One of William Shakespeare's tragedies, the play is his take on the assassination of Julius Caesar in Ancient Rome and its bloody aftermath.The protagonist is Marcus Brutus, a scrupulously honest, loyal and patriotic statesman, who is nonetheless drawn by his friend Caius Cassius into a plot to assassinate the increasingly powerful Caesar. Brutus is torn between his love for Julius Caesar and what he believes to be his duty to Rome. He is eventually moved to the act only by his love of the republic; other characters in the conspiracy have less spotless motivations.Alternately, the protagonist is Marcus Brutus, a self-centered patrician whom Cassius flatters into betraying his former patron Caesar. Take your pick.In either case, Brutus is intended to be the most sympathetic character in a cast of villains. The title character? An AmbitiousDecoy Protagonist. His other closest friend, Mark Antony? Uses his oratory skills to help woo the crowds to handing Caesar power, and when it comes to Avenging the Villain he really gets nasty, all while acting the part of the Faux Affably EvilVillain with Good Publicity. Octavian/Octavius/Augustus Caesar? Just as ambitious as his dear old uncle, but even smarter, smart enough in fact to maintain his good publicity throughout the events of the play so that it takes a knowledge of what actually happened afterwards historically (or in Antony And Cleopatra) to realize his villainy. Our actual protagonist's other best friend, Cassius? The Resenter to Caesar's power who gets Brutus involved in the conspiracy in the first place by being a Manipulative Bastard, with plans to set himself up as The Man Behind the Man where Brutus is The Man whether he wants the job or not; in fact, the less Brutus actually wants the job the easier he thinks it will be. The rest of the conspirators all have their own selfish motivations as well. Oh and the rest of Rome? Anyone who isn't just a victim of one of the villains ends up in the mob formed by Mark Antony's speech due to their fickle nature.Following the assassination, Rome is plunged into civil war, and a number of characters from the first several acts of the play die during the conflict, mostly through suicide.The play was adapted to film several times. The most famous is the 1953 version, which starred Marlon Brando as Mark Antony.The play factors heavily into the movie Me and Orson Welles.For the man himself, see Gaius Julius Caesar.
Adaptation Distillation: The plot was taken wholesale from Plutarch's biography of Caesar. Shakespeare wrote some extremely good dialogue for it.
Ambition Is Evil: Brutus kills Caesar because he fears Caesar will accept being made Emperor of Rome.
Brutus: As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but, as he was ambitious, I slew him.
Anachronism Stew: The characters refer to many things that didn't exist in Ancient Rome, but did exist in Elizabethan England.
Anti-Villain: Brutus — consider how honorable and idealistic Brutus is in the play; then remember, the widespread idea used in Dante's Inferno which considered him the worst traitor in history along with Cassius and Judas.
Antagonist in Mourning: After Brutus dies, Antony calls him "the noblest Roman of them all" and says that the others conspired against Caesar out of jealousy, but Brutus did it because he thought it was the right thing. He and Octavian agree to give him a respectful burial.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Caesar accepts superstition regarding the Lupercalia festival as fact, and then refuses to believe a soothsayer warning him to beware the Ides of March.
Dramatic Irony: It's very ironic to see Antony as a Magnificent Bastard in the play as well as the seeds of his disagreement with Octavian, as both in history and in Shakespeare's own Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian proved to be the greater Magnificent Bastard of the two.
Driven to Suicide: Several characters after everything gets worse following the assassination.
Et Tu, Brute?: As the assassins attack, Caesar defends himself... but when he sees Brutus, his best friend, among the assassins, he gives up and lets himself be murdered - he didn't care about a bunch of strangers armed with pointy things, but having his buddy stab him is another story entirely. The full quote is: "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar." Marc Antony during Caesar's funeral would say of Brutus's betrayal that his was "the most unkindest cut of all."
Exact Words: Brutus requires Antony to credit the assassins for giving him permission to speak at Caesar's funeral and to not lay blame on them. He keeps to the letter of those stipulations... and still agitates he audience into an angry mob howling for the assassins' blood.
Forged Letter: Cassius sends multiple letters "from the citizens of Rome" to Brutus in order to win him over to their conspiracy.
Green-Eyed Monster: Though the trope name comes from elsewhere in Shakespeare, it's in full force in this play. Every conspirator except (maybe) Brutus is motivated by this.
Guilt by Coincidence: Cinna the Poet gets killed by the Mob because he unfortunately shared a name with one of Caesar's murderers. An added irony which Shakespeare likely didn't know was that the murdered Cinna was a good friend of Caesar.
Have a Gay Old Time: Everywhere. Words like "lovers" are used quite innocuously—resulting in snickers in high school English classes everywhere.
The Hero Dies: The eponymous character himself midway through the play. Brutus, the true protagonist, dies at the end.
I Cannot Self-Terminate: Brutus' philosophy will not let him directly kill himself, so he gets someone to help. Cassius likewise.
Although, Brutus's suicide is more honorable (in their society's norms) than Cassius's because Brutus has his servant hold his sword while he runs himself on it, while Cassius makes his servant kill him while he looks away.
Cassius: How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!
Manipulative Bastard: Depending on portrayal, Cassius can easily be this. It is left ambiguous whether Cassius is merely jealous of Caesar's new found power even though both Brutus and himself are just as honourable, and has contracted the world's most traitorous form of tall poppy syndrome:
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar—what should be in that “Caesar”?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name.
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well.
Weigh them, it is as heavy.
Or whether he genuinely fears that Caesar will be crowned king and therefore be a threat to the very anti-monarchy Roman ideology:
Age, thou art shamed!
Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!
When went there by an age, since the great flood,
But it was famed with more than with one man?
When could they say till now, that talked of Rome,
...Stoop, Romans, stoop, And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords: Then walk we forth, even to the market-place, And waving our red weapons o'er our heads, Let's all cry Peace, Freedom, and Liberty.