Scene by Scene Synopsis
Scene: Ancient Rome and surrounding countryside.
Act I, Scene 1: Two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, disperse a crowd that is celebrating the return of Julius Caesar to Rome, though not before a Cobbler makes some flippant jokes. The tribunes rebuke the Commoners for disloyalty in welcoming the conqueror of another Roman, Pompey, whom they had also celebrated in the streets. The two officers remove the decorations that have been placed on public statues.
Act I, Scene 2: At the feast of Lupercalia, Caesar arranges for Mark Antony, who is to participate in a fertility rite, to ritually touch Calphurnia, Caesar's wife. A Soothsyaer warns Caesar to beware the ides (the 15th day) of March; Caesar ignores him and leads his entourage to the festival. Cassius and Brutus remain behind and speak of Caesar's ambition to rule alone, a violation of the Roman political tradition that all aristocrats share power equally. Cassius says that Rome looks to Brutus for leadership in this crisis, and they hear cheering from the festival, which, they fear, means that Caesar is being acclaimed king by the Commoners. Cassius observes resentfully that he does not wish to be ruled by a man no better than himself, as another cheer erupts. Cassius continues to speak against Caesar's rule and refers to an ancient revolt against a king that Brutus' ancestor had led. Brutus hints that he has contemplated a similar action. Caesar's group returns; Caesar confides to Antony that he distrusts Cassius and then exits. Brutus and Cassius detain Casca and hear an account of the festival from him. Caesar was offered the crown three times, Casca reports, and he refused it each time, though only with regret. Casca and Brutus leave, and Cassius soliloquizes that Brutus, though a very important figure, is easy to manipulate, and he plans to further influence him with letters purporting to be from angry citizens who seek action against Caesar.
Act I, Scene 3: Amid thunder and lightning, Casca meets Cicero and tells of omens that have accompanied the storm, foretelling extraordinary events. Cicero dismisses this superstitiousness and departs. Cassius appears and recruits Casca for a plot against Caesar, naming a meeting place for later that night. Another conspirator, Cinna, arrives, and Cassius directs him to leave messages, which he provides, in places where Brutus will receive them.
Act II, Scene 1: Brutus, having been awake all night, decides at dawn that Caesar's ambition makes it necessary to kill him. He receives one of Cassius' anonymous letters urging him to protect Rome, and he resolves to lead the conspirators in assassinating Caesar. Cassius and other plotters arrive, and they lay their plans. Brutus insists that Antony not be killed, arguing that they must not seem bloodthirsty and that Antony will be helpless without Caesar. Decius volunteers to ensure that Caesar will attend the day's Senate session, where the assassination is to take place. The conspirators depart. Brutus, seeing his sleeping servant, Lucius, muses on his own sleepless life. His wife, Portia, appears and asks why he is disturbed. He promises to tell her later, as a last conspirator, Ligarius, arrives, and she leaves. Ligarius agrees to follow Brutus in any exploit, and they leave together for the Senate.
Act II, Scene 2: Calphurnia tells Caesar of the many appalling omens that have been seen and insists that he stay home rather than go to the Senate. He refuses, insisting that one must face death if it comes, but then he decides to humor Calphurnia and stay at home, pleading illness However, Decius arrives and claims that the omens are favorable and that the Senate proposes to offer Caesar a crown. Caesar changes his mind again.
Act II, Scene 3: Artemidorus reads aloud a message naming the conspirators and warning Caesar against them. He vows I to present it to Caesar at the Senate.
Act II, Scene 4: Portia worries hysterically about Brutus. The Soothsayer appears, saying that he hopes to warn Caesar of impending harm, and he goes on to the Senate. Portia sends Lucius on a pointless errand to Brutus, with orders to return and tell her how he seems.
Act III, Scene 1: At the Senate, Caesar encounters the Soothsayer, who warns that the ides of March is not yet over. Artemidorus attempts to deliver his message, but Caesar rejects him and proceeds with Senate business. One conspirator draws Antony away from the meeting, while another presents Caesar with a petition that he has already rejected. Caesar's continued refusal is the signal: the conspirators stab him. Caesar, dismayed that his friend Brutus should be among the attackers, dies. The assassins, led by Brutus, ritually bathe their hands in Caesar's blood, declaring their devotion to political liberty. A message arrives from Antony: he is prepared to ally himself with the conspirators if they can provide a rationale for their deed. Though Cassius has reservations, Brutus approves. Antony arrives and volunteers to die with Caesar if the conspirators wish to kill him, but Brutus insists on their alliance, and he grants Antony's request to speak at Caesar's funeral. The conspirators depart, and Antony soliloquizes about his intention to avenge Caesar's death by launching a civil war. News comes of Octavius' approach to Rome.
Act III, Scene 2: Brutus addresses the Plebeians, assuring them that the assassination was necessary in order to preserve the Republic. They applaud him, proposing that he be crowned himself. Antony arrives with Caesar's body, and Brutus tells the crowd to listen to Antony's funeral oration. Brutus leaves, and Antony addresses the Plebeians, praising Caesar while seeming to acknowledge the honor of the assassins. Gradually, Antony generates a mood of hostility towards the conspirators while denying his intention to do so. Introducing Caesar's will, which designates a generous bequest to be distributed among the people, he sparks a riotous response to the assassination. The Plebeians rage into the streets, intending to burn the houses of Brutus and the others. Antony exults. Learning of Octavius' presence in Rome, he goes to join him; as he leaves he hears that Brutus and Cassius have fled the city.
Act III, Scene 3: A mob of Plebeians encounters the poet Cinna and kills him, mistaking him for the conspirator with the same name.
Act IV, Scene 1: Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus decide who must be executed to protect their new power in Rome. Antony sends Lepidus on an errand, and then belittles him as an insignificant man who is not fit to rule but who will be useful for a while. Antony and Octavius begin to plan a campaign against Brutus and Cassius, who have raised an army.
Act IV, Scene 2: At Brutus' camp, Lucilius returns from a visit to Cassius' troops and reports that Cassius has not displayed the warmth of earlier meetings. Brutus interprets this as a sign of waning friendship between Cassius and himself. Cassius arrives and immediately asserts that Brutus has wronged him; Brutus suggests that they enter his tent to talk privately.
Act IV, Scene 3: Cassius charges that Brutus has ignored his arguments and punished an officer for taking bribes. He insists that they cannot be overstrict in a time of crisis, and Brutus remarks that Cassius himself is reputed to be corrupt and accuses him of withholding funds. The infuriated Cassius, declaring that he never expected such insults from his comrade, offers his dagger and suggests that Brutus kill him. Brutus gently mocks Cassius' excess but apologizes for being overheated himself, and the two shake hands in reconciliation. A Poet arrives and chastises the two generals for their disharmony. Cassius is amused, but Brutus dismisses him abruptly. Brutus then tells Cassius that he has been short-tempered in part because he has just learned of Portia's suicide due to her fear of the immense army that Octavius and Antony are sending against her husband. Messala arrives with news from Rome Octavius and Antony have executed many political enemies and are on the march. He also reports Portia's death. Brutus hides his prior knowledge and pretends to receive the news stoically, arousing Messala's admiration. Brutus then proposes marching on Phillipi, where their enemies have camped. Cassius argues that they should stay where they are and let Antony and Octavius use up their energy marching, but Brutus insists that his plan is superior and Cassius gives in. Brutus then retires for the night, and the others leave. The Ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus, announces that they shall meet again at Philippi, and disappears.
Act V, Scene 1: Octavius and Antony reflect on their good fortune that Brutus and Cassius have taken disadvantageous positions. Octavius insists on commanding the more important right wing, despite Antony's seniority. Brutus, Cassius, and their army appear, and the opposing commanders parley. They quickly begin to exchange insults, and Octavius and Antony leave. Cassius confides to Messala that he is uneasy about the forthcoming battle. Brutus and Cassius tell each other that they will commit suicide rather than be captured.
Act V, Scene 2: Brutus orders an attack on Octavius' forces, which he can see weakening.
Act V, Scene 3: Titinius and Cassius, hard-pressed by the enemy, see that Brutus has launched his attack too soon and left them at a disadvantage. Pindarus arrives with news that troops are approaching their headquarters; Cassius sends Titinius to investigate and tells Pindarus to watch from a nearby hill. Pindarus reports that Titinius is captured, and'Cassius, believing that his own capture is imminent, impales himself on his sword, assisted by Pindarus. Pindarus flees, as Titinius returns safely with Messala to announce that Brutus has defeated Octavius. They find Cassius' body and realise what has happened. Messala leaves to tell Brutus, who appears and mourns his comrade. He announces that they shall launch another attack before nightfall.
Act V, Scene 4: Brutus is forced to retreat. Lucilius pretends to be Brutus and is captured. Antony arrives, realises that the captive is not Brutus, and praises Lucilius for courageously diverting attention from his commander.
Act V, Scene 5: Brutus, defeated, asks several companions to help him commit suicide, but they refuse. As enemy troops approach, he prevails upon STRATO to help him, and he dies on his sword. Antony and Octavius appear, triumphant, and find Brutus' body. They praise him and order his honourable burial.
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