Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 1 Summary
- The crowd of traitorous senators and a bunch of hangers-on surround Julius Caesar just outside the Capitol. Decius, a traitor, offers a "suit" or a request from Trebonius to Caesar.
- After a vague but ominous interaction between Caesar and the soothsayer, Artemidorius pleads with Caesar to read his suit (letter) first, as it's dearest to Caesar. (This note tells Caesar of the plot and names the conspirators.) Caesar, the picture of humility, says that, because he puts the affairs of Rome before his own, he'll read Artemidorius's suit last. Artemidorius presses him, and Caesar brushes him off: "What, is the fellow mad?"
- Before Caesar has time to consider that he's committed the biggest mistake of his life, he is hustled to the Capitol by Cassius. Cassius says Caesar shouldn't just give audience to every Tom, Dick, and Roman in the street – he needs to hurry to the Capitol.
- As Caesar enters the Capitol, Senator Popilius wishes Cassius good luck in "today's enterprise."
- Naturally, the conspirators flip out a little bit – Popilius, who is now chatting up Caesar, seems to know about the plot. Brutus, calm and collected, assures everyone that they're just scaring themselves. Popilius smiles with Caesar, who looks unconcerned, so he clearly hasn't just heard about the murder plot.
- Meanwhile, Trebonius is busy luring Antony away, and the plan is falling into place. Metellus will come up close to Caesar, pretending to have some request, and everyone will gather around him to fall into killing position. Cinna says Casca will strike first.
- The team breaks and hustles as Caesar calls the Senate to order.
- Metellus is the first to come before Caesar, and he begins to kneel, but Caesar cuts him off. Pretentiously referring to himself in the third person, Caesar says such stooping might appeal to lesser men, but it won't sway him. Caesar declares that Metellus's brother (whom Metellus is making a request on behalf of) will remain banished. Further, no amount of begging and pleading will shake the great Caesar, it only makes him scorn the beggar. (Caesar, in his arrogance, definitely makes it harder to be sympathetic towards him here.)
- As Metellus is making his plea for his brother Publius, Brutus joins in and kisses Caesar's hand, which totally surprises Caesar. Cassius falls to Caesar's feet.
- As Caesar is surrounded, he declares he definitely won't change the law to accommodate Publius. He declares himself to be "as constant as the northern star." While every man might be a fiery star, all the stars move except the northern one. Caesar identifies with that star, so he's not about to change his mind.
- The conspirators press on, and Caesar demands that they go away, saying that their pleading is as useless as trying to lift up Olympus, mountain of the gods.
- Caesar is shocked when Brutus decides to kneel. Suddenly Casca rises to stabs Caesar. Brutus stabs him too.
- Caesar's last words are some of literature's most famous: "Et tu, Brute? [You too, Brutus?] – Then fall, Caesar!" It seems Caesar is willing to fall if one of his most noble friends, Brutus, would betray him. This is moving, even after the whole, "I'm the most special star in the whole galaxy" speech.
- Immediately after Caesar falls, Cinna proclaims, "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!" and tells everybody to run and spread the message in the streets.
- Brutus realizes that all the other folks standing around in the Capitol watching Caesar bleed might be a bit shocked. He tells them to stay and relax, as "ambition's debt is paid," meaning Caesar's death is the cost and consequence of Caesar's ambition.
- Casca directs Brutus and Cassius to the pulpit, probably to address the crowd, when Brutus notices he can't find Publius. Cinna points out that Publius is looking shocked by the great mutiny, and Metellus urges the conspirators to stand together in case Caesar's friends in the Capitol want to start a fight.
- Brutus then challenges everyone to come back to their senses. No one wants to hurt anybody, and he hopes no one wants to hurt them. Brutus, maybe sensing that the plan to become heroes for killing Caesar has not come to pass, adds that only the men who've done this deed will bear its consequences.
- Trebonius enters to confirm the worst: Antony has run to his house, shocked by the act, and people are shrieking in the street like it was Doomsday.
- Brutus then basically says: "We all know we'll die eventually, and life is just the process of waiting for the days to pass before it happens." (Maybe Brutus should get a hobby, or a support group.) Brutus goes on to suggest that, as Caesar's friends, they've done him a favor by shortening the period of time he would've spent worrying about death. Interesting logic.
- Weirdly, Brutus then calls everyone to bathe their hands up to their elbows in Caesar's blood and to cover their swords with it, so they can walk out into the streets and the marketplace declaring peace, freedom, and liberty in the land. (This is notably reminiscent of Calphurnia's dream.)
- Cassius says he's sure this bloodbath will go down in history as a noble act, and everyone agrees that Brutus should lead the procession into the street, as he has the boldest and best heart in Rome.
- Just then, Antony's servant enters, causing the marching band of merry, bloody men to take pause.
- Antony has sent word with his servant to say Brutus is noble, wise, valiant, and honest, and, further, that while Antony loves Brutus and honors him, Antony also feared, loved, and honored Caesar. Antony thus pledges to love Brutus if he can get some assurance that it's safe to come around for a visit sometime and hear the story of why Brutus thought it was OK to kill their leader. Regardless, he'll be faithful to Brutus from now on.
- Brutus tells Antony's servant that his master will be safe if he comes to the Capitol. Brutus is sure glad they can all be friends again.
- Cassius, however, is still suspicious of Antony, and as the resident expert in treachery, he's usually right about spotting it in others.
- Antony shows up and makes a great show over Caesar's body, weeping and wailing. He worries aloud about who else will be killed over some secret grudge the conspirators might hold.
- Antony then pleas with the conspirators to kill him right now if they want him dead, as to die by swords still fresh with Caesar's blood would be the greatest death ever, hands down.
- Brutus then pleads with Antony that, though the conspirators' hands are bloody, their hearts are pitiful. After all, someone needed to do this terrible deed for Rome, to drive out fire with fire. Brutus promises Antony he will only met with love.
- Brutus promises to soon explain the reason they've killed Caesar. Right now, though, they've got to go out and quiet the public, which is a bit frightened of the men who stopped for a quick dip in Caesar's blood.
- Antony says he has no doubt that Brutus probably had some very good reason to kill Caesar, and he shakes bloody hands with the conspirators all around. He then looks on Caesar's corpse and begins a long-winded speech in praise of Caesar, whom he has betrayed by becoming loyal to his murderers.
- Cassius interrupts this dramatic posturing and flat-out asks whether Antony is with them or against them.
- Antony says he was committed to the conspirators, but then he notices Caesar's corpse again (still lying on the ground at their feet), and the plan to be down with the murderers suddenly looks a little less savory. Still, Antony will remain their friend if they can provide some reason to believe Caesar was dangerous. Brutus promises they can and must.
- Antony's only other little request is that he be allowed to take the body to the marketplace and to speak at Caesar's funeral.
- Brutus, ever trusting, readily gives in to Antony's request, but Cassius senses foul play and pulls Brutus aside.
- Cassius warns Brutus to bar Antony from speaking at Caesar's funeral, as he's likely to say things that will incite the people against the conspirators.
- Brutus will solve this problem by going to the pulpit first and explaining in a calm and rational manner his reasons for killing Caesar. (Rationality always goes over well with angry mobs, right?) Brutus will explain that the conspirators have given Antony permission to speak (meaning he's not an adversary), and that Caesar will have all the lawful burial ceremonies. Brutus is certain this will win them good PR all around.
- Just to make sure, Brutus makes Antony promise not to say anything inflammatory at Caesar's funeral. Instead of blaming the killers, he should speak of Caesar's virtue by focusing more on Caesar's life than his death.
- Antony promises and is left alone to give a little soliloquy, in which he reveals that he fully intends to incite the crowd to bloody murder against the conspirators. In fact, there'll be so much blood and destruction that Caesar might show up from hell with the goddess of discord at his side, and mothers will smile to see their infants torn limb from limb. (Ew.) Well, the man has a plan.
- Just then a servant arrives with the news that Octavius is on his way. Octavius is Julius Caesar's adopted son and heir, and Caesar had recently sent him a letter asking him to come to Rome.
- Antony tells the servant to hold Octavius where he is, just seven leagues from Rome, as it's not safe for him in the city yet. He says Octavius should come after Antony has had a chance to give his speech and kick-start the mob rioting.
- The servant lends Antony a hand to carry Caesar's body out of the Capitol.
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