Julius Caesar Act 4 Scene 1 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson summarizes the action in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'. In this act, we see another side of Antony - a greedy, power-hungry side that signs away the lives of other people and goes back on promises!


After Antony's stirring speech about the noble dignity of Caesar and his pledges to serve the people of Rome as dictated by Caesar's will, it is a little jarring to see Act 4, Scene 1 of Julius Caesar open with Antony, Caesar's friend, Octavius, Caesar's adopted son, and Lepidus sitting around a table, casually discussing their plans to have certain people murdered. They talk of these killings with the kind of nonchalance one might have toward the removal of an old piece of furniture. ''These many, then, shall die; their names are prick'd,'' Antony says as the scene opens.

We have no idea how many names have been 'prick'd' so far, but we watch these men blithely add a couple more. Octavius says to Lepidus, ''Your brother too must die; consent you, Lepidus?'' One might expect at least a little outrage from Lepidus at the suggestion that his brother should be murdered, but all he has to say is, ''I do consent.'' Lepidus goes on to say that Antony's nephew should also be killed. Antony responds callously, ''He shall not live; look, with a spot I damn him.'' Who are these people?! Where is the Antony who wept with tenderness in front of the crowd because of Caesar's death?


In addition to cold blooded murder, this short scene shows Antony going back on his pledge of honesty regarding the generous bequest Caesar left the citizens of Rome in his will. It seems now that these promises were just a ploy to gain the love of the people and assure himself some power, as he casually tells Lepidus, ''go you to Caesar's house. Fetch the will hither, and we shall determine how to cut off some charge in legacies.'' Far from upholding Caesar's generosity, Antony wishes to use some of the money meant for the people to build an army and raise his own power instead.

Back Stabbing

If murder and greed weren't enough, Antony also shows himself to be a back stabber to his own friends in this act. As soon as Lepidus leaves on the errand to fetch Caesar's will, Antony turns to Octavius and says, ''This is a slight unmeritable man, meet to be sent on errands.'' He's like a mean girl in junior high, saying nasty things about a friend who has gotten up from the lunch table! He doesn't quit, either. He goes on to call Lepidus an ''ass'' (meaning donkey), suggesting that he is just a dumb animal to be told what to do and used to carry burdens.

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