Flavius in Julius Caesar

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

Flavius is the very first character to speak in William Shakespeare's ''Julius Caesar''. In this lesson we will take a look at just who this 'opening act' is, and how he sets the tone for the play.

Flavius Opens the Play

The very first thing that happens in Julius Caesar is that Flavius yells at everyone. When the play opens, there are a bunch of commoners celebrating Caesar's victory in the streets. Flavius and Marullus are tribunes, or officers of the military. They have come to clear out the streets. Flavius says 'Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home: Is this a holiday?' In other words, he is telling the people to go home and asking why they are celebrating in the streets. He then asks them why no one is wearing their work clothes. He is obviously irritated, and his anger sets the tone for the play.

Behind Flavius' Words

At first glance, it might be tough to see what is really going on with Flavius. With a few more facts, we can understand his anger. The people are in the streets celebrating Julius Caesar's defeat of a ruler named Pompey, who was formerly honored by everyone. Now (and this is why Flavius is angry) the people have completely abandoned Pompey and are celebrating Caesar's victory. Because Flavius demands that people stop celebrating, we understand that not everyone is as impressed by Caesar's victory as the common people. In fact, many people are quite unhappy about it - Flavius included.

After he and Marullus harass the common folk, the people begin to disperse. As they leave, Flavius tells them to gather everyone they know and go to the 'Tiber banks, and weep your tears Into the channel, till the lowest stream Do kiss the most exalted shores of all.' Translated into modern language, he is suggesting that these people who are celebrating Caesar should in fact be crying over the defeat of Pompey. Flavius' strong language here makes it clear to the reader that Caesar is not loved by all.

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