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Reference Guide

Julius Caesar - Reference Guides

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Act I Introduction • Presentation of setting, main characters, and central
Act II Development/rising action • Cassius and Brutus develop conspiracy
for the murder of Caesar • Caesar’s wife warns him
Act III Climax • Trap is sprung in the Senate • Caesar is assassinated
Antony swears revenge
Act IV Denouement/falling action • Presentation of events towards the
ultimate conclusion • Antony and Octavius plan the defeat of Brutus
and Cassius
Act V Conclusion • Death of main characters except Antony and Octavius
Unheeded warnings • Caesar does not listen to Calphurnia, the soothsayer
or Artemidorus on the day of his death • Brutus does not listen to the many
warnings of Cassius; most importantly, he allows Antony to live
Power corrupts • Caesar killed Pompey in order to attain more power
• Caesar is killed due to his ambition for absolute rule • His death results in
absolute rule by Antony and Octavius, as shown in their condemning Roman
citizens to death • Brutus and Cassius die because of their involvement in
Caesars murder
Conscience • Brutus joins the conspiracy against Caesar for the good of the
State but ends up seeing the act as murder • Brutus’ changing emotions
about the killing are reflected by the general public’s shifts between
anti-Caesar, pro-Caesar, pro-Brutus, and anti-Brutus
Stoicism • Portia convinces Brutus that he can tell her the truth • Portia’s
knowledge of the conspiracy drives her to distraction and its failure results
in her suicide • Brutus’ stoicism convinces him that he can see the truth
• He is blind to the characters of men who act in ways that he cannot
• Brutus believes it is honorable to kill Caesar for loyalty to the State
• Antony appears honorable and loyal in wishing to avenge Caesar but has a
personal agenda
• Cassius appears honorable in wishing to kill Caesar but really wishes to
avenge Pompey
Pindarus, Titinius, and Strato are loyal enough to assist in the deaths of their
• Antony overturns the notions of honor in his eulogy in Act III, Scene 2
(“Are they not all honorable men? )
• Loyalty in common people can be changed by skilled oration
• Downfall of Caesar; his belief in his invulnerability results in his death
• Reflected in Antony; he refuses to give the poor people the money promised
in the will (he uses people)
Avoided by Octavius; he will not denounce Lepidus, and he arranges a heroic
burial for Brutus
• Brutus is convinced to join the conspiracy because of his belief in the State
• Caesar’s ambition to be the absolute ruler was opposed to the good of the
State, which was to be ruled jointly by elected officials and stood for freedom
of citizens
“Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were
dead, to live all free men? (Act III, Scene 2)
• Killing of Caesar makes way for Antony’s ambition of near absolute rule over
the State
• Brutus is truthful when he contemplates the conspiracy (Act II, Scene 1)
• Brutus has no personal reason for wishing Caesar dead (protect the State)
• Argument (Act IV, Scene 3) between Cassius and Brutus is about truth
• In his eulogy, Brutus names ambition as the reason for Caesar’s death
(Act III, Scene 2)
• Antony questions this notion in his funeral speech
• Antony inherits the ambition of Caesar
• Brutus’ only ambitions are for a strong State and an upright life
• Cassius’ desire for revenge of Pompey’s death fuels his organization of the
Antony’s desire for revenge creates a civil war and deaths of many citizens
The revenge of Caesars ghost results in the deaths of Brutus and Cassius
(Act V, Scene 3)
• Characters’ own actions turn against them
• Display of tragic flaw
• Antony is the source of nemesis for all conspirators
• Brutus did not sanction wanton killing and he also underestimates Antony
• Caesar’s victory march into Rome and his ambition for absolute rule result in
his death
• Portia’s desire for knowledge eventually kills her
Caesar and Antony Desire to rule the Roman empire • Caesar is blind to manipulation; Antony expects it • Caesar
mistakenly trusts his close advisors; Antony does not • Both are charismatic public leaders
Caesar and Brutus Caesar wants absolute (individual) rule of the State; Brutus is a staunch advocate of
republicanism • Caesar would kill due to his egotism; Brutus would kill for his belief in the State
• Share blindness in the face of manipulations and self-interest of others
Brutus and Antony Both can (and will) protect/avenge people or ideas in which they believe • Brutus protects the
State by killing Caesar; Antony avenges Caesar by declaring war on Brutus and Cassius (Antony
protects the State by killing his enemies) • Antony is ruthless; Brutus is compassionate
Brutus and Cassius Both are Republican aristocrats • Cassius thinks quickly; Brutus is reflective • Cassius is
practical; Brutus is philosophical • Cassius is clear-sighted about his colleagues; Brutus sees
them idealistically
Portia and Portia is more in tune with Brutus than Calphurnia is with Caesar • Portia shares Brutus’ belief
Calphurnia in stoicism; Calphurnia shares superstitious beliefs with Caesar • Portia is strong enough to kill
herself out of grief or honor (or both) • Both love and are loved by their husbands
Characters Relationship
A foil is a character who can be compared and contrasted to another character • Used to clarify character traits and
issues in the play
• Most of the play takes place in and around Rome
• Includes the streets, Caesar’s house, the Senate, and Brutus’ camp in Sardis (Asia Minor); the final battle takes place at
Philippi, near Macedonia
The play takes place over 6 days with intervals • Represents a history of 3 years
Julius Caesar Based on historical figure who lived from 102 (or 100) to 44 B.C. • Calphurnia’s husband, Octavius’ uncle
Arrogant, self-serving leader on the surface • Physically weak (epileptic); psychologically dependent on
advisors and visions for guidance • Belief in his divine worth causes peers to assassinate him • Blind to
manipulation and deceit • Public persona as great, generous leader is reaffirmed by Antony in his funeral
speech • Only physically present until Act III; his ghost influences the outcome of the play
Brutus Protagonist and tragic hero • Portia’s husband • Loved by Caesar and revered by general public
• Downfall is caused by his belief that killing Caesar will prevent an individual from taking absolute control
of Rome • Belief in the Republic leads him to join the conspiracy • Makes 5 fatal errors (he refuses oath
for conspirators, he does not ask Cicero to join the conspiracy, he underestimates Antony, he tries to force
his ethics on others, and he allows Antony to give Caesar’s eulogy) • Blindness to colleagues’ self-interest
results in his death • Believes that honor, truth, and justice are real and attainable • Stoic
Cassius Clear-sighted (e.g., he recognizes Brutus’ fatal errors) • Persuasive (e.g., he organizes the conspiracy)
• Member of the Senate • Despised by Caesar because he was once employed by his enemy, Pompey
• Seeks his own advancement by using weakness in others to his advantage (e.g., Brutus’ belief in the
Republic [Act I, Scene 2]; Casca’s belief in the supernatural [Act I, Scene 3]) • Emotionally volatile
(e.g., he panics when he thinks that the plot has been discovered [Act III, Scene 1]) • Argues violently with
Brutus (Act IV, Scene 3) • Fierce and brave in battle
Antony Devoted to Caesar; able to avail himself of his death • Becomes central character when he convinces the
murderers that he should make the eulogy • Moves the public against Caesar’s killers • Rules triumvirate,
which brings death in battle to conspirators • Politically ruthless (e.g., he arranges deaths of those who
threaten his power [Act IV, Scene 1]) • Competent military leader; victorious over Brutus and Cassius
Octavius Nephew and successor to Caesar; he will become Emperor Augustus • Seeks vengeance for his uncle’s
death • Skilled in diplomacy (e.g., he challenges Antony’s military strategies) • Courageous and honorable
Casca Displeased with Caesar and Cicero • Puts on air of incompetence; reported by Cassius to be quick and
reliable • Belief in supernatural leads to membership in conspiracy • First to stab Caesar (from behind)
Portia Daughter of Cato (he fought against Caesar under Pompey); wife of Brutus • Stoic (belief in self-control,
acceptance of fate) • Inflicts physical wound in her thigh to prove ability to withstand pain and be party to
Brutus’ problems • Suicide is caused by opposition to her stoicism and passionate love for Brutus
Calphurnia Caesars wife • Superstitious (e.g., she believes the soothsayer’s warning) • Has an ominous dream about
Caesar and tries to stop him from going to the Senate on the day of his assassination • Unable to bear
children • Devoted to her husband; anxious for his well-being
Cicero Refused as a member of the conspiracy by Brutus • Well-respected orator and proponent of Republican
ideals • Wise and intelligent • His power as a speaker could have countered Antony’s eulogy; this would
have resulted in success of the conspiracy
Name Description
Ligarius Serves to demonstrate Brutus’ influence over fellow Romans • Gets out of his sick-bed to join Brutus
Publius Member of the Senate • Shocked when murder takes place in front of him • Cassius tells him to go home
• Represents complacent Senators
Popilius Lena Escalates drama of murder scene by wishing Cassius luck
Pindarus Cassius’ servant; Parthian captive • Responsible for death of Cassius (he incorrectly reports that Titinius
has been captured) • Obeys Cassius when he is asked to kill him • Leaves Rome
Lucius Servant to Brutus • Symbol of peace and purity • Comforts Brutus in difficult times • Vehicle for
demonstration of Brutus’ gentle side
Marullus, Government officials (tribunes) against Caesar’s desire to create a monarchy with himself as king • Serve
Flavius to explain the political conflict of play and excite audience from outset • Believe in Republican government;
show ideological support for conspiracy
Decius Responsible for persuading Caesar to go to the Senate on the day of the murder • Intelligent; quick to turn
Brutus Calphurnias nightmare into a good omen • Plays on Caesar’s pride by making him concerned about what
others will think if he is absent from the Senate • Assures success of the conspiracy by diverting Caesar’s
attention from Artemidorus’ note
Lepidus Member of new triumvirate with Antony and Octavius • Quick military general (e.g., he sent troops to the
city after the murder to protect the triumvirate) • Disparaged by Antony; praised by Octavius for his military
Cinna Member of the conspiracy • Serves to convey excitement raised by the plan • Vehicle by which Brutus
receives papers informing him of the conspiracy
Titinius One of Cassius’ loyal followers; an officer • Provides counsel in battle (e.g., he remarks that Brutus
prematurely gives the attack order) • Serves to demonstrate the love Cassius can inspire (e.g., he kills
himself after learning about Cassius’ suicide)
Lucilius One of Brutus and Cassius’ men • Attempts to protect Brutus by claiming to be him, but Antony discovers
the truth • Antony is impressed by his bravery; decides to ask Lucilius to join his side
Strato Assists Brutus in committing suicide by holding the sword • As the last person to see Brutus alive, he is
able to glorify the means of his death • Hired by Octavius due to proven loyalty
Volumnius Friend and officer to Brutus • Will not perform last duty of assisting Brutus’ suicide • Hired by Octavius
due to his proven loyalty
Cato the Portias brother; Cato’s son • Fights on when the battle can have no outcome but defeat
Artemidorus Teacher of Rhetoric • Gives Caesar a list of conspirators’ names • Represents public support for Caesar
Name Description
Day 1 Act I, Scenes 1-2
(Caesar’s triumph, the Lupercal)
Interval Unspecified
Day 2 Act I, Scene 2 (night)
Day 3 Acts II and III (pre-dawn)
Act II, Scene 1 (8:00 a.m.)
Act II, Scene 2 (9:00 a.m.)
Interval Unspecified
Day 4 Act IV, Scene 1
Interval Unspecified
Day 5 Act IV, Scenes 2-3
Day 6 Act V, Scenes 4-5; the two battles at
Philippi are described as one
Julius Caesar
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