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Julius Caesar Commentary - Act V.

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Act V. Scene I. - The Plains of Philippi.

Brutus: "Words before blows: is it so, countrymen?"

On the Plains of Philippi, Mark Antony's and Octavius' forces face Brutus' and Cassius' forces. A barrage of insults, accusations and general name-calling flies between the two sides, before Mark Antony's and Octavius' army leaves...

Standing on the Plains of Philippi, we find Octavius' and Mark Antony's army waiting for the army of Brutus and Cassius. Octavius is pleased. Brutus' and Cassius' forces have meet them on the Plains of Philippi rather than staying on the high ground of the nearby hills and "upper regions;" as was feared (Lines 1-10).

A Messenger now arrives, informing Octavius and Antony that yes, the forces of Brutus and Cassius are close at hand, (Lines 12-15) adding that "something to [must] be done immediately" meaning they should fight (Line 15).

The Messenger is certain of this because "The enemy comes on in gallant show;" (the enemy arrives, and making quite a show of it) and "Their bloody sign of battle is hung out," (they have displayed their war flag, a clear sign they intend to fight.), (Lines 12-20).

Antony now takes charge of his forces, telling Octavius that he should lead his forces from the left side of the "even field" (Line 16). Octavius refuses, insisting on the right.

This dispute over, Antony and Octavius decide to square off against Brutus and Cassius before beginning battle. Brutus is surprised by this asking, "Words before blows: is it so, countrymen?" (Line 27).

A barrage of insults now fly between the two forces. Octavius begins, answering "Not that we love words better, as you [Brutus and Cassius] do" (Line 28), suggesting that Octavius sees Brutus as a man who prefers words to deeds since they are easier to produce.

Brutus replies saying, "Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius" (Line 29).

Antony replies that "In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words:" suggesting that Brutus says nice things whilst he does dishonorable deeds (like stabbing Caesar). Just to make this point absolutely clear, Antony adds "Witness the hole you made in Caesar's heart, / Crying 'Long live! hail Caesar!'" (Line 31).

Cassius replies that Octavius' words hardly bother him (Lines 32-38).

Antony now attacks Brutus and Cassius, calling them "Villains!" and adding that Brutus and company did not act wisely when they "Hack'd one another in the sides of Caesar:" showing their teeth like "apes," "fawn'd like hounds," and "bow'd like bondmen, kissing Caesar's feet;" whilst the evil Casca, struck Caesar in the neck from behind (Lines 39-44). Antony ends this barrage by calling them "flatterers!" (Line 44).

With Octavius calling Brutus and company hypocrites (for saying nice things whilst killing) and Antony calling Brutus and company two-faced cowards (for killing a great man by stabbing him in the back), Brutus and Cassius decide to return fire.

Cassius replies "Flatterers! Now, Brutus, thank yourself: / This tongue had not offended so today, / If Cassius might have rul'd" (Line 45).

By this Cassius means to remind Brutus that if he had ruled, making the decisions for the conspiracy, Antony's tongue could not have offended them since he would have been killed alongside Caesar.

Octavius suggests they now fight saying, "I draw a sword against conspirators;" (Line 51) by which he means Brutus and Cassius, adding that he should not raise his sword again (stop fighting) until either Caesar's "three-and-thirty wounds" are well avenged or he is dead (Lines 53-55).

Brutus argues that Octavius whom he calls Caesar (he was the adopted son of Caesar), could not die at the hands of traitors unless he brought them with him. In Brutus's eyes he is no traitor (Line 56).

Cassius calls Octavius "A peevish schoolboy, worthless of such honour," (Line 61) adding that he is joined by "a masquer and a reveller" (Mark Antony, a person who likes revelries and going to masked balls), (Line 61).

Antony insults Cassius calling him "Old Cassius still!" (Line 62).

Octavius challenges Brutus and Cassius to either fight now or "when you have stomachs [the guts]" and Octavius and Antony leave with their army (Line 66).

Cassius and Brutus now talk for the rest of the scene, contemplating their position (Lines 72-125).

Act V. Scene II. - The Same. The Field of Battle.

Brutus sends orders via messenger Messala to Cassius' forces on the other side of the battlefield...

With the battle between Mark Antony and Octavius and Cassius and Brutus beginning on the plains of Philippi, Brutus instructs Messala, a messenger to give bills (orders) to Cassius' forces (the legions on the other side).

Brutus comments that he thinks Octavius' forces are low on morale, saying they are in "cold demeanour" (Line 4) which he sees as an opportunity to destroy them with a "sudden push" (Line 5) or attack.

Act V. Scene III. - Another Part of the Field.

Cassius' forces are losing ground to Mark Antony's forces. Brutus has defeated Octavius' forces but instead of reinforcing Cassius' forces, have instead sought out spoils or bounty from the field.

Needing information, Cassius sends Titinius to a nearby hill to report if it is friendly or not. Cassius instructs Pindarus to go atop a hill to report Titinius' progress to him. Pindarus sees Titinius pulled off his horse and fears Titinius has been captured. This would mean Brutus' forces have been beaten so Cassius kills himself on Pindarus' sword.

Titinius now returns and it is realized that Titinius was not captured but was greeted by Brutus' victorious forces when he was pulled off his horse. Brutus learns of Cassius' death. Titinius, mourning Cassius, kills commits suicide.

With the battle now raging, Cassius remarks to Titinius that his troops appear to be retreating saying "This ensign here of mine was turning back;" adding that he slew (killed) the coward for doing so (Lines 1-4).

Titinius explains to us what has happened. Brutus seeing he had an advantage over Octavius' forces, gave the word to let his troops search for spoils (take anything of value) from the retreating forces of Octavius. Unfortunately because Brutus' forces were busy searching for these spoils, they were unable to reinforce Cassius' forces which have now been "enclos'd" (Line 8) or surrounded by Antony's forces. (Lines 4-8).

Needing information on what is really going on, Cassius makes a fateful decision. He sends Titinius to mount his horse and head towards some soldiers in the distance to tell Cassius whether they are friendly or not (Lines 12-18).

Cassius then tells Pindarus to climb a nearby hill and tell Cassius what he sees of Titinius whilst he is making his trip (Line 20).

From atop the hill, Pindarus now reports on Titinius' movements. Pindarus sees bad news. He tells Cassius that Titinius was surrounded by troops and that they seen to be trying to pull him off his horse. Then having heard shouts of joy, Pindarus tells Cassius that he fears his friend has been captured by the enemy (Lines 28-35).

Cassius now instructs Pindarus to kill him (Lines 36-46) which he does, whilst Cassius exclaims "Caesar, thou art reveng'd, / Even with the sword that kill'd thee [you]" before dying (Line 45).

Titinius however, now arrives back from his scouting mission. This should be impossible, but it is revealed that Octavius' forces have been overthrown (defeated) by Brutus just as Cassius' forces have been overthrown (defeated) by Antony's forces (Line 52).

Titinius hopes this news will cheer up Cassius but soon Titinius learns of Cassius' fate. Mourning his comrade, Titinius is told to find Pindarus whilst Messala heads off to tell Brutus what has happened. Instead Titinius, still mourning Cassius, kills himself by falling on Cassius' sword (Lines 52-89).

Messala now returns with Brutus, Young Cato, Strato, Volumnius and Lucilius.

Messala shows Brutus Cassius' body, Brutus noting that he died with his head facing upwards (Line 92). Brutus asks now on seeing the bodies of Titinius and Cassius "Are yet two Romans living such as these?" (Are there any Romans today living as worthy as these two?), (Line 98), bidding them good-bye with the lines "The last of all the Romans, fare thee well! It is impossible that ever Rome / Should breed thy fellow" (Line 99).

Brutus now ends the scene, speaking proudly of his fallen comrade (Cassius) and pledging to renew his fighting against Antony's and Octavius' forces:

"We shall try fortune in a second fight" Brutus decides (Line 109).

Act V. Scene IV. - Another Part of the Field.

Brutus inspires his men to keep fighting. Lucilius who is mistaken for Brutus is captured. Eventually Mark Antony realizes this. The battle rages on and Antony issues orders for Brutus to be captured, dead or alive...

Amidst the fighting of soldiers at Philippi, Brutus, Young Cato and Lucilius, make their entrance. Brutus inspires his men to keep fighting, telling them, "Yet countrymen, O! yet hold up your heads!" (Line 1).

Young Cato is inspired, proclaiming himself son of Marcus Cato (Lines 2-6). Brutus now leaves and very shortly after, Cato is overpowered and falls.

Antony's forces now arrive and Lucilius who is mistaken for Brutus is taken prisoner. Lucilius explains his real identity to Antony defiantly telling him, "Brutus is safe enough: / I dare assure thee [you] that no enemy / Shall ever take alive the noble Brutus:" (Line 21).

Antony realizes Lucilius is not Brutus but proclaims him "A prize, no less in worth" telling his men to keep him safe (Line 27). He explains that they should show Lucilius kindness, wisely adding that, "I had rather have / Such men my friends than enemies" (Line 28).

Antony now instructs his men to find Brutus, dead or alive and to tell him of their progress in Octavius' tent where he shall be waiting (Lines 28-30).

Act V. Scene V. - Another Part of the Field.

Mark Antony: "This was the noblest Roman of them all...."

Tired, weary, but still alive, Brutus finds a place to catch his breath with his few remaining followers. One by one Brutus asks first Clitus, Dardanius and Volumnius to kill him but each refuses. Finally Brutus gets his wish by falling on his sword, killing himself. Octavius, Mark Antony, Messala and Lucilius now arrive. Strato explains how Brutus died. Mark Antony pays tribute to Brutus' noble spirit by famously saying, "This was the noblest Roman of them all...." Octavius tells his soldiers to stand down, the battle is now over...

Brutus enters our view, followed by Dardanius, Clitus, Strato and Volumnius. The scene is one of weariness from fighting. The end is near...

Brutus in particular is tired and tells his friends "Come, poor remains of friends, rest on this rock" (Line 1). Brutus' followers are concerned about the dangers of resting, Clitus reminding Brutus that Statilius " show'd the torch-light;" but did not return...

Brutus tells his friends and Clitus in particular to take a rest and sit down. Whispering, Brutus tells Clitus, "slaying is the word; / It is a deed in fashion" by which Brutus means he wants Clitus to kill him (Line 4).

Clitus refuses, saying "No, not for all the world" (Line 5) would he kill Brutus and that "I'll rather [I would rather] kill myself" than kill Brutus (Line 7).

Next, Brutus tries asking Dardanius to kill him instead. Dardanius like Clitus will not kill his leader (Lines 8-12).

Noticing that Brutus now meditates, Clitus makes his admiration for his leader very clear, saying: "Now is that noble vessel full of grief, / That it runs over even at his eyes" (Line 13).

Brutus tells Volumnius that "The ghost of Caesar hath [has] appear'd [appeared] to me / Two several times [twice] by night; at Sardis [a location] once, / And this last night here in Philippi fields [and last night, here at Philippi fields]" (Lines 16-18).

Famously, Brutus tells Volumnius that because of this, "I know my hour is come" (I know my time is up, soon I will die...), (Line 19).

Volumnius tells his friend he is wrong but Brutus is certain of his fate. Brutus explains to Volumnius that they have lost; "Our enemies have beat [beaten] us to the pit [metaphor for defeat]:" adding that "It is more worthy to leap in ourselves, / Than tarry [fight] till they push us" (Lines 23-24).

Reminding Volumnius that they both went to school together, Brutus asks his friend to "Hold thou [hold you] my sword-hilts [my sword out], whilst I run on it" (whilst I run onto it, killing myself), (Line 28).

Volumnius refuses, saying "That's not an office [duty, position] for a friend, my lord" (Line 29).

Alarms sound the approach of Brutus' enemies, Clitus telling Brutus to flee at once.

Instead Brutus bids Volumnius farewell, as well as Strato who he mentions has been asleep during most of the action in this scene. He also regrets that Octavius and Mark Antony will rule instead of him but notes that he will have more glory in his defeat than those two men will enjoy from "this vile conquest [victory]" of theirs (Line 38).

Brutus again reminds us that his days are numbered before alarms interrupt him (Line 40).

These alarms sound and to the shouts of "'Fly, fly, fly!'" (Run!), Brutus flees as does Clitus, Dardanius and Volumnius who exit from our view.

Alone now with Strato, Brutus asks again for help in ending his life. Brutus asks his friend to hold out his sword while he runs on to it, telling Strato to "turn away thy [your] face," (Lines 44-48).

Strato tells Brutus to first give him his hand one last time, and wishes his master well.

Brutus tells Strato, "Farewell, good Strato-" and runs onto to Strato's sword, stabbing himself fatally (Line 50).

Mortally wounded, Brutus ends his life, saying "Caesar, now be still [rest in peace]; / I kill'd [killed] not thee [not you] with half so good a will" (Line 51) a line suggesting Brutus did not kill Caesar with half the certainty or intent that he took his own life with, reminding us that Brutus was the reluctant assassin.

Alarms now sound general retreat, a sign that the battle is won, Octavius' and Mark Antony's forces no longer need to keep advancing...

Octavius, Antony, Messala, Lucilius and their army now enter. Messala asks Strato where his master Brutus is? Strato answers "Free from the bondage [binds] you are in Messala;" a reference to the fact that Messala very recently was free, fighting on Brutus' side and not a prisoner as Strato believes (Line 54).

Strato tells Messala that "The conquerors can but make a fire of him;" (they may burn his corpse), (Line 55) but that they cannot claim any glory or honor from killing him since Brutus "only overcame himself," a reference to Brutus committing suicide (Line 56).

Octavius graciously announces that he will take all those who served Brutus under his own command instead of making them prisoners or killing them as was usually the case for supporters of defeated enemies (Line 60).

Messala asks how Brutus died and Strato explains that "I held the sword, and he did run on it" (I held the sword out and Brutus ran onto it, stabbing himself), (Line 65).

Messala asks Octavius then to take Brutus' loyal servant as one of his servants (Line 66).

Antony now graciously sums up Brutus' character by famously saying: "This was the noblest Roman of them all; / All the conspirators save only he" (everyone except Brutus) in Antony's opinion, killed Caesar out of "envy" whereas Brutus, Antony explains, joined these assassins out of the "general honest thought" or opinion that killing Caesar was a "common good to all," or was an action that best served everyone's interests, not Brutus' own unlike the other conspirators (Lines 68-72).

Continuing his epitaph of Brutus, Antony adds that Brutus' life was "gentle, and the elements / So mix'd in him [his virtues so well mixed] that Nature [nature itself] might stand up / And say to all the world, 'This was a man!'" the highest possible compliment Antony could make (Lines 73-75).

The play now ends with Octavius announcing that because of Brutus' qualities, he shall be buried with honor, Octavius announcing that Brutus' bones will remain in his tent tonight, a sign of great respect, which Octavius says is "Most like a soldier, order'd honourably" (is like a soldier whose bones are arranged honorably before burial), (Line 79).

Commanding his forces to withdraw and cease all actions, Octavius announces his intention for those exit the battlefield and to leave the glories of this day...

Octavius: "So call the field to rest [tell the troops to stand down]; and let's away [let's set off], / To part the glories [leave the glories] of this happy day" (Line 80).

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