also used in 3.1.53 to identify the brother of Metellus, who is also unnamed in Plutarch). His various uses of the name may simply be an instance of the minor carelessness that recurs throughout his plays.


Popilius Lena (active 44 B.C.) is a senator of Rome.  Popilius Lena, present as the assassins prepare to kill Caesar at the Senate, alarms Cassius by conversationally hoping his 'enterprise to-day may thrive' (3.1.13) and then speaking to Caesar; Cassius fears the plot is known. However, it proves a false alarm. The episode, which Shakespeare took from Plutarch’s Lives, heightens the tensions of the moment. Little is known of the historical Lena.


Marcus Brutus (c. 85-42 B.C.) is the leader of the assassins of Caesar and of the forces opposing Mark Antony in the subsequent civil war. Brutus, the protagonist of Caesar, is representative of the moral ambiguity that is the play's central theme. He seems both good and evil:a patriotic and honorable man who nonetheless brings about Rome's downfall and his own. 

When Caesar's apparent ambition to rule alone begins to disturb Roman aristocrats, Brutus is drawn by Cassius to lead a plot against him. 'With himself at war' (1.2.45), Brutus debates the murder of his friend and mentor: Shall his patriotism be stronger than his love and respect? He concludes that Caesar must be killed, despite his personal virtues, to save Rome from tyranny. Brutus then approaches the assassination as a moral imperative, but Shakespeare offers much evidence that Brutus is not the wholly selfless figure he believes himself to be. Not only does his decision prove to be politically catastrophic, but it appears to be morally flawed, too, for Brutus is unconsciously in pursuit of power himself.  

Brutus' self-appraisal has often been mistaken for Shakespeare's portrait of him, but the playwright, while acknowledging his protagonist's patriotism and honorable intentions, presents a host of opposing indications that paint another picture. Brutus is willful and arrogant, resembling the tyrant he kills and growing more like him as the play unfolds. As leader of the conspiracy he peremptorily opposes anyone else's initiative, refusing to share leadership with either Cassius or Cicero. His disdainful over-confidence is disastrous when he dismisses Antony as a man of little importance in 2.1.181-183. He overrules Cassius, insisting that Antony be spared and then that Antony be permitted to speak at Caesar's funeral. Both decisions prove fateful. As the battle of Phillippi approaches, Brutus once again demands his own way_and leads his cause to defeat. In insisting on his own way at all times, Brutus displays the dictatorial behavior he had feared in Caesar. But, unlike Caesar, he is not a competent leader. Lacking insight into other men's motives, as he abundantly demonstrates with respect to Cassius and Antony, he is an inadequate politician. He is also an inexperienced and impatient general. 

Brutus' self-delusion is startlingly apparent on several occasions. On one level he considers the assassination a high moral duty; yet, subconsciously guilty, he also needs to justify it, saying, 'Let's be sacrificers, but not butchers' (2.1.166). Further, when Caesar has been stabbed to death, Brutus improvises a cleansing ritual—the assassins bathe their hands in their victim's blood—but this act accentuates, not alleviates, the violence of the deed. Brutus does not see the gore through his own vision of rectitude. 

Particularly striking is Brutus' unconscious hypocrisy in praising himself for refusing to acquire funds through graft or by accepting bribery, saying, 'I can raise no money by vile means' (4.3.71), while at the same time castigating Cassius for refusing to share with him his own ill-gotten gains. In another instance, in 4.3.180-194, he pretends to accept with great stoicism the news of the death of Portia, when he has in fact known of it for some time. (It has been contended that Shakespeare had excised this passage from the play, it surviving only because of a printer's error; however, the ploy suits Brutus' imperiousness quite well, and the rejection of the passage seems unnecessary.) This deception may be defended as good for the morale of his underlings, but it is nevertheless quite as patronizing as Caesar's feigned reluctance to accept a crown, as reported in 1.2.230-263. 

A possible source of Brutus' self-deception is his repeated denial of his emotions and thus his inability to recognize his own drives. He rejects his love for Caesar, for Cassius, even for Portia, lest they contaminate the higher faculty of his reason. His errors in trusting Antony and relying on the support of the Plebians stem from his assumption that they, like he, will act rationally. Not only does he undervalue the significance and power of passion in others, he does not see its operation in himself. Thus blinded, Brutus never sees the error of his attack on Caesar. The unnecessary disaster of the civil war has resulted from his own obsession with controlling the Roman political world, but he honestly sees only his own idealistic point of view. Thus his actions are virtuous in their intent but evil in their consequences. Precisely because of this contradiction, Brutus resembles a tragic hero, attempting great things and failing through his own psychological flaws. 

Julius Caesar is not simply the story of a man who injures his society by an illicit rebellion or of a man who murders a friend for bad reasons. Rather, the tragic grandeur of Brutus' moral imperfection lies in his effort to transcend human limitations and create a political world without the potential for evil and exploitation. Like Othello or HAMLET, Brutus possesses an integrity that impels him towards a wrong course. Attempting the impossible, he can produce only chaos, and he brings about the downfall of both his world and himself. Antony's final eulogy not only acknowledges the nobility of Brutus' conscious intentions in killing Caesar but also reminds us of his weakness, observing that he was an honorable man who did not recognize the dishonor of his actions. 

The historical Brutus was a rather different person than Shakespeare's patriotic but deluded idealist, and much of his career is neither enacted nor alluded to in Julius Caesar. Renowned in his own day as an admirable Roman nobleman—upright in his dealings and grave in demeanor—Brutus was descended from an illustrious patrician family. His mother was Caesar's mistress for many years, giving rise to the rumor that Brutus was Caesar's son (alluded to in 2 Henry VI, 4.1.136), though the relationship probably began only after Brutus' birth. Brutus had a highly successful political career; he received profitable appointments as an administrator of Roman territories abroad. He was also a prominent player in the factional politics of the period. Prior to the time of the, play, Brutus was a follower ofPompey the Great (106-48) in his civil war against Caesar, but after Caesar's decisive victory at the battle of Pharsala (48 B.C.) he switched sides. Caesar rewarded him with appointments to high offices. However, Brutus seems to have regretted his betrayal of Pompey; he published a defense of Cato, a prominent Pompeian, and he married Portia, Cato's daughter, which his contemporaries recognized as a gesture of opposition to Caesar. 

Brutus and the conspirators compared themselves to Brutus' ancestor, Junius Brutus, a legendary Roman patriot, as Shakespeare indicates in 1.2.157 and 2.1.53-54, but in fact their ends were more selfish than patriotic. They stood for the privileges and vested interests of the Roman aristocracy, threatened by Caesar's long-standing dictatorship—normally a temporary office held during a crisis. Caesar seemed to be establishing a new order, in which the nobles would be subordinated to him and to his government. 

Brutus' ritual bloodbath, described above, is Shakespeare's invention, intended to emphasize both the violence of the deed and its political nature. Plutarch, Shakespeare's source, reports the murder in brutal imagery drawn from hunting, presenting just the sort of picture Brutus attempts, in the play, to avoid. Thus the playwright distorted his source material in order to create a telling effect.

Shakespeare greatly compressed the complicated events following Caesar's death for dramatic reasons, and Brutus' struggles to maintain a political position in Rome are ignored. After the assassination Brutus and the conspirators negotiated with Antony and other Caesarians, and for several weeks the two groups governed Rome jointly, although the citizenry frequently rioted against the assassins. Numerous intrigues, now obscure, dominated Roman politics; Brutus and Cassius attempted to recruit followers among the rural aristocrats with only modest success.  In mid-April they left Rome for good. They remained in Italy throughout the summer, during which a possible alliance between Antony and Octavius began to seem threatening. Brutus then left for Macedonia, where he held a government appointment. Negotiations between the assassins and Antony continued throughout the winter, but the civil war began in the spring of 43 B.C., with Antony defeating Decius in northern Italy. In November, Antony and Octavius formed the Triumvirate with Lepidus, and the following summer they launched the campaign that led to Philippi. 

Except for collapsing two battles into one, Shakespeare's account of Brutus' defeat and death at Philippi is accurately retold from Plutarch, although other' sources indicate that Cassius did not oppose the decision to march to Philippi; the conspirators' forces were supported by the local population, while Antony and Octavius were short of supplies.  One other mild distortion of Brutus’ nature follows from Shakespeare’s compression of events: in the twenty days between battles, Brutus most fully revealed his serious incompetence as a general, for he had only to wait for time and hunger to defeat his enemies and he could not do it.


Cassius (Caius Cassius Longinus) (d. 42 B.C.) Historical figure and character in Julius Caesar, one of the assassins of Caesar and, with Brutus, a leader of the forces opposing Mark Antony in the subsequent civil war. Cassius presents two quite different aspects in the course of the play. He first appears as a cynical, unscrupulous conspirator whose scheming stresses the evil side of political ambition. However, he later proves to be a courageous fighter, a sensible general, and a friend to Brutus. Cassius can thus be seen as a foil for Brutus and his two sides, first as a noble conspirator and then as an increasingly imperious leader; further, Cassius' two faces reinforce the play's insistence that the qualities that make up a political leader result from the continuous interaction of good and evil.  

Prior to Caesar's murder, Cassius is bitterly envious of his power, and his diatribes against his leader in 1.2 and 1.3 are hysterically petty. Although it is typical of Brutus that he does not recognize Cassius for what he is, Caesar analyses him with great perceptiveness in his famous remarks on his enemy's 'lean and hungry look. . . . Such men as he be never at heart's ease / Whiles they behold a greater than themselves, / And therefore are they very dangerous' (1.2.191, 205-207). 

Cassius knows that Brutus' sense of honor makes him susceptible to manipulation, and his soliloquy at the close of 1.2 reveals his intention to seduce Brutus into leading the conspiracy against Caesar. This speech presents Cassius as a Machiavel, the typical political villain of Elizabethan Drama. It also pointedly contrasts Cassius' cynical scheming with Brutus' honorable motives (though these are seriously questioned elsewhere), and it thus establishes two possible points of view towards the assassination of Caesar.  Cassius has an unstable personality. He rages over trifles like Caesar's poor swimming and susceptibility to illness (1.2.99-130). During the assassination, he loses his nerve and Brutus has to reassure him that Popilius does not know of their plot. In 5.1.71-89 he wavers in the face of unfavorable omens before Phillipi. His weakness has great consequences, for it causes him to give in to Brutus' insistence that Antony should be spared and then permitted to speak at Caesar's funeral. Later, he similarly accedes to Brutus' strategy at Philippi with equally catastrophic results. Cassius' death at Philippi, when he too hastily believes a report of defeat, reflects this character flaw; a stronger man would have resisted longer. 

However, in Acts 4 and 5 Cassius is generally a finer figure than he is before the assassination. He is an experienced and sensible general, although he permits himself to be overruled, and he attracts the loyalty and admiration of his officers. He displays a touching affection for Brutus, especially when he learns of his friend's grief over the death of Portia, and he generously forgives Brutus his fatal errors. When they exchange farewells before the battle, in 5.1.116-122, their mutual affection rings true, reflecting Shakespeare's constant inclination to believe that people are not wholly bad.

The historical Cassius was noted in his own day for his violent temper and sarcastic speech, as is reflected in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, and other ancient documents. Before the time of the play, Cassius had fought against Caesar in an earlier civil war, and Caesar had forgiven him. He apparently originated the plot against Caesar; his motives are unclear, though Shakespeare followed Plutarch's contention that his private dislike for Caesar stimulated his public hatred of tyranny. Shakespeare's account of Cassius' death at Philippi is also accurately retold from Plutarch. However, other sources indicate that Brutus and Cassius did not disagree on the decision to march to Philippi; their forces were supported by the local population, while Antony and Octavius were short of supplies. The loss of Cassius was decisive. Shakespeare compressed two battles of Philippi, which actually occurred 20 days apart, into one; it is thought that Cassius, a more experienced general than Brutus, would not have fought the second one, in which the forces of Caesar's assassins were finally defeated.


Publius Servius Casca (d. 42 B.C.) is one of the assassins of Caesar. In 1.2 Casca officiously orders the festival crowds to be silent in Caesar's presence, but later he speaks contemptuously to Brutus and Cassius about Caesar's rejection of the crown and his fit of epilepsy. In addition, he pokes fun at the pedantry of Cicero and his companions, who had remarked on Caesar in Greek; Casca delivers one of Shakespeare's most-quoted lines, It was Greek to me' (1.2.281), implying that he scorned to know a foreign language.  Brutus calls him a 'blunt fellow' (1.2.292), but Cassius defends him as a bold man, useful in any difficult enterprise. Casca, who is vain, holds the same opinion, saying, 'I will set this foot of mine as far as who goes furthest' (1.3.119-120). However, earlier in the same scene he has shown himself to be cowardly, trembling at reports of dire omens, in telling contrast to Cicero's coolness. Casca is also a hypocrite; in 2.1, as the conspirators hatch their plot, he swiftly reverses his opinion of Cicero in response to Brutus' ('Let us not leave him out' [2.1.143]; 'Indeed he is not fit' [2.1.153]). In 3.1 Casca is the first of the conspirators to stab the defenseless Caesar, although he disappears from the play thereafter. (It has been speculated that Shakespeare discontinued the role at this point in order to free an actor to take the part of Octavius, who appears somewhat later.) 

Little is known about the historical Casca, aside from his participation in Caesar's murder. Shakespeare's source, Plutarch, states that he was the first to stab Caesar and that Caesar called him 'vile' or 'vicious' (in different accounts of the assassination), and these two brief mentions are the basis of Shakespeare's fairly elaborate portrait. The playwright omitted two other episodes concerning Casca—that he almost revealed the conspiracy inadvertently and that he was responsible for the brutal killing of prisoners at Phillipi—but these inglorious moments doubtless contributed to the playwright's vision of Casca's unpleasant personality. Plutarch does not record Casca's suicide after the battle of Philippi, an honorable end by Roman standards and an episode that might have altered Shakespeare's characterization.


Gaius Trebonius (d. 43 B.C.) is one of the plotters against Caesar. In 3.1 Trebonius plays an important, if silent, role in the assassination, drawing MarkAntony away from the scene at the critical moment. The historical Trebonius was a Roman aristocrat who had been an ally of Caesar in his earlier conflicts and had served as a general in Caesar's conquest of Gaul. Turning against him, he performed the part in the assassination that is enacted in the play. He died in the ensuing civil war.


Ligarius, Caius (Quintus) (d. 44 B.C.) is one of the assassins of Caesar. In 2.1 Ligarius (designated Caius in the First Folio text and some modern editions), although ill, accepts the invitation of Brutus to engage in an honorable exploit, saying, 'By all the Gods that Romans bow before, I here discard my sickness' (2.1.320-321). Though Brutus does not specify the nature of the deed, he refers to the planned assassination of Caesar, and Ligarius is among the conspirators who accompany Caesar to the Senate in 2.2, although he does not appear in the murder scene (3.1). Ligarius represents the stoical Roman virtues in disregarding poor health to follow duty; more important, his immediate, unquestioning acceptance of Brutus' leadership also demonstrates the authority that Brutus holds among the conspirators. 

In 2.1.215-216 Ligarius is said to 'bear Caesar hard, who rated him for speaking well of Pompey'. In fact, the historical Ligarius had fought long and hard for Pompey the Great (106-48 B.C.) against Caesar in an earlier civil war and had been pardoned. In Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, he is said to have joined the conspirators out of hatred for Caesar's tyranny. He died shortly after the assassination, probably of natural causes. His name was actually Quintus; the error was Plutarch's.

DECIUS BRUTUS Decius Brutus is one of the assassins of Caesar.  Decius persuades Caesar to proceed with his fateful plans after Calphurnia has convinced him to stay at home. Caesar thus goes to the Senate and is assassinated. The historical figure was named Decius Brutus, not Decius; the error originated with Jacques Amyot, who translated Plutarch into French. His work was retranslated into English by Sir Thomas North, who transmitted the incorrect name to Shakespeare. Decius Brutus (a cousin of Marcus Brutus) had distinguished himself as a commander under Caesar in Gaul. Although awarded high office under Caesar, he joined the conspiracy against his leader and played the part enacted in the play. He was killed in the ensuing civil war.

Metellus Cimber (L. TiUius Cimber) (d. c. 44 B.C.)  is one of the assassins of Caesar. In 3.1, as part of the assassination plot, Metellus requests that Caesar pardon his brother, who has been banished; since Caesar has refused this plea once, the conspirators are confident that he will do so again, and this refusal is to be the signal—and ostensible stimulus—for their attack. Metellus has no distinctive personality; he simply performs his role and then stabs Caesar along with the others. The historical figure was actually named Lucius Metulius Cimber; the error comes from Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, where Cimber is given two different names, both of them wrong. Cimber had been an associate of Caesar's but abandoned him and joined Brutus' conspiracy. He probably died in combat at Philippi; he fought with Brutus' forces, but no further record of him has survived.


Cinna (2), Lucius Cornelius the Younger (active 44 B.C.) is one of the assassins of Caesar. In 1.3 Cassius assigns Cinna to distribute anonymous letters encouraging Brutus to join the conspiracy against Caesar. When Caesar is stabbed, Cinna cries, 'Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!' (3.1.78). The historical Cinna—whose father (d. 84 B.C.) had been a famous radical leader under whom Caesar had served in the earlier Roman civil wars—had been appointed to high office under Caesar. Shakespeare's source, Plutarch, mentioned Cinna as one of the conspirators and reported that, after the assassination, he made a speech against Caesar that infuriated the crowd. It is not historically certain, however, that Cinna was actually one of Caesar's murderers; he may merely have been among those who supported the assassins after the fact. In either case, he was identified with the killing in contemporary minds; as is enacted in 3.3, a pro-Caesar mob encountered Helvetius Cinna and, believing him to be L. Cornelius Cinna, beat him to death.


Flavius (L. Caesetius Flavus) (active 44 B.C.) is a tribune of ROME and an ally of Brutus. In 1.1 Flavius, with his fellow tribune, Marullus, disperses a crowd (see Commoner that has assembled to cheer Caesar upon his triumph over Pompey in a civil war. The tribunes criticize the Commoners for their disloyalty to Pompey, whom they had earlier supported. After the crowd has dispersed, Flavius and Marullus decide to strip the city's statues, which are decorated in Caesar's honor, because they fear the triumphant general will become a tyrant. In 1.2.282- 283 Casca reports that Flavius and Marullus have been 'put to silence' for this deed. The episode establishes a widespread mistrust of Caesar. Flavius also appears briefly in 5.4 as a member of the army of Brutus at the battle of Phillippi. hakespeare followed an error of his source, Plutarch Lives—transmitted through the translations of Amyot and North—in misspelling the name of the historical tribune, Flavus. Little is known of Flavus beyond the incident enacted: he and Marullus were dismissed from their positions by Caesar. Flavus' appearance at Philippi is Shakespeare's invention.


C. Epidius Marullus (active 44 B.C.) is a tribune of Rome and an ally of Brutus. In 1.1 Marullus and his fellow tribune, Flavius, disperse a crowd that has assembled to greet the triumphant Caesar. The tribunes criticize their disloyalty to Pompey, whom they had supported earlier and whom Caesar has defeated in civil war.  After the crowd has gone, Flavius and Marullus destroy the public decorations that have been put up in Caesar's honor because they fear the triumphant general will become a tyrant. In 1.2.282-283 Casca reports that Flavius and Marullus have been 'put to silence' for this deed. The episode establishes a widespread mistrust of Caesar from the outset of the play. 

Little is known of the historical Marullus, but Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, reports that Caesar dismissed the two tribunes from their positions because they had made the gesture dramatized in the play. However, in Plutarch's account this occurred months after Caesar's triumph. Shakespeare compressed these events for dramatic purposes. In the First Folio, where the play was first published, Marullus is identified throughout as 'Murellus', and some modern editions preserve this spelling, though others follow the historically correct rendering of the name.


Artemidorus (active 44 B.C.) is an ally of Caesar In 2.3 Artemidorus writes a memorandum detailing the plot against Caesar's life, of which he has learned. However, in 3.1 he is unable to prevail upon the busy general to read it, and moments later Caesar is murdered. According to Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, Artemidorus, a professor of rhetoric, knew of the plot through his acquaintance with some of the conspirators, but the playwright ignored this information and simply used the futile warning as an illustration of Caesar's over-confidence.


The Soothsayer bids Julius Caesar, 'Beware the ides of March' (1.2.18, 23). Later, when the overconfident Caesar remarks that the ides of March have arrived without bringing harm, the Soothsayer replies ominously, 'Ay, Caesar, but not gone' (3.1.2). Seventy-five lines later Caesar is killed. In Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, the Soothsayer is reported to have delivered his warning long before; the playwright compressed this account in order to achieve greater dramatic impact. The Soothsayer was probably not a real person; predictions such as his were commonly devised after the fact in ancient accounts of great events.


Gaius Helvetius Cinna (Helvius) (d. 44 B.C.) is a victim of a mob of Plebeians. In 3.3 Cinna, a poet, is mistaken for Cinna, one of the assassins of Caesar, and he is killed by the ferocious Roman mob incited by Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar.  The historical Cinna—called Helvetius Cinna for his birth in what is now Switzerland—was a noted poet of his day. His epic poem Zmyma was famous for generations as a difficult 'modernist' masterpiece, but it is now lost. Not mentioned in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, is Cinna's political role; he was Caesar's ally, and he became a tribune when Caesar deposed Flavius and Marullus. His murder by the pro-Caesar mob was therefore all the more ironic, but the playwright did not know this.


Poet is a wandering bard who accosts Brutus and Cassius and advises them against discord. He is plainly a fool, and in any event he arrives (in 4.3.122) after the two generals have reconciled. While Cassius tolerates the Poet, Brutus arrogantly dismisses him, demonstrating in a small way the deterioration in his character that is a major theme of the play. Also, the brief episode provides a moment of needed comic relief between the dispute between the two leaders' and the revelation of the death of Portia.

Shakespeare took this episode from Plutarch’s Lives, where the figure was not a poet but a self-declared philosopher, a seemingly lunatic imitator of the wandering ascetics known as Cynics. (Cynicism, founded by Hellenistic philosophers in the 4th century B.C., held that independence and self-control con-stituted the only human good, and they preached a 'natural' life-style, ostentatiously rejecting wealth, prestige, and even the comforts of ordinary life.) Cassius calls the Poet a 'cynic' in 4.3.132. In Plutarch, the would-be Cynic quotes a line from the Iliad of Homer, which, after being transmuted through Amyot and North, appears comically in 4.3.130-131, where Shakespeare—perhaps mistakenly—attributes it to the speaker himself, who is therefore called a poet.


Lucilius (1) (active 42 B.C.) is an officer in the army of Brutus. Brutus confides in Lucilius, clearly a trusted subordinate, at Sardis in 4.2 and 4.3 and at Phillipi in Act 5. In 5.4, as Brutus' army is overrun by the soldiers of Mark Antony, Lucilius pretends to be Brutus—daring his opponents to kill him and be acclaimed—in an effort to divert attention from his commander. He is taken prisoner, and Antony, who realizes his captive s not Brutus, praises Lucilius' bravery and orders that he be treated kindly.

Lucilius' diversionary tactic was admired in ancient and medieval literature (and, presumably, in warfare) and was popular on the Elizabethan stage. Shakespeare had used it in 1 Henry IV, where Sir Walter Blunt is killed while impersonating King Henry IV. The playwright took Lucilius' exploit from Plutarch’s Lives, where the officer is reported to have been a friend of Brutus and to have remained loyal to Antony after Philippi.


Titinius (d. 42 B.C.) is a friend of Cassius. In 5.3, during the battle of Phillipi, Cassius sends Titinius to determine the status of a group of approaching horsemen, and Pindarus’ mistaken report of Titinius' capture shocks Cassius. Grieving that he has sent his 'best friend' (5.3.35) to be captured, and believing that he himself is liable to be taken, Cassius kills himself. Titinius returns to find his friend and commander dead, and he kills himself also. Shakespeare took this illustration of stoic Roman military virtue from Plutarch’s Lives, where Titinius is said to be one of Cassius' closest friends.


Marcus Valerius Messala(64 B.C.-S A.D.) is a general under Brutus and Cassius. In 4.3 Messala brings Brutus news of the death of Portia and witnesses Brutus' feigned stoicism, to which he responds with admiration, saying 'Even so great men great losses should endure' (4.3.192). Messala appears frequently at the battle of Philippi in Act 5, but his only important moment comes when he discovers the corpse of Cassius in 5.3. In 5.5 he has been captured by Octavius and Antony.  

The historical Messala, better known as Messala Corvinus Valerius, was offered the command of Brutus' army as it crumbled at Philippi, but he joined Octavius and Antony instead. Ten years later he fought for Octavius against Antony at Actium (though he does not appear in Antony and Cleopatra, where that battle is enacted). Under Augustus Caesar, as Octavius became known, Messala held various offices, was a patron of a group of pastoral poets, and wrote books on history and literature; his work—famous in its day—was a source for Shakespeare's source, Plutarch, though none of it has survived.

Young CATO

Cato was a soldier in the army of Brutus. In 5.4.4, at the battle of Philippi, Cato's bold battle cry declares that his father was Marcus Cato, a famous opponent of Caesar. He is killed shortly afterwards. Shakespeare took this gallant but fatal exploit—a motif popular with Elizabethan audiences—from Plutarch’s Lives. Cato's sister was Brutus' wife, Portia.


Volumnius (active 42 B.C.) is a soldier in the army of Brutus. In 5.5 Volumnius—like Clitius and Dardanius—shrinks from helping the defeated Brutus to commit suicide, saying 'That's not an office for a friend, my lord' (5.5.29). The episode illustrates the fondness with which Brutus is regarded by his subordinates, thereby contributing to the aura of sentiment surrounding his death. Little is known of the historical Volumnius, though Shakespeare's source, Plutarch, asserts that he had been a schoolmate of Brutus.


Varro (Varrus) is a soldier in the army of Brutus. In 4.3 Varro and Claudius are ordered to sleep in the same tent with Brutus to be available as messengers They sleep through the visitation of the Ghost of Caesar and Brutus wakes them to confirm that they have seen nothing.  In the first edition of Julius Caesar, that in the First Folio, Varro's name is rendered as Varrus, and some modern editors follow the Folio in this respect. Others, however, use Varro, which is correct in Latin and appears in Shakespeare's source, North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives.


Clitus (active 42 B.C.) is a soldier in the army of Brutus. In 5.5 Clitus—like Dardanius and Volumnius—refuses to help Brutus to commit suicide after the battle of Philippi, saying 'I'll rather kill myself (5.5.7). The episode shows the fondness with which Brutus' subordinates regard him, fostering an aura of sentiment around his death. Little is known of the historical Clitus, whose role Shakespeare took from Plutarch’s Lives.


Claudius is a soldier in the army of Brutus. Claudius and Varro, serving as messengers, sleep through the appearance of the Ghost of Caesar in Brutus' tent and are awakened by Brutus to confirm that they have seen nothing.  In the first edition of Julius Caesar, that in the Folio (1623), Claudius' name is rendered as Claudio, and some modern editors follow this practice. Others, however, use Claudius, which is correct in Latin and appears in Shakespeare's source, North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives.


Strato (active 42 B.C.) is a soldier in the army of Brutus. At the battle of Philippi, Strato helps Brutus to commit suicide. When Octavius' troops arrive, Strato defiantly proclaims that they are too late to capture his master. The victorious Octavius, admiring his spirit and Brutus', takes Strato into hi service.  Strato represents an ideal of Roman martial virtue, confirming the sense of grim rectitude that surrounds the defeat and death of the conspirators who killed Caesar. Little is known of the historical Strato, whose role Shakespeare took from Plutarch’s Lives.


Lucius is a young servant of Brutus. In 2.1 Lucius falls asleep while the conspirators plot the death of Caesar, and Brutus expresses envy of the boy's carefree state. In 2.4 Lucius appears as an innocent foil to the near-hysterical worry of Portia. In 4.3, at Brutus' camp near Sardis, Lucius plays a lute at his master's command, and Brutus shows consideration and affection for the boy in a scene that shows the zealous conspirator in an unusually soft light.  The episodes in which Lucius appears have a distinctive emotional tone. His role offers an important touch of domestic tenderness and loyalty in a work that is dominated by the darker themes of murderous politics and civil war.

DARDANIUS Dardanius (Dardanus) (active 42 B.C.) is a soldier in the army of Brutus. At Phillipi, Dardanius, along with Clitus and Volumnius, refuses to help Brutus to commit suicide, saying, 'Shall I do such a deed?' (5.5.8). The episode demonstrates that Brutus was regarded with affection by his subordinates, adding sentiment to the presentation of his death. Shakespeare misspelled the name of the historical figure, Dardanus. Little is known of this individual, whose role Shakespeare took from Plutarch’s Lives.

Pindarus (active 42 B.C.) is a captured Parthian slave be ongoing to Cassius. In 5.3, at Phillipi, Pindarus helps Cassius to commit suicide. Pindarus mistakenly reports the capture of Tintinius, and Cassius, in despair, decides that, rather than be captured himself he will die. He gives Pindarus his freedom in exchange for holding the sword upon which he falls. Pindarus now free, 'yet would not so have been' (5.3.47), elects to run far away and disappears from the play. Shakespeare took the episode, which fittingly ends the career of the emotional Cassius, from Plutarch’s Lives, where Pindarus is reported to have beheaded Cassius before disappearing and to have been suspected by some of having murdered his master.


Calphurnia (Calpurnia) (active 59-44 B.C.) is the wife of Caesar. In 2.2 Calphurnia, alarmed by accounts of dire omens, begs Caesar not to attend the Senate session on the Ides of March. She asserts that his 'wisdom is consum'd in confidence' (2.2.49) and prevails on him to stay home. However, her work is immediately undone by Decius, and Caesar goes to his death. The episode demonstrates Calphurnia's devotion to her mighty husband and casts a softer light on him than we would otherwise have. Further, it reminds us that his assassination was a domestic tragedy as well as a political event, thus humanising the play's account of murderous intrigue and civil war. 

Caesar married the historical Calpurnia—as her name was spelled in Latin—in 59 B.C. to cement a political alliance with her father. Although Caesar was blatantly unfaithful and came close to divorcing her a few years later in order to make another political marriage, Calpurnia was thought by contemporaries to have been a genuinely devoted wife; the tale of her entreaty, as reported in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, is probably true. After the assassination, Calpurrna assisted Mark Antony’s campaign against the conspirators by turning over to him Caesar's papers and a large amount of cash. Little else is known of her life. 

The spelling Calphurnia, though less familiar than Calpurnia and incorrect in Latin, is increasingly used by modern editors, restoring the style of the First Folio (1623), which is also followed by most of Shakespeare's contemporaries in other writings about Caesar. (In Shakespeare's source, North’s English translation of Plutarch, both forms are used.) In the 18th century, editors of Shakespeare chose to revert to the Latin form, establishing a different tradition.


Portia is the wife of Brutus. In 2.1, observing her husband's great emotional distress, Portia insists on sharing his trouble. He has in fact been agonizing over the assassination of Caesar, and he is reluctant to reveal this grave plan. She insists that her stature as the wife of a great Roman and the daughter of another warrants her inclusion in matters of importance. She shows Brutus a wound in her thigh that she has given herself to demonstrate that she has the Roman virtue of self-control. He is impressed, saying, '0 ye gods, render me worthy of this noble wife!' (2.1.302-303), and he agrees to take her into his confidence, but then they are interrupted. 

Although we do not see him tell her of the conspiracy against Caesar, he evidently has done so by the time she reappears in 2.4, where she is almost hysterical with concern. In both scenes Portia's concern for her husband's welfare is strong, giving the audience another positive viewpoint of Brutus, and her distress also raises the emotional pitch of the play as the first great climax, Caesar's murder, approaches. 

In 4.3 we learn that Portia, in Rome as her husband campaigns against Caesar's successors, Antony and Octavius, has committed suicide, convinced that he cannot survive against the tremendous power that she knows has been sent against him. Portia is intended to exemplify the Roman virtues of courage and self-sacrifice. Her virtues were legendary by Shakespeare's time; he also used the name for the splendid heroine of The Merchant of Venice, Portia. There, her suitor alludes to her namesake, asserting that his love is 'nothing undervalu'd to Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia'. (Merchant, 1.1.165-166). 

The historical Portia was the daughter of Marcus Porcius Cato (95-46 B.C.), a tribune famous for his honesty and dedication; the Cato of the play is Portia's brother. Their father had opposed Caesar in an earlier civil war, committing suicide rather than be captured, only two years before the time of the play. Her own suicide was regarded as similarly honorable. In the play she is said to have 'swallow'd fire' (4.3.155). This reference follows Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s life of Brutus, where Portia is said to have put hot coals in her mouth and kept her mouth closed until she choked to death. This seems improbable, and scholars have speculated that this report may reflect her actual death by carbon monoxide poisoning, produced by a smoky charcoal fire in a closed room.

Senators Any members of the Roman Senate that gather to hear Caesar's address before his assassination.

Plebeians are the citizens of Rome who react to the assassination of Caesar. In 3.2 the Plebeians are addressed at Caesar's funeral, first by Brutus and then by Antony, and they respond enthusiastically to the orations of each. First, when Brutus explains the rationale behind the assassination (3.2.13-48), the crowd excitedly approves his assertions. Ironically, however, the Plebeians shout, 'Let him be Caesar' (3.2.52), and speak of crowning Brutus, who has just killed Caesar in order to prevent a crowning and preserve the Republic. Conversely, they can now say of Caesar, whom earlier they had hailed, 'This Caesar was a tyrant' (3.2.71). Moreover, their change in attitude merely foreshadows another one.  

Antony's famous oration (3.2.75-254) plays on the emotions of the Plebeians, whereas Brutus had appealed to their reason, and Antony's impact is much greater. Before he is halfway through, the Plebeians are calling Brutus and the conspirators '. . . traitors ... villains, murderers!' (3.2.155-158), and they go on to raise a confused cry of' Revenge Burn!—Fire!—Kill!—Slay!' (3.2.206-207). Finally, the Plebeians run amok, hurrying to burn the houses of the conspirators, and Antony exults, 'Mischief, thou art afoot' (3.2.262).  Almost immediately he receives news that Brutus and Cassius have had to flee the city. 

In 3.3 the mob encounters Cinna, and simply because he has the same name as one of the assassins—Cinna—they beat him to death. In this brief and grimly humorous scene, the Plebeians are almost incoherent, asking questions of their victim without listening to his answers and finally, realizing that he is not their proper prey, declaring, 'It is no matter, his name's Cinna; pluck but his name out of his heart' (3.3.33-34). Having demonstrated their irrational' power, they disappear from the play. The civil war that Antony had hoped to foment (in 3.1.254-275) has begun with their riot. 

The term 'plebeian' was an ancient designation for the ordinary citizens of the Roman Republic, as distinguished from the patricians, or aristocrats. Its use suggests the intense political context of the play at this point, in contrast to the use of Commoner in 1.1. Shakespeare valued individual humans regardless of' social standing—as is evidenced by many of his characters, including, in this play, the Cobbler—but he distrusted the common people as a class. Two of the most important political points he made in Julius Caesarr are that the masses are unreliable and that their ascendancy is a key symptom of social disorder. The Plebeians of the play, in their fickleness, brutality, and manipulability, demonstrate the dangers of a political world that includes them. In this respect they resemble the rebels led by Jack Cade in 2 Henry VI and the rabble of Coriolanus.


Messenger is a soldier in the army of Octavius and Antony. In 5.1 the Messenger announces the approach of the army of Brutus and Cassius just before the battle of Philippi.


Ghost is the spirit of the assassinated Caesar. In 4.3, as Brutus rests in his tent near Sardis, the Ghost appears to him, identifies itself as Brutus' 'evil spirit', and warns, 'thou shalt see me at Philippi' (4.3.281, 285)—that is, at the subsequent battle of Philippi. In 5.5, defeated and preparing for suicide, Brutus recounts that the Ghost of Caesar has appeared to him a second time and concludes, 'I know my hour is come' (5.5.20). Shakespeare's presentation of the Ghost closely follows the account in Plutarch’s Lives


Servant are messengers for Caesar. In 2.2.5-6 Caesar sends the Servant to request an augury—a forecast of the future through the ritual examination of an animal's entrails—from the priests. He returns to report a disastrous outcome in 2.2.37-40: an animal was sacrificed and discovered to have had no heart. The episode reinforces the sense of mounting tension as Caesar's death approaches. However, Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, states that Caesar performed the augury himself; rather than attempt a spectacle—probably impractical to stage—that would distract the audience by providing a false climax before the assassination scene, the playwright moved the event offstage and added this character to convey its essence. 

Also, a servant is a messenger employed by Mark Antony. The Servant delivers a speech in his master's name to Caesar's assassins, offering them an alliance. In an eloquent passage (3.1. 125-134) that anticipates Antony's funeral oration, the Servant establishes a sense of Antony's cunning and strong personal style before he makes an important appearance himself.

Finally a messenger for Octavius. In 3.1 the Servant tells Mark Antony of Octavius' approach to Rome. Arriving just after the assassination of Caesar, his shock reminds us of the enormity of the deed. The Servant reappears in 3.2, after Antony's oration at Caesar's funeral, to report that Octavius has arrived. His brief appearances indicate the onset of Rome's future, in the person of the emperor-to-be, and remind us of the inexorability of the events that unfold in the wake of Caesar's murder.


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All's Well the Ends Well Antony & Cleopatra As You Like It Cardenio Comedy of Errors Coriolanus
Cymbeline Edward III Hamlet Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 Henry VIII Julius Caesar King John
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The Merry Wives of Windsor A Mid Summer Night's Dream  Much Ado About Nothing Othello Pericles Richard II
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