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Free Study Guide-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare-Free Booknotes
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ACT IV, SCENE 3

Summary

The moment Cassius enters Brutus' tent, the two begin to air their grievances. Cassius bluntly accuses Brutus of having wronged him by accusing Lucius Pella of taking bribes, despite the fact that Cassius had pleaded on his behalf. Brutus replies that Cassius has wronged them both by defending corruption. Brutus then angrily reminds Cassius that they killed Caesar for the sake of justice and not for supporting robbers. He declares that he would rather be a dog than sacrifice his honor for money. Cassius loses his temper and warns Brutus not to test his patience. The quarrel between the two gets heated as they hurl insults at each other. Brutus then reminds Cassius that he has denied his requests for gold for his troops. Cassius reproaches Brutus for magnifying his infirmities instead of tolerating them. The argument intensifies and rages on until both men eventually realize they have both said too many mean things and made too many accusations. Both Cassius and Brutus try to reconcile.

Brutus instructs the commanders of the armies to pitch camp for the night. Soon Titinius returns with Messala, and they discuss the military situation. Brutus tells them that Octavius and Antony have joined forces and are rapidly advancing with their armies towards Philippi. Messala confirms this news and adds that the triumvirs have sentenced hundreds of Senators to death. Messala gingerly reports that Portia, Brutus' wife, has killed herself. Brutus maintains control over his emotions, saying nothing about her suicide. He immediately returns to the business at hand and suggests that they march towards Philippi to meet the forces of Antony and Octavius. Cassius objects, thinking they should rest and wait for the triumvirs to come to them. Brutus insists, however, and once again wins out. Since it is late at night, Cassius and the rest leave to go to bed.


Brutus cannot sleep. Suddenly the ghost of Caesar appears in the tent and tells Brutus they will meet again at Philippi. The ghost then vanishes. Brutus wakes his soldiers, demanding to know whom among them cried out in his sleep. They all deny having seen or heard anything.

Notes

Although the last two acts of the play never regain the suspense and momentum of the first half of the play, Shakespeare develops several elements of suspense in this scene. The quarrel between Brutus and Cassius is dramatically effective; it is a marvelous psychological study of a clash of temperaments and a well-spoken dialogue between two strong and verbal characters. The scene also portrays the further degeneration of Brutus. When he is told of Portia's death, he gives no response, but simply turns to the business at hand. He still, however, retains his moral stance and fears that their conspiracy has become more corrupt than the corruption they sought to destroy in Caesar. His moral righteousness clearly and understandably irritates Cassius. Brutus, however, continues his chastisement of Cassius and reminds him that they killed Caesar for the sake of justice, not so that they could become "robbers." Finally, the suspense of the scene is heightened by the appearance to Brutus of Caesar's ghost, who warns that the two of them will meet at Philippi, foreshadowing the impending doom that is to come. The ghost also tells Brutus that he has misconstrued everything. By killing Caesar, the conspirators have set in motion an evil force more dreadful than the man they feared would become a dictator.

The military strategy discussed is crucial, especially since it once again points to the poor judgment of Brutus. Cassius wants to wait until Antony and his troops arrive in their camp to attack them; Brutus, however, insists the conspirators move to Philippi to meet their opponents. Cassius finally relents. It is a tragic mistake

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