Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1 Summary

Instructor: Sarah Bostock
This lesson summarizes Act 3 scene 1 of Shakespeare's ''Julius Caesar'', which includes the climax of the play. You will learn about the historical Julius Caesar, his conspirators, and the pivotal character Mark Antony.

The Friendly Assassins

What if all of your good friends really weren't your friends at all? You certainly would be surprised, and so was William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar! William Shakespeare based his play on the historical Julius Caesar who was assassinated in 44 BCE by his close peers.

The Historical Julius Caesar

Roman Dictator Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar Stands Strong

Julius Caesar was born in Ancient Rome around 100 BCE and rose to become one of the greatest military leaders in history. Between the years 58-50 BCE, Caesar conquered the area of Gaul (modern day France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, and parts of Germany) by ruthless force. By 46 BCE he became dictator, or one who makes the rules, and he became very powerful, often using his power for personal gain. He also sought to be crowned king, so his close friends conspired to kill him. William Shakespeare puts this plot to action in the middle of Julius Caesar.

The Conspirators

In Act 3, scene 1, the conspirators accompany Caesar to the Capitol. The primary conspirators include Casca, Marcus Brutus, Cassius, Cinna, and Metellus Cimber. The assassination plot was created by the character of Cassius, who recruited Marcus Brutus, a really good friend of Caesar's. Minutes before the assassination takes place, a messenger named Artemidorus tries to deliver an important letter to Caesar.

Trying to Prevent Fate

During Shakespeare's time (1564-1616), people were very interested in the role of fate or predestination. Shakespeare explores both free will and predestination in Julius Caesar. For example, the letter Artemidorus begs Caesar to read contains information of the assassination plot. Had Shakespeare's Caesar read the letter, he may have lived.

Additionally, Shakespeare included a small role for a soothsayer or fortune teller in the play. In an earlier scene, the soothsayer tells Caesar to 'Beware the Ides of March', warning Caesar his life will end. In the current scene, the Ides of March (March 15) has arrived, and Caesar tells the soothsayer, 'The Ides of March are come', implying that the soothsayer was wrong. The soothsayer adds, 'but not gone'.

The Assassination

The Assassination of Julius Caesar
The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Mark Antony, who is a supporter of Caesar and even tried to crown him king, was not made aware of the assassination attempt. He is in the Capitol when Caesar arrives, but Trebonius gets Antony's attention and takes him away from the scene. Trebonius is the only conspirator to not participate in the murder.

In order to catch Caesar off guard, Metellus Cimber drops to his knees and begs Caesar to repeal his brother's banishment. Caesar answers him but is immediately stabbed by all of the conspirators. Casca is the first to stab Caesar and Marcus Brutus is the last.

After Brutus stabs Caesar, Caesar says, 'Et tu, Bruté?' meaning, 'And you, Brutus?'. Caesar is shocked to discover that even his good friend Brutus was a part of the conspiracy. Caesar's death marks the climax or highest point in the plot.

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