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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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Caesar has had a restless night, too. His wife Calpurnia tries to keep him home-she senses evil in the airand at first he relents. But the conspirators arrive and persuade him to go to the Senate as planned. What would happen to his reputation if his public thought the mighty Caesar was swayed by a superstitious wife!

Calpurnia's fears turn out to be more than superstitions, for the day is March 15, the ides of March. Caesar ignores two more warnings and, after delivering a speech full of extravagant self-praise, he is stabbed by the conspirators and dies.

Antony, learning of the murder of his dearest friend, begs the conspirators to let him speak at the funeral. Believing that right is on his side, Brutus agrees, over the objections of his more realistic friends. Left alone, Antony vows to revenge the death of Caesar, even if it means plunging his country into civil war. In the meantime, Caesar's adopted son and heir, Octavius, has arrived on the outskirts of Rome, and Antony advises him to wait there till he can gauge the mood of the country.

Brutus' funeral oration is a measured, well-reasoned speech, appealing to the better instincts of the people and to their abstract sense of duty to the state. For a moment he wins them over. But then Antony inflames the crowds with an appeal to their emotions. Showing them Caesar's bloody clothes turns them into an angry mob, hungry for revenge. Blind with hate, they roam the streets and tear apart the innocent poet Cinna.

Antony and Octavius now join forces with Lepidus to pursue and destroy the conspirators, who have fled from Rome. Anyone who might endanger their cause is coldly put to death. Brutus and Cassius await this new triumverate at their camp near Sardis in Asia Minor. Should Cassius let an officer take bribes? Brutus, standing on his principles, says no, and vents his anger on his friend. At the root of his anger, however, is his unspoken sorrow at the death of his beloved wife Portia. Apparently unable to deal with such an unsettling situation, she went mad and took her life by swallowing hot coals. Sadness over her death brings Brutus and Cassius back together again, closer perhaps than before.



At night Brutus is visited by the ghost of Caesar, who vows to meet him again on the battlefield at Philippi in Greece. The next day the two armies-the army of Brutus and Cassius, and the army of Antony and Octavius-stand in readiness at Philippi while the four generals battle each other with words. In the first encounter, Brutus' troops defeat Octavius', and Antony's troops overcome Cassius'. Cassius, retreating to a nearby hill, sends his trusted friend Titinius to find out whether approaching troops are friends or foes. Is Titinius captured? It appears so; and Cassius, believing he has sent his good friend to his death and that the battle is lost, takes his life.

If only Cassius hadn't acted so rashly he might have saved his life, for the reports turn out to be false and Titinius still lives. Brutus, not the enemy, arrives, and mourns the death of his friend.

The tide now turns against Brutus. Sensing defeat, and unwilling to endure the dishonor of capture, he runs on his sword and dies. Like Caesar and Cassius, he thinks in his final moments not of power or personal glory, but of friendship.

Antony delivers a eulogy over Brutus' body, calling him "the noblest Roman of them all." Octavius agrees to take all of Brutus' men into his service, a gesture of reconciliation that bodes well for the future.

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Barron's Booknotes-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
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