Julius Caesar Characters guide studies each character's
role and motivation in this play.
Julius Caesar: The victorious
leader of Rome, it is the fear that he may become
King and revoke the privileges of men like Cassius that
leads to his death at the hands of Cassius, Brutus and
their fellow conspirators.
The threat that Caesar was moving away from the
ideals of the Roman republic towards an Empire ruled
directly by himself is the chief reason so many senators,
aristocrats and even Caesar's friend Brutus, conspired
to kill him.
Introduced early in the play as a great (and arguably
arrogant) leader who fears nothing, Caesar is warned
by Artemidorus, The Soothsayer and wife (Calphurnia)
alike not to go to the Senate on the "ides of March"
the very day he is assassinated.
Caesar later returns in the play as a ghost which
haunts Brutus in Act V. Easily flattered by Decius Brutus
(not to be confused with Brutus), Caesar appears
to us as a man almost guided not so much by his own
will but what he believes are the expectations his people
have of "Caesar." This is why he is reluctant to
show fear, Caesar, as he frequently refers to himself
in the third person, fears nothing and can show no sign
of weakness or indeed mortality...
Note: The "ides of March" is the fifteenth of March
(See Act II, Scene I, Line 58).
Octavius Caesar: The adopted son of Caesar,
Octavius by history, ultimately became ruler of the
Roman Empire following his defeat of Mark Antony in
Egypt (See Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra).
In this play, Octavius with Mark Antony and Lepidus
(The Second Triumvirate), destroy the forces of Brutus
and Cassius on the Plains of Philippi, which results
in the death of both these conspirators (Act V).
Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony): One of the Triumvirs
(leaders) who rule Rome following Caesar's assassination.
Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) is famous in this play
for his speech, which turns the Romans against Brutus
following his group's assassination of Caesar.
Famous for the immortal lines "Friends, Romans, countrymen,
lend me your ears;" (Act III, Scene II, Line 79), Mark
Antony with fellow Triumvirs, Octavius and Lepidus later
defeat Brutus and Cassius on the Plains of Philippi
in Act V.
M. Aemilius Lepidus: The last of the Triumvirs,
this old man holds little real power and is used in
Mark Antony's own words as a loyal, trusted man "Meet
[fit] to be sent on errands:" (Act IV, Scene I, Line
Cicero: A well-known orator (public speaker)
and Senator, Cicero is killed by the Triumvirs (Mark
Antony, Octavius and Lepidus) following Caesar's
Publius: A Senator who travels with Caesar
to the Senate House the day Caesar is killed, he
witnesses Caesar's assassination. Though deeply
"confounded" or confused and shaken by the assassination
of Caesar (Act III, Scene I, Line 86), he is used
by Brutus to tell the citizens of Rome that Caesar
aside, no one else will be hurt (Act III, Scene I, Lines
Popilius Lena: The Senator who terrifies Cassius
by telling Cassius that he hopes his "enterprise [assassination
attempt] today may thrive" or be successful just as
Caesar goes into the Senate house on the "ides of March"
(Act III, Scene I, Line 13).
Marcus Brutus: The most complex character in
this play, Brutus is one of the men who assassinate
Caesar in the Senate. Brutus is complex, because
he does not kill Caesar for greed, envy nor to
preserve his social position like so many of the other
conspirators against Caesar. This Brutus makes
very clear in his speech in Act III, Scene II (Lines
12-76), when he explains his actions as being for the
good of Rome.
Unlike the other conspirators, Brutus is in fact a
dear friend of Caesar's but kills his beloved friend
not for who he is, but what he could become as a King.
It is for this reason that when Brutus dies by suicide
in Act V, Mark Antony describes his bitter enemy by
saying "This [Brutus] was the noblest Roman of them
all;" (Act V, Scene V, Line 68). Mark Antony recognizes
with these words that Brutus acted from a sense of civic
duty, not malice, nor greed nor envy.
In academic circles, Brutus is still a source of much
heated debate; does assassinating a leader for the good
of the people constitute bravery worthy of a tragic
hero or can the end never justify the means? The controversy
on whether Brutus is tragic hero or villain still rages...
Ironically, though it can be argued that Brutus assassinated
his friend to prevent one man ruling the Roman Empire,
history was later to make this a reality. Octavius,
one of the Triumvirs who defeated Brutus and Cassius,
was later to become a Roman Emperor ruling the entire
Roman Empire alone following his victory over Cleopatra
and Mark Antony.
Cassius: One of the original conspirators against
Caesar. Like the other conspirators he fears what
life under King Caesar's rule could mean for him
and the privileges he has.
Unlike the other conspirators however, Cassius plays
a leading role in Caesar's assassination. It is
he who gathers those against Caesar around him
and it is Cassius who carefully manipulates Brutus to
their cause by appealing to Brutus' sense of civic duty
which believes that Caesar as a King would be bad for
the people of Rome and by Cassius' clever use of forged
The great thinker of the conspiracy, his advice is
continually overruled by Brutus with tragic results
for the conspirators.
First, his advice to kill Mark Antony as well as Caesar
is ignored leading to Mark Antony becoming their greatest
Later at Caesar's funeral, Cassius' advice that
Mark Antony should not speak at the funeral is also
ignored leading to Antony turning the masses against
the previously popular conspirators.
Finally in Act V, Brutus ignores Cassius' advise to
stay on high ground, leading to a battle in the plains
of Philippi, a battle favored by Mark Antony and Octavius,
their enemies. Like Brutus, he dies by suicide in Act
V, when fearing Brutus dead, he commits suicide.
Casca: One of the conspirators against Caesar,
he starts the actual assassination of Caesar by
stabbing first from behind.
Terminus: The only conspirator who does not
actually stab Caesar, he is the man responsible
for saving Mark Antony's life following Caesar's
assassination. He leads Mark Antony away from the Senate
house following the assassination and he backs up Brutus'
suggestion that Mark Antony's life be spared.
Ligarius: The reluctantly assassin, Caius Ligarius
at first hesitates in killing Caesar, but later
enthusiastically follows the others in killing Caesar
after Brutus restores his conviction.
Decius Brutus: A man who lures Caesar to
his death by his deep understanding of Caesar's
Not to be confused with Marcus Brutus, who is referred
to in Julius Caesar simply as as Brutus. It is
Decius Brutus who convinces Caesar to turn up to
the Senate on the "ides of March" after Caesar
announces that he is unwilling to attend the day's Senate
because of his wife Calphurnia's dream foretelling doom.
Decius Brutus turns Calphurnia's dream into a reason
to attend the Senate by cleverly reinterpreting its
negative imagery to instead symbolize Caesar's
Metellus Cimber: A conspirator against Caesar,
it is his petition or request to Caesar for his
brother's banishment to be overturned, that allows the
conspirators to move close to Caesar, before they
assassinate him with multiple stab wounds...
Cinna: A conspirator against Caesar, who
plays a key role in enlisting Brutus to their cause.
It is Cinna who suggests to Cassius that Brutus join
their conspiracy. Also assists Cassius' manipulation
of Brutus by placing Cassius' letters responsible for
manipulating Brutus where Brutus is sure to find and
read them... Indirectly responsible for Cinna, the poet's
death; since it is he the mob originally wished to kill...
Flavius and Marullus: Two Tribunes introduced
to us at the beginning of the play. Their conversation
reveals the deep mistrust and fear many in Rome have
about Caesar's growing popularity, which eventually
leads to Caesar's assassination. These two men
criticize Rome's citizens for praising Caesar
almost without reason and are later put to death or
"put to silence" for "pulling scarfs off Caesar's
images," (Act I, Scene II, Line 291) during the Feast
of Lupercal in Act I, Scene I (Note: Flavius the Tribune
is not the same person as Flavius, a soldier whom appears
in Act IV).
Artemidorus: The man who nearly saves Caesar,
he presents Caesar with a letter warning warning
Caesar that he will be killed (Act II, Scene III).
Caesar however does not read the letter and so
proceeds to his doom...
Cinna, the Poet: A humble poet, this man dies
because he has the wrong name at the wrong time. After
Mark Antony incites (angers) the people of Rome against
Caesar's assassins, Cinna who shares the same name
as one of the assassins, is killed despite his explaining
his identity as a poet. The mob, eager for blood, kill
him regardless and use the excuse that they never liked
his poems much anyway (Act III, Scene III, Lines 1-43).
Lucilius, Titinius, Messala, Young Cato and Volumnius:
Friends to Brutus and Cassius.
Varro, Clitus, Claudius, Strato, Lucius and Dardanius:
Servants to Brutus.
Pindarus: A servant to Cassius, he is also
the messenger bearing the wrong news... In Act V,
Pindarus misreports to Cassius that Titinius, a scout
sent to Brutus' forces was captured by the Triumvir's
forces when he was actually welcomed by Brutus' army.
On Pindarus' information, Cassius assumes that Brutus
has been defeated and so thinking all is lost, decides
to kill himself, using Pindarus to hold a sword out
which he runs onto, the very sword, Cassius used against
Calphurnia: The wife of Caesar, she begs
her husband not to go to the Senate on "the ides
of March" (March 15) when she cries out "'Help,
ho! They murder Caesar!'" three times in her sleep,
the day before Caesar's death. This and strange
occurrences such as a lioness whelping in the streets
of Rome,"Fierce fiery warriors" fighting in the clouds
(Act II, Scene II, Lines 12-24) and graves yawning and
yielding up their dead, convince Calphurnia that her
husband Julius Caesar, must stay home on the "ides
of March" (the fifteenth of March). Unfortunately just
as Calphurnia convinces Caesar to stay home and
avoid the death that awaits him, Decius Brutus (not
to be confused with Brutus), arrives at Caesar's
home convincing him that these images mean that Rome
will be revived by Caesar's presence at the Senate
the following day. Caesar ignores his wife's
pleas and meets his bloody destiny at the hands of Brutus
and company the very next day.
Portia: The wife of Marcus Brutus, she tries
to learn from Brutus the assassination conspiracy he
is hiding from her. She is later assumed to have committed
suicide at the end of the play when her death is reported
as being under strange circumstances...
Senators, Citizens, Guards, Attendants and others...