Julius Caesar Act V Summary

     Act V is comprised of several short scenes leading to the resolution of the play's conflict. The act covers the whole of the battle between the Antony/Octavius army and the Brutus/Cassius army. In the first scene, Octavius and Antony enter the field of battle, and the two show some discord when it comes to battle plans. Octavius wants to attack from the right, while Antony wants to attack from the left. Ultimately, Antony tells Octavius not to question his authority. Then, Octavius and Antony go to meet with Brutus and Cassius for a brief parley before the battle.

     In this meeting, little is accomplished. In fact, it is little more than an argumentative name-calling session between the leaders. Antony and Octavius storm out, and all understand that the battle will continue as planned.

     After Octavius and Antony have left, Cassius speaks privately to his friend and follower, Messala. Cassius confesses that he has witnessed bad omens that day. He tells Messala how, when they first started marching with their troops, their army was followed by two eagles. However, the eagles have since been replaced by ravens and crows. Cassius does not come out and say it, but the audience will likely be aware that ravens and crows are often associated with death. This is surely an example of foreshadowing, or a suggestion of what is to come in the reminder of the play. The ravens and crows do not bode well for Cassius and Brutus.

     Cassius rejoins Brutus, commenting that the outcome of the battle does not look favorable. Brutus admits that he would rather die than be taken back to Rome to be paraded through the streets as a traitor. On that note, Brutus bids Cassius farewell, and they depart for battle. Brutus seems to think that this might be the last time that they will see each other, so it is a final farewell of sorts.

     Scene II is very short, and shows Brutus giving orders to Messala. He asks Brutus to take a message Cassius, noting a weakness in Octavius' battle.

     In Scene III, Cassius stands atop a hill and watches the battle unfolds. Though Brutus was correct in his assessment of weakness in Octavius' battle, things are not going well for him because Brutus acted too soon. Cassius is approached by another of his followers, Titinius, who advises Cassius to move father away from the battle. At this time, Cassius sees troops approaching, and he sends Titinius as a scout to find out if the troops are friend or foe.

     While Titinius rides off, Cassius asks his servant, Pindarus, to climb a nearby hill and watch what happens with Titinius. Pindarus reports that he sees Titinius surrounded by troops, and it looks as if he has been taken captive. Cassius is overtaken with grief, thinking he has just sent his friend to his death. He then gives Pindarus his sword, asking him Pindarus to kill him while he covers his face. Pindarus accepts and then rushes away from the scene.

     Soon after, Titinius returns to the spot where he had left Cassius. Titinius quickly discerns what happened. The troops that had surrounded him had actually been friendly troops belonging to Brutus. Their cheers and welcome of him must have looked like an attack to Cassius. Grief-stricken at the loss of Cassius, Titinius stabs himself and dies next to Cassius.

     The battle rages on in Scene IV. Some of Antony's troops come looking for Brutus. One of Brutus' men-Lucilius- claims to be Brutus, no doubt in an effort to protect him. The man is brought before Antony, who of course realizes he is not Brutus. Antony orders, however, that the man be treated well for his actions.

     In the final act of the play, Scene V, Brutus sits with a few of his troops. He realizes that the battle is lost. He asks several of his men if they will aid him in killing himself. Most refuse. Finally, Brutus finds a man to hold his sword while he runs into it. A short time later, Antony and Octavius find Brutus' body. Antony speaks over the body, noting that even though Brutus was his enemy, that Brutus acted only because he thought it was the right thing to do.

     This final scene is telling, once again, of Cassius' and Brutus' characters. In particular, their deaths are significant. Though both choose suicide, the ways they choose to do it is different. Though certainly there is little honor in killing oneself, Cassius hides his face like a coward when it comes to his own death, going so far as to make his servant do the deed for him. At the end of the day, Cassius is essentially a coward. Brutus, however, more or less faces his death head on, running into his sword without wavering. That he has difficultly finding a man even willing to help him also shows the great respect that his men have for him.

     Additionally, thought Brutus looses the battle terribly, it is clear that many hold him in the highest esteem. That Lucilius is willing to try and pass himself off as Brutus to save the real Brutus from any harm shows the utmost respect for him. Similarly, at the end of the play, even Brutus' worst enemy realizes that Brutus was a good person. To be respected by one's enemies is certainly no small feat. Because of his clear honor and the respect all had for him, Brutus' death is all the more tragic.

Related Links:

Julius Caesar Quotations
Julius Caesar Act I Summary
Julius Caesar Act II Summary
Julius Caesar Summary
Julius Caesar Quiz
Literature Summaries

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