Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 2 Summary
- Brutus and Cassius hit the streets, surrounded by crowds of common folks. So many people are clamoring to hear them that Cassius takes one group off while the others stay to listen to Brutus speak.
- Brutus ascends to the pulpit and the crowd falls silent. He delivers an earnest, honest, and simple speech.
- First, he says that the people should trust his honor, which they know to be true. He asks if anyone can say they loved Caesar more than he did. No one can.
- Brutus says he rose against Caesar not because he didn't love him, but because he loved Rome more. If Caesar were still living, they'd all be slaves. While Caesar was a lot of good things, he had to die for his ambition. To have let him live would be to submit to slavery, and that's downright un-Roman.
- Brutus asks whether anyone doesn't love Rome and freedom, and of course the answer is no. So obviously Caesar had to die.
- Everybody is buying this, but then Antony shows up with Caesar's body. Brutus introduces Antony to the crowd and closes his speech by restating that he slew his best friend for Rome's sake and that he will turn the same dagger on himself if his country ever needs his death. (Sounds like foreshadowing.)
- Everyone is so happy with Brutus that there are some calls to give him a statue among his ancestors and to make him the new Caesar. (These folks are really missing the democratic message of his speech.) Brutus politely dismisses himself and asks everyone to stay and listen to Antony's speech.
- The crowd is firmly behind Brutus, and they shout out that Caesar was a tyrant and Brutus has done them all a favor.
- Then Antony takes over, with the famous speech beginning: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar."
- The crowd is as good as sold there, but Antony manages to stealthily bring it around to the opinion that Caesar has been killed wrongfully. He begins by insisting that Brutus and the other murderers are honorable, but then proceeds to slowly undermine that statement by pointing out how their chief gripe against Caesar, his ambition, could not be true. Antony gives examples of how Caesar loved his people, bringing in money to the country, weeping with the poor, and even refusing the crown three times. Clearly, he suggests, Caesar wasn't ambitious at all, but was devoted and loving to his citizens.
- Antony uses a little reverse psychology on the crowd, getting them to clamor to hear Caesar's will by insisting that they shouldn't hear it. He descends to read them the private document but gets sidetracked by mourning over Caesar's body.
- Again Antony insists Brutus is honorable, but then points out the gash Brutus made in his friend's bloody body. Antony repeats this pattern over and over, until all are in agreement to burn, slay, and otherwise do not-so-nice things to Brutus and the other conspirators.
- They're so caught up and ready to go a-rioting that they forget about Caesar's will. Antony has to remind them that they wanted to hear it.
- After the mob gets the news that Caesar left them some nice gardens and 75 drachmas each, they decide to cremate Caesar in the holy place and burn down the traitors' houses with the same fire. (Even the mob has a sense of poetic justice.)
- As the mob sets off to carry out the chaos and killing, Antony delights that his plan has worked.
- He then gets the news that Octavius has come to Rome with Lepidus. Both men are waiting for him at Caesar's house. Good fortune is upon them, as they'll be the new triumvirate (the three-man team that ruled Rome).
- We learn that Brutus and Cassius have fled the city like madmen.