Julius Caesar Act III Summary

     Act III of Julius Caesar might be considered the climax, or most intense part or the play, because this is where all of Brutus' conflict comes to a head. It is also the longest act of the play. The act begins with Caesar's arrival in the Capitol. Almost immediately, he is approached by Artemidorus, who offers him a letter of warning about the conspirators. He begs Caesar to take the letter because it pertains to his well-being. However, saying that his personal matters are the least of his concerns, Caesar refuses to take the letter. Meanwhile, one man wishes Brutus and Cassius good luck in their "enterprise," causing Cassius to wonder if their plans have been discovered. One of the conspirators pulls Antony away on business so that he won't interfere in the conspiratorial plans.

     Once inside the Capitol, the conspirators immediately begin to petition for the return of Metellus' brother, whom Caesar had banished from Rome. This is all intended as a means of distracting Caesar. While some of the senators are begging from their knees, Casca positions himself behind Caesar and stabs him. The other conspirators stab Caesar as well. Dramatically, the last person to stab Caesar is Brutus. Caesar cries out, "Et tú, Brute?" which is Latin for "And you too, Brutus?" This statement fully conveys his surprise that his dearest of friends has taken part in his murder.

     After Caesar falls, Brutus immediately and calmly takes control of the situation. He tells the conspirators to wash their hands in Caesar's blood so that they may walk through the streets and show they are not ashamed to take credit for what they have done. This moment immediately call to mind Calpurnia's dream.

     Shortly after this, Brutus receives word from Antony that he is unwilling to come to the Capitol unless he may be assured that the conspirators will not attack him as well. Brutus sends his assurances through a servant. A time later, Antony arrives.

     Antony is clearly grief stricken at the loss. Brutus tries to assure him that Caesar's murder was in the best interest of Rome. Antony requests permission to speak at Caesar's funeral. Brutus agrees, but Cassius pulls him aside to caution Brutus. Cassius fears that Antony may do something to incite the commoners against them. Brutus reassures Cassius, saying he will speak to the commoners first and explain their intentions. Cassius, satisfied, relents.

     Brutus then gives Antony several conditions he just abide by if he is to speak at the funeral. First, he must say that he speaks with the permission of the conspirators. Secondly, he may not say anything bad about the conspirators. Finally, he must say plenty of kind things about Caesar. Antony agrees to all of these conditions.

     Brutus and Cassius depart, leaving Antony with Caesars body. In a soliloquy, Antony reveals how he truly feels and how he hates to be making peace with the conspirators.

     Aft the end of the scene, a messenger arrives to inform Antony that Octavius, Caesar's nephew is approaching Rome. Antony sends a messenger to him, advising him to stay out of Rome for the time being because it could be dangerous for him.

     In the second scene, Brutus and Antony both gives speeches at Caesar's funeral. As he assured Cassius he would, Brutus speaks first to the congregation of commoners who have gathered at Caesar's funeral. In his speech, he tries to explain why he killed Caesar, telling the crowd to trust him because of the honor they know he possesses. He goes on to say that he killed Caesar because he loved Rome more than he loved Caesar. Essentially, he says was afraid that Caesar would become a tyrant. The crowd seems to understand his motives.

     Having said all of this, Brutus departs and Antony takes the stage. Antony gives a powerful and moving speech at this point. Throughout the speech, he does not speak ill of conspirators, just as he promised. However, he frequently refers to Brutus and the conspirators as "honorable men" which he clearly means in a bitterly sarcastic way. Antony, in fact, gives several reasons why Caesar was not ambitious, such as his clear sympathy for the poor and the fact that he gave his exploits from war to benefit Rome. He also reminds the crowd that Caesar refused the crown three times. Antony asks: how is this ambitious?

     The commoners begin to discuss everything Antony has said, and they begin to agree with him. Then, Antony shows the crowd Caesar's will, which he found at Caesar's home. The commoners beg him to read it. Finally, Antony goes to stand by the body of Caesar, and the people gather around him. He points out all the places that Caesar was stabbed, reminding the crowd how Brutus's stab must have tormented Caesar.

     The people are further agitated at this, and yet Antony urges them not to mutiny against the "honorable men" of the conspiracy. Instead, he reminds the commoners that he still has the will. He reads it to them. Caesar has left all of his property and personal wealth to the Roman citizens. This act of generosity drives the people of Rome to action, and the people storm off to search for the conspirators. As they wreak havoc on the city, Antony predicts a civil war will happen soon.

     At the end of the scene, a servant arrives to tell Antony that Octavius has arrived in Rome. Additionally, the servant reports that Brutus and Cassius have fled Rome.

     The final act of the play gives the audience a glimpse at exactly what Antony has done by stirring the people to action. The people riot through the streets, searching for the conspirators. In particular, some commoners come across one man who has the misfortune of having the same name as one of the conspirators. Though he is Cinna the poet, they mistake him for Cina the conspirator. They cry for his punishment, despite his protests.

     This act is perhaps the most dramatic in the play. It shows not only Caesar's death but also his shock at his dear friend Brutus' participation in his murder. It is certainly a humanizing moment for Caesar. The addition of Caesar's will and its content also shows that perhaps Brutus was wrong in his assessment of Caesar. Caesar left all of his belongings to the Roman people and, as Antony points out, this doesn't seem like something a tyrant would do.

     Additionally, one of the themes of the play is the power of rhetoric, or words. The audience has already seen the power of words with Cassius' convincing Brutus to join the conspiracy. This theme is most prominent in the funeral speeches delivered by Brutus and Antony. Brutus is, at first, able to win the crowd over with his argument in which he logically lays out his reasons for murdering Caesar. However, when Antony steps in, the commoners immediately take his side. Antony's speech, though it follows all of Brutus' guidelines, is emotionally evocative. With his repetition of the phrase "honorable men," he shows, ironically, that the conspirators actions were not honorable. Antony claims that he his no great orator, or public speaker, but clearly the opposite is true. He completely uses his words to turn the people against Brutus.

     This act also continues to characterize Brutus. His judgment is clearly flawed. He blindly trusts Antony, ignoring Cassius advice on two occasions about him. In the end, Brutus' tendency toward mercy and justice comes back to bite him. By not killing Antony and by allowing Antony to speak at Caesar's funeral, he essentially shoots himself in the foot. The rest of the play does not bode well for him.

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