Julius Caesar Study Guide

Julius Caesar By William Shakespeare

Marcus Brutus, Julius Caesar's close friend and fellow Roman Praetor, allows himself to be cajoled into joining a conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. The entire plot is the work of Caius Cassius, who has planted the suspicion in the Senate that Caesar plans to turn the Roman Republic into a monarchy - with Caesar as the king.

Cassius and the other conspirators are moved by ambition and envy, but Brutus' motives are more subtle. While not immune to flattery and jealousy, Brutus also keeps the good of Rome in the front of his mind as he acts.

At first, Brutus argues with Cassius, but Cassius cleverly fakes a series of letters from citizens warning Brutus of Caesar's nonexistent plot. A soothsayer warns Caesar to "beware the Ides of March", but Caesar ignores her.

Caesar's assassination happens on exactly that day (March 15th), as despite his own wife's premonitions to avoid the Senate on that day and the soothsayer earlier, he goes to the Senate. The conspirators arrange for a seemingly-unrelated person to stab Caesar first, but then they all step up and take a turn stabbing him, Brutus last. At seeing the face of his friend, Caesar asks "Et tu, Brute?" -- "Even you, Brutus?", and indicates that he would rather die than survive such betrayal.

Mark Antony then steps forward as the conspirators are celebrating, and delivers a passionate and subtle speech that turns the emotions of the crowd against the betrayers - the much-quoted "Friends; Romans; Countrymen -- lend me your ears..." speech. With this speech, he rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome.

Later, Brutus attacks Cassius for taking bribes regarding Caesar's death, indicating that he did it not for justice, but for personal gain. The two reconcile, and they prepare to go to war with Mark Antony, and Octavius, Caesar's adopted son. Caesar's ghost warns Brutus of his defeat, and the two are, in fact, defeated. Mark Antony then delivers another amazing speech commending Brutus as the only one of the conspirators who acted for the good of Rome.

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