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Julius Caesar Commentary - Act III.

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Act III. Scene I.- Rome. Before the Capitol; the Senate sitting above.

Caesar: "Et tu, Brute?"

Caesar arrogantly tells the Soothsayer that today is the "ides of March [the 15th of March]" but the Soothsayer tells him the day is not over yet... Artemidorus nearly warns Caesar but Decius Brutus prevents this. Popilius wishes the conspirators good luck, terrifying them that Caesar knows their plans. Metellus Cimber petitions Caesar to lift his brother's banishment order. Caesar refuses and the conspirators kill Caesar. Mark Antony flees. Mark Antony pretends to treat Caesar's murderers as friends. He asks to speak at Caesar's funeral. Cassius thinks this is dangerous, Brutus, disagreeing, lets Mark Antony speak at the funeral. Mark Antony reveals his true hatred for the conspirators. Octavius, Mark Antony's ally is to stay safe outside of Rome a little longer...

We see a crowd of people, numbering amongst them, Artemidorus, The Soothsayer, Caesar and several of his would-be murderers. These would-be murders are Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Decius Brutus, Metellus, Trebonius and Cinna. Mark Antony, Lepidus Popilius, Publius and others are also present.

Caesar opens the scene by remarking to the Soothsayer that "The ides of March are come" to which the Soothsayer replies they the day is not over yet: "Ay, Caesar; but not yet gone" (Lines 1-2).

Artemidorus hails Caesar, asking him to read his schedule, which of course is his warning letter (Line 3).

Decius tries to distract Caesar, telling him to read it when he has the time, but Artemidorus demands that his schedule (his warning letter) be read immediately (Line 9).

Caesar now ignores it, telling him to instead come to the Capitol rather than petition him in the street (Lines 11-12).

With Caesar entering the Senate house, Popilius wishes Cassius that his enterprise will "thrive [be successful]" (Line 13). This worries Brutus and Cassius no end, but Casca tells them to keep going, they cannot turn back now.

Popilius Lena now speaks with Caesar but Brutus warns them not to worry since Caesar's expression has not changed (Line 24). This would mean Caesar would have been told their plan.

Trebonius now draws Mark Antony away and Metellus Cimber addresses Caesar (Lines 24-33). Metellus asks that the banishment of his brother be repealed, Cassius joining this petition for Publius Cimber (Lines 36-55).

Caesar refuses, famously saying "I am constant as the northern star," (Line 60) and so refuses this request (Lines 57-73).

Cinna, Decius Brutus and Casca now all move in closer, seemingly begging Caesar to change his mind; instead they stab Caesar (Line 76).

Caesar falls, saying "Et tu, Brute? (and you Brutus, why?) and then dies, exclaiming "Then fall, Caesar!" (Line 77).

Cinna now pronounces "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!" (Line 78) and Brutus tells the remaining senators to be calm, "ambitions debt [Caesar] is paid" (Line 82).

Brutus now tells a shocked Publius that neither he nor any other Roman has anything to fear from Brutus and the conspirators (Lines 84-92).

Trebonius tells us that Mark Antony has fled to his house amazed and Brutus tells the other conspirators to "Stoop," adding "And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood" adding that "waving our red weapons o'er [over] our heads, / Let's all cry, 'Peace, freedom, and liberty!'" (Lines 105 -110).

A servant of Mark Antony's arrives and securing Brutus' assurance that Mark Antony will not be harmed, Mark Antony arrives to speak with Brutus. Mark Antony, overwhelmed by the sight of his dead friend, begs to join him but Brutus tells Mark Antony not to, explaining that their hearts are pitiful; they killed Caesar for Rome (Lines 146-176).

Brutus now asks Mark Antony to be patient; once the multitudes (crowds) have calmed down, he will explain "Why I, that did love Caesar when I struck him, / Have thus proceeded [killed him]" (I, that loved Caesar chose to join the assassination), (Line 182).

Mark Antony, wishing to stay alive, diplomatically explains that "I doubt not of your wisdom" (Line 183), asking each man to render (offer) him his bloody hand which he then shakes. First he shakes Marcus Brutus' hand, then the hands of Caius Cassius, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber, Cinna, Casca and finally Trebonius.

Now Mark Antony announces that "My credit now stands on such slippery ground, / That one of two bad ways you must conceit me, / Either a coward or a flatterer" (Line 191).

He explains that he loved Caesar dearly and that it should grieve Caesar's spirit more than death to see Mark Antony now make peace with his enemies but he explains that Caesar must forgive him. Cassius interrupts, but Mark Antony says the enemies of Caesar will see him this way for forgetting Caesar's name so quickly (Lines 192-213).

Cassius now asks Mark Antony whether they can consider him a friend or someone they cannot depend on...

Antony explains that he shook the conspirator's hands because though he was swayed by the sight of Caesar, he must assume the conspirators whom he loves as friends, must have had a good reason for their actions (Lines 217-222).

Brutus finishes Mark Antony's reasoning by suggesting that their actions would indeed be savage were it not for the fact that they acted for very good reasons which even if Mark Antony were the son of Caesar, would he be satisfied (Lines 222-226).

Antony answers that he can ask for nothing more but to also speak at Caesar's funeral.

Cassius now advises against this: "You know not what you do; do not consent / That Antony speak in his [Caesar's] funeral: / Know you how much the people may be mov'd / By that which he will utter?" (you do not realize what you are doing if you let Mark Antony speak at the funeral. Do you realize how moved the people could be by his words?), (Lines 232-235).

Cassius fears that Antony with his gift of the gab may turn the Romans against them. Can Brutus be sure of what Antony will say?

Brutus disagrees, giving Mark Antony permission against the wishes of a very nervous Cassius. As a precaution however, Brutus will speak first; this should guarantee the support of Rome. Additionally, Antony will not blame them but will only be able to speak "all good you can devise of Caesar," (only the good things you can say about Caesar), (Line 246, 236-252).

With Mark Antony now alone, we learn his true feelings (Lines 256-273). He is extremely upset that "these butchers;" (Line 255) have killed Caesar and again begging Caesar's forgiveness, fears all of Italy shall be plunged into domestic strife and that Caesar's spirit, full of rage and fury, shall "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war;" (Line 273).

A Servant now greets Antony. He comes from Octavius and by word of mouth, tells us that Octavius is not far away, lying within "seven leagues of Rome" (Line 286).

Antony tells the Servant to tell Octavius what has happened, also telling Octavius to stay outside Rome for a little while longer; Rome is still dangerous for the adopted son of Caesar. Additionally Mark Antony tells this servant to stay in Rome just a little longer before returning to Octavius so he can tell Octavius of the state of the people of Rome after Mark Antony has made his speech. Following this, Mark Antony and the Servant exit, carrying away Caesar's body. (Lines 276-296).

Act III. Scene II. - The Same. The Forum.

Mark Antony: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

Brutus and Cassius explain to the Citizens of Rome why they killed Caesar, gaining their support. Mark Antony turns the citizens of Rome against Brutus and Cassius by making the Citizens feel remorse for Caesar's cruel death and by bribing then with the news that Caesar's will gives each citizen money. Mark Antony uses this fact to suggest Caesar was a great man who should not have been murdered. The crowd, now an angry, crazed mob, go after the conspirators including Brutus and Cassius who flee in fear...

The scene begins with Brutus and Cassius surrounded by a "throng of Citizens." These demand to be satisfied. The Citizens intend to hear the reasoning of both Brutus and Cassius and then will make up their minds on the worthiness of their reasons for killing Caesar (Lines 1-11).

Brutus now takes to the pulpit and begins his speech justifying the assassination (Lines 12-68).

Telling his audience to "Be patient to the last [end] " he begins with the lines, "Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause; and be silent, that you may hear: believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge" (Lines 12-17).

Having told his audience to awaken their senses and be silent so they may better judge him, Brutus explains that there is no one in the audience who could say the loved Caesar any more than Brutus. He then adds that should anyone in the audience then ask why "Brutus rose against Caesar," he famously answers: "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more."

Brutus now asks whether the crowd before him would prefer to be slaves under Caesar's rule rather than have Caesar dead and be free? "Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?" Brutus asks.

Brutus explains that "As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him."

He adds that within him, "There is tears for his love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his ambition" asking "Who is here so base [vulgar] that would be a bondman?"

Brutus asking if there is anyone here he has offended, asks, "Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman?" and "Who is here so vile that will not love his country?" telling the crowd that he pauses to wait for a reply.

The Citizens in unison answer "None Brutus, none" (Line 38).

Satisfied, Brutus adds that since he has not offended anyone, he explains that he has done no more to Caesar than the crowd should do to him, Brutus.

With Caesar's body now entering the forum, Brutus introduces Mark Antony, explaining that he had no part in the assassination. He adds that he will now leave and just as he killed Caesar for the good of Rome, Brutus will now kill himself when required, with the same dagger.

Brutus: "With this I depart: that, as I slew my best lover [Caesar] for the good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself, when it shall please my country to need my death" (Lines 48-52).

The Citizens say no, suggesting that he should have a statue, be named Caesar and arguing that "Caesar's better parts / Shall be crown'd in Brutus" (Line 57).

Brutus tells the crowd to let him now leave, but that they should pay tribute to Caesar's corpse and to hear Mark Antony's speech,"which Mark Antony, / By our permission, is allowed to make. I do entreat [ask] you, not a man depart," (Lines 64-67).

The Citizens are convinced. "This Caesar was a tyrant" (Line 75), the First Citizen says, whilst other citizens warn that Mark Antony had better not speak badly of Brutus (Line 74).

Mark Antony asks for silence with the words "You gentle Romans, -" and moments later famously begins his speech: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" (Line 79). Antony now adds that "The evil that men do lives after them, / The good is oft [often] interred with their bones; / So let it be with Caesar" (Line 83).

Mark Antony now begins his attack, not by attacking Brutus but rather by questioning Brutus' credibility:

The noble Brutus / Hath told you Caesar was ambitious; / If it were so, it was a grievous fault, / And grievously hath [has] Caesar answered it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,- / For Brutus is an honourable man; / So are they all honourable men.... (Lines 83-89)

Antony sarcastically explains that he is here today to speak at Caesar's funeral since "He was my friend, faithful and just to me: / But Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable man" (Lines 91-93).

Mark Antony now adds that Caesar brought "many captives home to Rome, / Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:" asking if making Rome rich is ambitious? (Lines 92-96).

Antony now builds up Caesar remarking how when the poor cried, "Caesar hath wept;" adding that "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:" (Line 98). Yet Mark Antony sarcastically explains again that Brutus says that Caesar was ambitious, again suggesting that Brutus cannot be wrong for "Brutus is an honourable man" (Line 100).

Antony reminds the audience now how they saw this all for themselves at the Lupercal, (Caesar's procession in Act I, Scene II). Three times Mark Antony presented Caesar with a crown and three times Caesar refused it: "was this ambition?" (Line 103) Antony asks, ending again with the line that for sure, Brutus is "an honourable man" (Lines 101-105).

Now Antony explains that he is not here to disprove what Brutus has said but to "speak what I do know" (Line 106).

Antony now finishes up his speech, saying that since the Romans loved Caesar once, what should stop them from mourning this man now:

You all did love him [Caesar] once, not without cause: / What cause withholds you then to mourn for him? O judgement! thou [you] art [are] fled to brutish beasts, / And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; / My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, / And I must pause till it come back to me. (Lines 107-113)

The Citizens have taken this all in and see merit in what Antony says, one citizen adding that "There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony" (Line 122).

Antony continues his speech, explaining how once "the word of Caesar might / Have stood against the world;" yet instead he pitifully lies here in a coffin.

He innocently tells the crowd that were he the sort of person to incite the crowd to violence which is precisely what he is really hoping for, he would be doing Brutus and Cassius a great disservice for they are honourable men, and now he announces that he has found Caesar's will...

Mark Antony adds that he really should not read it, knowing that the crowd are now demanding to know its contents (Lines 120-144).

Antony now hesitates again to read the will. He fears reading its contents will "inflame you," adding that "it will make you mad" (Line 150) whilst also not forgetting to mention that "'tis good you know not that you are his heirs;" (it is good that you do not know you are Caesar's heirs), (Line 151).

The Citizens, now aware that they could benefit from Caesar's will, again demand to hear it. Again, Antony hesitates, adding that "I have o'ershot [overstepped] myself to tell you of it [the will]. I fear I wrong the honourable men / Whose daggers have stabb'd [stabbed] Caesar; / I do fear it" (Line 156-158).

The crowd, now on the verge of frenzy, describe Brutus and company as "villains,"and "murderers" and again ask Antony to read the will (Line 161).

Asking that the crowd to make a ring around Caesar's corpse, Antony comes down from the pulpit and begins to read the will (Lines 162-173).

Antony starts by telling the crowd, "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now" (Line 174). Antony describes the various wounds that Cassius, then the "envious Casca" and the "well-beloved Brutus" have made, noting both the blood and the fact that "Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel:" (Line 186).

He now tells the gods to judge how dearly "Caesar lov'd him [Brutus]" (Line 187) adding that the wound made by Brutus "was the most unkindest cut of all; / For when the noble Caesar saw him stab, / Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms, / Quite vanquish'd him: then burst his [Caesar's] mighty heart;" (Lines 187-191).

This and further emotive language, angers the crowd to the point of riot, the crowd now describing Caesar as noble, others despairing on the sadness of this day, and yet other citizens calling Brutus and company "traitors!" and "villains!" once again (Line 206).

Together, the Citizens cry "Revenge!-About!-Seek!-Burn!-Fire!-Kill!-Slay! Let not a traitor live" (Line 209).

Mark Antony tells the crowd to stop, reminding them that "They that have done this deed are honourable:" adding "What private griefs they have, alas! I know not," (Line 217).

Mark Antony, having now raised the crowd to a fury, innocently explains that "I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:" since he is a simple man, adding that "I am no orator [public speaker], as Brutus is;" (Lines 220-221).

Mark Antony explains now, quite ironically that "were I Brutus, and Brutus Antony, there were an Antony / Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue / In every wound of Caesar, that should move / The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny" (Lines 230-234).

With the crowd now out for Brutus and company's blood, Antony finishes off his speech. He tells the angry mob the contents of Caesar's will and delays the crowd from their murderous mission. Antony explains that Caesar's will bestows "seventy-five drachmas" to each citizen (Line 247).

This information incites the crowd further, the Second Citizen speaking for all, when he says "Most noble Caesar! we'll revenge his death" (Line 248).

Antony adds that Caesar gave all his walks, "His private arbours," and his newly planted orchards, to the Citizens as well, asking "Here was Caesar! when comes such another? [When will there come again someone like him?]" (Line 257).

The First Citizen speaks for all, saying "Never, never! Come, away, away! We'll burn his [Caesar's] body in the holy place, / And with the brands fire the traitor's houses" (Line 260).

The Citizens head off on their rampage, carrying with them Caesar's body and Antony, clearly pleased with his work, says "Now let it work: mischief, thou art afoot, / Take thou what course thou wilt! (now mischief, go and take whatever course you will), (Line 265).

With the crazed mob on their way, a servant enters, addressing Antony. Octavius has come to Rome and both he and Lepidus are at Caesar's house. We also learn that Brutus and Cassius have very wisely fled the city "like madmen through the gates of Rome" (Line 274).

Act III. Scene III. - The Same. A Street.

Anonymous mob: "Tear him to pieces; he's a conspirator."

A poet bearing the same name as one of the conspirators is killed by the angry mob which is Shakespeare's insight into the senselessness of the mob mentality...

Cinna a poet is in the wrong place at the wrong time. The angry mob of Citizens finding him, ask his name and marital status. They also ask his name....

Learning it is Cinna, the mob immediately attack him, the Second Citizen saying, "Tear him to pieces; he's a conspirator" (Line 30).

Cinna explains that he is Cinna the poet, not Cinna the conspirator. The crowd, hungry for blood, kill the innocent poet anyway, explaining that they should "Tear him for his bad verses," (Line 34).

Still driven by fury, the Citizens decide to torch the homes of Brutus, Cassius, Decius Brutus (not to be mistaken with Marcus Brutus or Brutus for short), Casca and Ligarius (Lines 40-43).

Note: This scene shows Shakespeare commenting on the nature of the mob mentality. It is also an unusual and perhaps disturbing juxtaposition of both violence and absurdity. Violence that they kill an innocent man, absurdity in the completely amoral and unjustified excuse for doing so. A disturbing and accurate insight into the phenomena of mob brutality which sadly is as relevant today as 1900 years ago.

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