The Works of William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar

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About Julius Caesar

The action begins in February 44 BC.

Julius Caesar has just re-entered Rome in triumph after a victory in Spain over the sons of his old enemy, Pompey the Great.

A spontaneous celebration has interrupted and been broken up by Flavius and Marullus two political enemies of Caesar.

It soon becomes apparent from their words that powerful and secret forces are working against Caesar.

Caesar appears, attended by a train of friends and supporters and is warned by a soothsayer to "beware the ides of March," but he ignores the warning and leaves for the games and races marking the celebration of the feast of Lupercal.

In the next scène, it is revealed that the conspiracy Cassius spoke in the veiled terms is already a reality.

He has gathered together a group of disgruntled and discredited aristocrats who are only too willing to assassinate Caesar.

Partly to gain the support of the respectable element of Roman society, Cassius persuades Brutus to head the conspiracy, and Brutus agrees to do so.

Shortly afterwards, plans are made at a secret meeting at Brutus' orchard.

The date is set : It will be on the day known as the ideas of march, the fifteenth day of the month.

Caesar is to be murdered in the Senate chambers by the concealed daggers and swords of the assembled conspirators.

Caesar's wife Calphurnia, terrified by horrible nightmares persuades Caesar not to go to the Capitol, convinced that her dreams are portents of disaster.

By prearrangement, Brutus and the other conspirators arrive to accompany Caesar, hoping to fend off any possible warnings until they have him totally in their power at the Senate.

Unaware that he is surrounded by assassins and shrugging off Calphurnia's exhortations, Caesar goes with them.

Despite the conspirators' best efforts, a warning is pressed into Caesar's hand on the very steps of the Capitol, but he refuses to read it.

Wasting no further time, the conspirators move into action.

Purposely asking Caesar for a favour they know he will refuse, they move closer , as if begging a favour, and then , reaching for their hidden weapons, they kill him before the shocked eyes of the senators and spectators.

Hearing of Caesar's murder, Mark Anthony, Caesar's closest friend, begs permission to speak at Caesar's funeral.

Brutus grants this permission over the objections of Cassius and delivers his own speech first, confident that his words will convince the populace of the necessity for Caesar's death.

After Brutus leaves, Antony begins to speak, the crowd has been swayed by Brutus' words, and it is an unsympathetic crowd that Antony addresses.

Using every oratorical device known, however, Antony turns the audience into a howling mob, screaming for the blood of Caesar's murderers.

Alarmed by the furore caused by Antony's speech, the conspirators and their supporters are forced to flee from Rome and finally, from Italy.

Months pass, during which the conspirators and their armies are pursued relentlessly into the far reaches of Asia Minor.

When finally they decided to stop at the town of Sardis, Cassius and Brutus quarrel bitterly over finances.

Their differences are resolved, however, and plans are made to meet the forces of Antony, Octavius and Lepidus in one final battle.

Against his own better judgement, Cassius allows Brutus to overrule him : Instead of holding to their well- prepared defensive positions, Brutus is visited by the ghost of Caesar.

" I shall see thee at Philippi," the spirit warns him, but Brutus' courage is unshaken and he goes on.

The battle rages hotly.

At first the conspirators appear to have the advantage, but in the confusion, Cassius is mistakenly convinced that all is lost, and he kills himself.

Leaderless, his forces are quickly defeated, and Brutus finds himself fighting a hopeless battle.

Unable to face the prospect of humilation and shame as a captive (who would be chained to the wheels of Antony's chariot and dragged through the streets of Rome), he too takes his own life.

As the play ends, Antony delivers a eulogy over Brutus' body, calling him "the noblest Roman of them all.

"Caesar's murder has been avenged, order has been restored, and, most important, the Roman Empire has been preserved.

 

Commentary: thanks to an anonymous source

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