JULIUS CAESAR is the story of a man's personal dilemma
over moral action, set against a backdrop of strained
political drama. Julius Caesar, an able general and a
conqueror returns to Rome amidst immense popularity after
defeating the sons of Pompey.
The people celebrate his victorious return and Mark Antony
offers him the Crown which he refuses. Jealous of Caesar's
growing power and afraid he may one day become a
dictator, Cassius instigates a conspiracy to murder Caesar.
He realises that to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the
Romans, he must win over the noble Brutus to his side for
Brutus is the most trusted and respected in Rome.
Brutus, the idealist, joins the conspiracy feeling that
everyone is driven by motives as honourable as his own.
Ironically, Caesar is murdered at the foot of Pompey's
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is
an English playwright and poet,
recognized in much of the world as
the greatest of all dramatists.
editions of his plays have been
published, including translations in
all major languages. Scholars have
written thousands of books and
articles about his
plots, characters, themes, and
language. He is the most widely
quoted author in history, and his
plays have probably been performed
more times than those of any other
1) Julius Caesar – The greatest and the
most powerful of the Romans. He is
assassinated by Brutus, Cassius and a
band of who feel Caesar is too
ambitious and wishes to be crowned as
Character sketch of Caesar
2) Calpurnia – Caesar’s wife.
3) Mark Antony – Caesar’s
4) Marcus Brutus – Caesar’s great friend who
joins the conspiracy to murder Caesar
because of his love for Rome and
5) Cassius – Inspirer and organizer
of the conspiracy.
6) Decius Brutus – Co-conspirator
in Caesar’s assassination.
SUMMARY OF THE PLAY
Julius Caesar is a highly successful but ambitious political
leader of Rome and his goal is to become an unassailable
dictator. Caesar is warned that he must "beware the Ides of
March" . The prophecy comes true and Caesar is
assassinated. Marcus Brutus is a well respected Roman
senator who helps plan and carry out Caesar's assassination
which he believes will rid Rome of a tyrant. Caesar's friend
Mark Antony provides the famous funeral oration
("Friends, Romans, and countrymen…") Brutus and Cassius
meet their inevitable defeat. Brutus, the noble
Roman, whose decision to take part in the conspiracy for the
sake of freedom, plunges his country into civil war.
Major Themes :-
The major theme of Julius Caesar is that misused power is a corruptive force.
This is seen in the fact that Caesar is a dictator suspected of being
tyrannous, that Cassius is so power hungry that he assassinates Caesar, hoping
to become more powerful himself, and that Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus
become a dictatorial and tyrannical Triumvirate, worse than Caesar ever hinted
Minor Themes : goodness of loyalty, honor, and friendship;
the evil of pride, conspiracy, and anarchy;
the logic of political order;
and the viability of republicanism as a form of government.
QUESTIONS FROM THE TEXT
1) Why are the tribunes Flavius and Marullus so upset at the opening of the
Ans - The tribunes are angry that the working class citizens of Rome gather to
celebrate Caesar’s victory, while forgetting Pompey, the Roman hero (and a
part of the First Triumvirate that ruled Rome) who was killed in battle
alongside Caesar. Their hostility toward Caesar serves to introduce the deep
political divide that will become the central issue of the play.
2) What holiday are the Roman masses celebrating at the time of Caesar's
Ans - Caesar's triumph coincides with the feast of Lupercal, which was
celebrated on February 15th. The festivities were in honour of Lupercus, the
god of nature (Pan in Greek mythology).
3) Describe Caesar's encounter with the soothsayer.
Ans - As Caesar passes through the crowd the soothsayer cries out to him,
warning him to "beware the ides of March." Caesar dismisses the soothsayer
as a dreamer and continues on. Caesar’s encounter with the soothsayer
foreshadows his assassination in the senate in 3.1. Note that in the ancient
Roman calendar the "ides" was the fifteenth day of March, May, July, and
October, and the thirteenth day of the other months. Gaius Julius Caesar was
assassinated on March 15, 44 BC.
4) How does Portia prove she is worthy to hear the plans of her husband, Brutus?
Ans - Portia cuts herself in the thigh and suffers the pain of both the wound and the
infection it causes in silence. Her show of bravery and self-control convinces Brutus
she is "stronger than her sex" and he agrees to confide in her, only to be interrupted
before he has a chance.
5) What is the significance of Caesar's dying words, "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!"?
Ans - The conspirators gather around Caesar and he sees his trusted friend Brutus
among them. Stunned that Brutus is among his assassins, Caesar cries out, "and you
too, Brutus?" This famous line is important because it sets Brutus apart from the other
conspirators. There is no doubt that Brutus's self-serving and ambitious accomplices
have committed an indefensible act, but with Caesar's final utterance we recognize
that the self-sacrificing and noble Brutus has perpetrated the same heinous crime –
his motivation is rendered immaterial. For this moment, Brutus the idealist becomes
Brutus the murderer.
6) How does Cassius die?
Ans - Cassius knows that he too will soon be captured by Antony and Octavius, and
will certainly be dragged through the streets of Rome in chains. He orders Pindarus to
hold his sword while he impales his chest on the blade.
7) Cassius asks Brutus what he plans to do if they should lose the battle. What is
Ans - Brutus says that, since he finds the act of suicide cowardly and vile, he will have
little choice but to be patient and yield to whatever fate dictates . He adds that he will
never return to Rome as a prisoner. That Brutus nevertheless dies by his own hand at
the end of the play adds to his tragedy.
8) After an ominous dream, Calpurnia begs Caesar to stay away from the senate
and, at first, he agrees. What changes his mind?
Ans - Decius, a conspirator whose role it is to guarantee Caesar is in the Capitol that
day, favourably interprets Calpurnia's dream and then chides Caesar for yielding to his
wife's whims. Decius adds that the senate is planning again to offer Caesar a
crown, and Caesar gives in to vanity. He leaves Calpurnia and accompanies Decius to
9) Explain the significance of Antony's final speech, beginning with the line, "This
was the noblest Roman of them all".
Ans - Antony's speech serves to restore Brutus to the position of tragic hero. Antony
can see in Brutus the morality he does not himself possess - the capability to act
selflessly for the common good. Brutus's pride and political naivety have led to his
destruction, but his ideals are etched into the memory of his enemies.