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Messala in Julius Caesar

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Messala is a minor character in William Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar', but he is a loyal friend to Brutus. He appears in only a couple of scenes in the play, and he is somewhat of a bearer of bad news.

Who Is Messala?

Messala is Brutus' friend, and he is an officer in Brutus' army. Brutus and others are opposing Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus. Antony's army is seeking revenge against Brutus and the other conspirators for assassinating Julius Caesar. Though he only appears in a few scenes in Julius Caesar, Messala is shown to be a loyal friend to both Brutus and Cassius.

Bad News

When Messala first appears on the stage, Brutus is reporting that he has received word regarding movements of Antony's troops. Messala confirms that he has received letters conveying the same information but with additional disturbing news. Messala says the letters say, ''That by proscription and bills of outlawry,/Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus,/Have put to death an hundred senators.'' This news leaves little doubt of the bloody lengths to which Antony and his cohorts will go in what is now clearly a political rivalry.

Brutus

Messala adds additional grim news: Cicero is among those slaughtered. He then reluctantly broaches the subject of Brutus' wife. Messala asks if Brutus has heard from his wife, perhaps hoping that Brutus already knows what he is about to say. When Brutus says he has not, Messala is forced to reveal that Brutus' wife Portia ''is dead, and by a strange manner.'' Portia has committed suicide.

Battle at Philippi

At the battle at Philippi, Cassius talks to Messala about how it is a birthday and how he sees bad omens in the sky. Cassius thinks that today is the day they will die. Messala tries to reassure him by saying, ''Believe it not so.''. Cassius knows this is a crucial battle. But he also knows what Antony's army will do with the conspirators if they are captured.

Later after they ride off into battle when Cassius misinterprets what he witnesses on the battlefield, he asks Pindarus to help him kill himself rather than face life as a prisoner. Messala sees Cassius' lifeless body, and he sums up the situation, saying ''Mistrust of good success hath done this deed.''

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