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Theatre / Julius Caesar

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As the play is Older Than Steam and based on historical events, and as most twists in Shakespeare's plots are now widely known, all spoilers on this page are unmarked.
I wonder what will happen next.

"Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar."

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 Junius 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 Ambitious Decoy 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 Evil Villain 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, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia. The 1970 version stars Charlton Heston as Mark Antony (reprising the role from a lower budget 1950 film version), Jason Robards as Brutus and Gielgud again, as Caesar this time around, among others. The 2003 Julius Caesar miniseries, meanwhile, is not based off Shakespeare.

The play factors heavily into the movie Me and Orson Welles.


  • Adaptation Name Change: The figure of Decimus Brutus is mistakenly named Decius here.
  • 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.
    • Antony builds his rebuke of the conspirators around decontructing Brutus's claim, citing with some of Caesar's deeds that would imply otherwise.
      Antony: But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.
  • Anachronism Stew: The characters refer to many things that didn't exist in Ancient Rome, but did exist in Elizabethan England. Most egregiously, at one point, a clock tolls the hour.
  • 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.
  • Anti-Villain: Brutus — consider how honourable and idealistic Brutus is in the play; then remember, the widespread idea used in Dante's Inferno which considered him one of the worst traitors in history along with Cassius and Judas.
  • 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.
  • Arc Words: "Beware the Ides of March..."
  • Artistic License – History: Although this play is much more historically accurate than other Shakespeare plays, he did take some liberties so as to curtail time and compress the facts so that the play could be staged more easily:
    • Shakespeare made Caesar's triumph take place on the day of Lupercalia (February 15) instead of six months earlier.
    • For dramatic effect, Shakespeare made the Capitol the venue of Caesar's death rather than the Curia Pompeia (Curia of Pompey).
    • Shakespeare has Caesar say "Et tu, Brute?" ("And you, Brutus?") before he dies. Plutarch and Suetonius each report that he said nothing, with Plutarch adding that he pulled his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators, although Suetonius does record other reports that Caesar said in Latin, "Ista quidem vis est" ("This is violence").
    • Caesar's murder, the funeral, Antony's oration, the reading of the will, and the arrival of Octavius all take place on the same day in the play. However, historically, the assassination took place on March 15 (The Ides of March), the will was published on March 18, the funeral was on March 20, and Octavius arrived only in May.
    • Shakespeare had the Triumvirs first meet in Rome instead of near Bononia to avoid an additional locale.
    • There were actually two battles of Philippi over two weeks apart, with Cassius committing suicide after the first one, incorrectly thinking the Liberators had been defeated, and Brutus committing suicide after the second one in which the Liberators really were defeated.
  • AstroTurf: Cassius pulls this on Brutus:
    I will this night,
    In several hands, in at his windows throw,
    As if they came from several citizens,
    Writings all tending to the great opinion
    That Rome holds of his name; wherein obscurely
    Caesar's ambition shall be glanced at
  • As You Know: Caesar explains a famous superstition about Lupercalia to Antony, lest the audience be confused.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Platonic example with Brutus and Cassius. Despite their difficulties with each other, their final scene together at Philippi has them affectionately saying goodbye to one another while re-affirming their friendship.
  • Based on a True Story: Mostly. Shakespeare got all his historical information from Plutarch, and Julius Caesar is much more historically accurate than many of his other plays.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Hence the suicides. Truth in Television; this was fairly common among patrician Romans.
  • Blood on the Debate Floor: The most famous example, as Caesar is turned into a pincushion during a session of the Senate.
  • Cassandra Truth: The soothsayer's warning. Lampshaded by Caesar as he meets the soothsayer on the Ides of March. The soothsayer reminds him the day isn't over yet.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Several good scenes for it.
    • Caesar, whenever he talks about himself. "Speak! CAESAR is turned to hear."
    • Mark Antony: "Cry HAVOC! And let slip the dogs of war!"
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Part of the grief of this play is the sheer number of warnings that go ignored, both for Caesar to avoid his assassination and for Brutus and company to avoid violent reprisal for it.
  • Could Say It, But...: Antony in his funeral speech, when talking about why he won't read Caesar's will to the crowd.
    You are not wood, you are not stones, but men;
    And, being men, bearing the will of Caesar,
    It will inflame you, it will make you mad:
    'Tis good you know not that you are his heirs;
    For, if you should, O, what would come of it!
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Marc Antony calling the assassins "honorable" while eulogizing Caesar's death helps in turning the public consciousness against them.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Caesar is the title character, but the real protagonist is Brutus.
  • Defiant to the End: Caesar is strongly resolved to attend the Senate meeting, in spite of Calpurnia's ominous nightmare of the bloody fountain and the dangers awaiting him:
    Caesar: Caesar should be a beast without a heart if he should stay at home today for fear.
    No, Caesar shall not; Danger knows full well that Caesar is more dangerous than he;
    We are two lions littered in one day, and I the elder and more terrible: And Caesar shall go forth.
  • Democracy Is Bad: The citizens are continually shown as highly fickle.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Learning that his trusted friend Brutus is among the assassins ranged against him causes Caesar to lose heart and cease struggling.
  • Did Not Think This Through: In spite of Cassius' objections, Brutus permits Antony to speak, unsupervised, at Caesar's funeral, asking only that he not speak ill of the assassins. Needless to say, the more experienced Antony quickly turns the crowd, causing them to form a mob and seek vengeance on the conspirators.
  • Died on Their Birthday: Cassius mentions on the day of the Battle of Philippi that it's his birthday. He ends up committing suicide when his side loses.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Caesar is depicted as being deaf in one ear, even though there's no evidence that he had any kind of hearing impairment in Real Life.
  • Disease by Any Other Name: Brutus mentions that Caesar has "falling sickness," aka epilepsy. (Many historians say he did.)
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Caesar is proud of his hatred of attempts to flatter him.
    Brutus: I can o'ersway him; for he loves to hear
    That unicorns may be betray'd with trees,
    And bears with glasses, elephants with holes,
    Lions with toils and men with flatterers;
    But when I tell him he hates flatterers,
    He says he does, being then most flattered.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When the angry mob surrounds Cinna the poet, this exchange occurs:
    Cinna: Truly, my name is Cinna.
    First citizen: Tear him to pieces, he's a conspirator!
    Cinna: I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet!
    First citizen: Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses!note 
  • Downer Ending: Instead of preserving the Roman Republic, the assassins end up setting the stage for its slow and destructive collapse, and almost all of them are dead after the events at Philippi. That's not even talking about the slew of innocents, such as Cinna the poet, getting killed throughout the story. Making matters worse, the relationship between Antony and Octavian starts to show strains, hinting at even more instability to follow.
  • 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, most notably Portia, Brutus' wife, and ultimately Cassius and Brutus themselves.
  • Due to the Dead: Antony and Octavian give Brutus a proper burial after his suicide.
  • Dying Curse: An alternative interpretation of Caesar's final words; Caesar is cursing Brutus to suffer the same fate as Caesar himself. Brutus does in fact suffer the same fate, and at the hand of the same man.
  • Empathic Environment: Crazy things happen in Rome during this time of turmoil.
  • 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 the audience into an angry mob howling for the assassins' blood.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Julius Caesar, in spite of Calpurnia's attempts to keep him home:
    Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    And of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.
  • Forged Letter: Cassius sends multiple letters "from the citizens of Rome" to Brutus in order to win him over to their conspiracy.
  • Get Out!: When the poet barges into Brutus' and Cassius' tent, they promptly send him on his way:
    Brutus: Get you hence, sirrah! Saucy fellow, hence!
    Cassius: Bear with him, Brutus. 'Tis his fashion.
    Brutus: I'll know his humor when he knows his time.
    What should the wars do with these jigging fools? Companion, hence!
    Cassius: Away, away, begone!
  • Good Is Dumb: Brutus is portrayed as far-and-away the best-intentioned of the conspirators, but every time he overrules Cassius it's for something mind-bogglingly stupid.
    • Brutus nixes a suggestion to kill Antony along with Caesar, resulting in Antony becoming one of their greatest threats.
    • Brutus overrules Cassius and insists they allow Antony to speak at Caesar's funeral, and Antony incites the crowd to riot with his speech, decisively swinging public opinion against the assassins.
    • Brutus again overrules Cassius and says they must advance and give battle at Phillipi, rather than bide their time as Cassius suggests, resulting in their final, total defeat.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: 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 is that the murdered Cinna was a good friend of Caesar.
  • Haunting the Guilty: Brutus sees the ghost of Caesar, who ominously warns him of his fate in the upcoming battle.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Everywhere. Words like "lovers" are used between men (with the old meaning of "good friend"), resulting in snickers in high school English classes everywhere.
  • Heel Realization: One interpretation of "Then fall, Caesar." That is, Caesar realizes that if his closest friend thinks his death is necessary, then maybe he's not the hero he thought he was.
  • The Hero Dies: The eponymous character himself midway through the play. Brutus, the true protagonist, dies at the end.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Shakespeare's play has done much to make Marcus Junius Brutus into a Republican hero Internal Reformist torn by Conflicting Loyalty. This characterization is entirely Shakespeare's invention and it's very compelling as an aesthetic achievement but the real Brutus as per Cicero's letters was a corrupt optimate and Loan Shark who extorted interest from the poor by sending goon squads to make them pay up and there's much debate among historians, such as Mary Beard, if Brutus was really going to restore the Republic or merely angling to be another warlord dictator out for his own powernote .
  • Honour Before Reason: Brutus's downfall comes from this, especially in regards to Antony.
  • Hope Spot: After the conspirators have killed Caesar, Publius Cimber, who was facing banishment, believes this to be a day of freedom:
    Brutus: Publius, good cheer. There is no harm intended to your person, nor to no Roman else. So tell them, Publius.
    • Unfortunately, after the conspirators flee Rome when Antony has swayed the crowd to sympathize with Caesar, Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus are marking Publius Cimber among those to be executed.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Oh god the cobbler scene. Shakespeare was a big fan of puns.
  • I Am Spartacus: Subverted when Lucilius pretends to be Brutus after he is captured by Antony:
    Antony: Where is he?
    Lucilius: Safe, Antony, Brutus is safe enough.
    I dare assure thee that no enemy shall ever take alive the noble Brutus.
    The gods defend him from so great a shame!
    When you do find him, or alive or dead,
    He will be found like Brutus, like himself.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Ball: Brutus permits Marc Antony to speak at Caesar's funeral, provided he speaks all the good he can of Caesar and not to blame the conspirators. This backfires when Antony extols Caesar's generosity and humility while calling Brutus and the conspirators "honorable men", and once he tells the crowds of Caesar's will, they start to ransack the conspirators' houses.
  • I Know You Know I Know: As everybody is headed into the Senate on March 15, a random Senator named Popilius says "I wish today your enterprise may thrive."
  • I'm Going to Hell for This: After Casca tells Cassius and Brutus the events of the Lupercal, including when Caesar offered Casca a chance to slit his throat:
    Casca: Marry, before he fell down, when he perceived the common herd was glad he refused the crown,
    He plucked me ope his doublet and offered them his throat to cut.
    An I had been a man of any occupation, if I would not have taken him at a word,
    I would I might go to hell among the rogues.
  • Inertial Impalement: How Brutus' servant kills Brutus.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Put briefly:
    Mob: Die, Cinna!
    Cinna: I'm the poet Cinna, not the Senator Cinna!
    Mob: Die for having the same name as Cinna!
  • Karmic Death: Cassius is killed by the same sword he used to kill Caesar.
  • Large Ham: Even from just reading the play, it seems like Caesar is intended to be played as one:
    Danger knows full well
    That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
    We are two lions littered in one day,
    And I the elder and more terrible.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall
    Cassius: How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!
  • Life of the Party: Mark Antony is seen as a frivolous party animal and Brutus has little respect for him, doubting he even cares that much about Caesar, which turns out to be completely wrong.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Depending on portrayal, Cassius can easily be this. It is left ambiguous whether Cassius is merely jealous of Caesar's newfound 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,
    That her wide walks encompassed but one man?
    Now is it Rome indeed, and room enough,
    When there is in it but one only man.
    Oh, you and I have heard our fathers say,
    There was a Brutus once that would have brooked
    Th' eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
    As easily as a king.
    • Decius Brutus rather cleverly observes that the best way to flatter Caesar is to praise him for being so immune to flattery.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero / Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Brutus decides to let Mark Antony speak on condition he doesn't say anything bad about the conspirators. Antony goes on to prove what a Manipulative Bastard he truly is and gets the people of Rome to riot against them. Good going.
    • Brutus assassinated Caesar because he was afraid that Caesar would crown himself monarch of Rome and do away with Roman democracy. Brutus's actions in killing Julius Caesar paved the way for Julius's heir Gaius Octavius to become Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. Good going.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Caesar shows no fear when he's killed. Earlier in the play he tells his wife Calpurnia:
    Cowards die many times before their deaths,
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Antony is the master at this; his appearing stupid is what ultimately convinces Brutus not to kill him. Because of this, he has the chance to rile up the crowd and convince them to kill the conspirators.
    • Casca pretends to be less intelligent around people he mistrusts.
  • Offered the Crown: Antony tries to put one on Caesar's head three times; Caesar refuses it three times. Antony later brings this up in his eulogy for Caesar.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, since the Romans had a very small pool of personal names. Marcus Junius Brutus shares the stage with Decius Brutus (who in Real Life was his distant cousin), and also with Marcus Lepidus, Marcus Tullius Cicero, and Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius). Then there are Cinna the conspirator and Cinna the poet, which turns out badly for the latter.
  • The Only Believer: The main interpretation of the play, as well as the opinion of Anthony in universe, is that Brutus is this. The conspiracy to kill Caesar, despite the fact that it's supposedly about stopping Caesar from overthrowing the Republic and turning into a dictator, mostly consists of power-hungry nobles opposing Caesar because they want that power for themselves. Brutus, on the other hand is genuinely distressed at the thought of Caesar being crowned. Mark Anthony's line eulogizing Brutus is the page quote.
    This was the noblest Roman of them all.
    All the conspirators save only he
    Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
    He only in a general honest thought
    And common good to all, made one of them.
  • Open Shirt Taunt: Cassius becomes so worked up during an argument with Brutus in Act IV, Scene III that he throws open his toga, presents Brutus with a dagger, and all but dares Brutus to kill him. It's not entirely clear whether this is cynical manipulation or he's sincerely aggrieved, and the interpretation frequently varies between productions.
  • Portent of Doom: Calpurnia urges Caesar not to go to the Senate because of the various omens she's either witnessed or heard about from reliable sources. Caesar pooh-poohs it and goes anyway.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: They start out angry at the assassination. Within 5 minutes they're cheering Brutus. 15 minutes of Antony later, they're rioting.
  • Pride: Caesar is so assured of his invincibility that he ignores numerous unambiguous warnings of death and destruction and walks straight into the conspirators' trap.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Caesar is told by a soothsayer, to his face, to beware the Ides of March. His wife Calpurnia also dreams of his death the night before. Caesar goes out anyway, telling her that he can't hide at home.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Caesar's wife has a prophetic dream on the night before his assassination. He doesn't exactly ignore it, but he doesn't heed her wishes and stay home.
  • The Purge: The Triumvirs' meeting at the beginning of Act 4 is the beginning of the proscriptions.
  • Rabble Rouser: Mark Antony riles up the crowds at Caesar's funeral and sics them on the conspirators.
  • Reverse Psychology: Antony's speech to the crowd. Since he has promised not to praise Caesar or speak out directly against the conspirators, he spends the whole speech saying that he simply can't tell the audience what a good person Caesar was, because they'd turn on Brutus... who is such an honourable man. Needless to say, they turn on the conspirators in short order.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Antony manipulates a city full of clueless schmucks into carrying one out for him.
  • Rousing Speech: Mark Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral is one of the greatest examples in literature. All while sticking to Brutus' rule of not saying anything bad about the conspirators (even when from the text he clearly gets increasingly sarcastic throughout the speech).
  • Sarcasm Mode: Antony's speech is a dramatic example: He begins with a seemingly-sincere claim that Brutus and the conspirators are honourable men who acted for good reasons. But as he continues, he makes Caesar look better and better in the crowd's eyes, while the repeated phrase "and Brutus is an honourable man" becomes ironic, then insulting, and finally utterly venomous.
  • Serious Business: When Brutus meets with the conspirators for the first time, Cassius's line, "And let us swear our resolution," triggers a 30-line speech from Brutus to the effect that oaths are unnecessary. It's unclear if Brutus feels that strongly on the subject, or if he's reacting because he feels that his authority is being subtly challenged by Cassius.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: After Brutus and Cassius have reconciled, the poet breaks into their tent:
    Cassius: How now! What's the matter?
    Poet: For shame, you generals! what do you mean?
    Love and be friends, as two such men should be,
    For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye.
    Cassius: Ha, ha! How vilely doth this cynic rhyme!
    Brutus: Get you hence, sirrah! Saucy fellow, hence!
  • Shown Their Work: As stated above, the play is one of Shakespeare’s more historically accurate works. He therefore incorporated many details from the known historical record into the play:
    • Most of the play’s characters are historical domain characters and were involved in the events depicted.
    • At the festival of the Lupercalia, on February 15, 44 BC, Mark Antony tried to put a diadem (crown) on Caesar's head three times, with Caesar refusing each time. Many believe that Caesar's rejection of the diadem was a way to test the waters to see if there was enough support for him to become king. This incident was considered the last straw in a list of grievances which initiated the conspiracy against him.
    • While the inclusion of the Soothsayer seemingly appears to be a Shakespearean plot device, there actually was a soothsayer involved in the events depicted. According to Plutarch, a seer had warned Caesar that his life would be in danger no later than the Ides of March. Suetonius identifies this seer as a haruspex (a person trained to practice a form of divination) named Spurinna.
    • The conspiracy did originate with Cassius initially discussing the matter with Brutus, his brother-in-law, believing that something had to be done to prevent Caesar from becoming king of the Romans. Brutus was selected as the ringleader because his ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, helped depose Rome's last king several centuries earlier and establish the Roman Republic. Additionally, the conspiracy did eventually include all of those shown in the play: Casca, Decimus Brutus, Cinna, Cimber, Trebonius, and Ligarius.
    • In the play, the conspirators reveal that they forged letters of support from the Roman people to tempt Brutus into joining. Brutus reads the letters and, after much moral debate, decides to join the conspiracy. Plutarch, Appian of Alexandria, and Cassius Dio all report that by late 45 BC, graffiti glorifying Brutus' ancestor Lucius Junius Brutus, panning Caesar’s kingly ambitions, and making derogatory comments of Brutus failing to live up to his ancestors appeared in Rome. While Dio reports this public support came from the people of Rome, Plutarch however has the graffiti created by elites to shame Brutus into action (similar to what is shown in the play).
    • Caesar did apparently have misgivings about Cassius. On March 1, 44 BC, while he was watching Cassius speaking with Brutus at the senate house, he purportedly said to an aide, "What do you think Cassius is up to? I don't like him, he looks pale." Additionally, although Brutus ultimately became the leader of the conspiracy, Cassius was described as "the moving spirit" of the plot.
    • There was discussion on whether to include Cicero, the famous orator, in the conspiracy. He was trusted by both Cassius and Brutus and had made it no secret that he considered Caesar’s rule oppressive. He also had great popularity among the common people and a large network of friends, which would help attract others to join their cause. However, the conspirators considered Cicero too cautious and ultimately decided not to include him.
    • Additionally, there was also discussion on whether to assassinate Mark Antony, with Cassius in particular advocating this action. However, it was Brutus who nixed this. He argued that killing Caesar, and doing nothing else, was the only option they should choose—the conspirators claimed to be acting based on the principles of law and justice, and it would be unjust to kill Antony.
    • Porcia, Brutus's wife, may have at least known about the plot. As shown in the play, Plutarch claims that she happened upon Brutus while he was pondering over what to do about Caesar and asked him what was wrong. When he did not answer, she suspected that he distrusted her on account of her being a woman, for fear she might reveal something, however unwillingly, under torture. To prove herself to him, she secretly inflicted a wound upon her own thigh with a barber's knife to see if she could endure the pain. As a result of the wound, she suffered from violent pains, chills, and fever (she is shown as ill in the play). Brutus was allegedly marveled when he saw the gash and promised to relate the whole plot. He is also said to have prayed that he might succeed in his undertaking and thus show himself a worthy husband. Yet he never got the chance, as they were interrupted and never had a moment's privacy before the conspiracy was carried out.
    • Caesar’s wife at the time, Calpurnia, did have an ominous nightmare in the early morning of March 15, 44 BC that mortal danger was awaiting him. Although there are different versions about what exactly she purportedly dreamed about, Shakespeare chose the version where she dreamed Caesar's body was streaming with blood. Calpurnia did beg Caesar not to go to the senate meeting that day. After some hesitation, he acquiesced. He then sent Mark Antony to dismiss the Senate. When the conspirators heard of this dismissal, Decimus Brutus, as in the play, went to Caesar’s home to try to convince him to come to the Senate meeting. After Decimus dismissed Calpurnia’s misgivings, Caesar ultimately decided to go to the Senate.
    • According to Plutarch, there was an individual named Artemidorus of Knidos who tried to warn Caesar of the assassination plot on the Ides of March. He attempted to warn him with a written note, and although Caesar took the note, he did not look at it before entering the Senate.
    • As Caesar took his seat in the Senate, Cimber, one of the conspirators, did actually present him with a petition to recall his exiled brother. This was meant to serve as a pretext to gather around and entrap Caesar. The other conspirators then crowded around to offer their support to Cimber, but Caesar tried to wave Cimber away. Additionally, as shown in the play, Casca was the first individual to stab Caesar, Caesar was ultimately stabbed 23 times, and according to Cicero, Caesar did fall at the foot of the statue of Pompey.
    • There is some contention regarding actual Caesar's last words, as shown above. While there is no evidence that Caesar said "Et tu, Brute?", Plutarch reports that Caesar yielded to the attack after seeing Brutus' participation; Cassius Dio reported that Caesar shouted in Greek "kai su teknon" ("You too, child?").
    • Not long after the assassination, Brutus did speak before the people. While the text of that speech is lost, Cassius Dio says the liberatores (Caesar's assassins) promoted their alleged support of democracy and liberty and told the people not to expect harm. The support of the people was initially tepid, but the assassination ultimately backfired because Caesar had been immensely popular with the Roman middle and lower classes, becoming enraged that a small group of aristocrats had killed their champion.
    • After initially fleeing Rome fearing reprisal, Mark Antony soon came to a quick accommodation with Caesar's assassins. However, on March 20, the day of Caesar's funeral, Antony, as Caesar's faithful lieutenant and incumbent consul, was chosen to preside over the ceremony and to recite a eulogy. As in the play, he gave a demagogic speech, enumerating the deeds of Caesar and, publicly reading his will (made public two days previous), detailing the donations Caesar had left to the Roman people. Antony then seized the blood-stained toga from Caesar's body and presented it to the crowd. Worked into a fury by the bloody spectacle, the assembly turned into a riot. Several buildings in the Forum and some houses of the conspirators were burned to the ground. Also, as shown in the play, the poet Cinna was killed due to mistaken identity with the conspirator Cinna.
    • A Triumvirate was formed between Mark Antony, Octavius (Caesar's grandnephew, adopted son, and heir), and Lepidus (Caesar's Master of the Horse) to rule the Roman world. At the time the Triumvirate was formed, Antony was clearly the most senior member. The primary objective of the Triumvirate was to avenge Caesar's death and to make war upon his murderers and their supporters, both domestically and abroad.
    • During the first Battle of Philippi on October 3, 42 BC, Cassius, defeated and overrun by Mark Antony and, unaware of Brutus' victory against Octavius, ordered his freeman Pindarus to help him kill himself, as shown in the play; Pindarus then fled. Additionally, the centurion Titinius, on returning to find Cassius dead, killed himself.
    • After the second Battle of Philippi on October 23, 42 BC, the defeated Brutus fled into the nearby hills with about four legions. Knowing his army had been defeated and that he would be captured, he took his own life by falling on his sword, as shown in the play. Additionally, some sources report that Antony, upon discovering Brutus' body, as a show of respect, covered it with a purple garment.
  • Slashed Throat: Invoked by Caesar, and averted by Casca:
    Casca: He plucked me ope his doublet and offered them his throat to cut.
    An I had been a man of any occupation, if I would not have taken him at a word,
    I would I might go to hell among the rogues.
  • Sock Puppet: Cassius gets Brutus to join him by forging a bunch of petitions in various writing styles, all criticizing Caesar and praising Brutus.
  • Spanner in the Works: While the assassination initially looks like a success, Mark Antony turns the crowd against Brutus and company in short order. Tragically, Brutus was the one who insisted that the man be spared when the other conspirators knew better than to let him live.
  • Stealth Insult: Mark Antony's funeral speech is full of these, like when he says "I am no orator, as Brutus is," subtly implying that Brutus was trying to trick the crowd, while painting himself as plain-spoken.
  • Stealth Pun: "Beware the Ides of March" would have been one to audiences at the time, as March 15, not April 15, was tax day in England.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: When Cassius sees Titinius captured, he asks Pindarus to take his sword and kill him. A few moments later, Messala reports that Octavius's forces have been defeated by Brutus's army, and Titinius commits suicide soon afterwards.
  • Take Our Word for It: The odd events in Rome are entirely off-screen. Justified as these events would be difficult to do at the time.
  • Tears of Blood: From a statue of Caesar in his wife's dream.
  • Third-Person Person: Caesar often refers to himself in the third person, which serves to demonstrate his gigantic ego. Truth in Television; Caesar did this in his writing as was literary convention well into the Middle Ages.
  • Token Good Teammate: Brutus can be viewed as this among the other conspirators.
  • Torn Apart by the Mob: The mob that Marc Antony incensed found a poet unfortunate enough to share the name of Cinna, one of the conspirators responsible for Caesar's assassination. Either not hearing or not caring that he is not Cinna the conspirator, they kill him by tearing him to pieces.
  • Tragic Hero: Brutus.
  • Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking...:
    • Mark Antony's funeral oration: "I am no orator, as Brutus is..."
    • Cassius does this more subtly to Brutus in Act I, Scene II, when he expresses pleasure that his "weak words have struck but thus much show of fire from Brutus".
  • Vigilante Execution: Cinna the poet is lynched by a mob.
  • Weird Weather: Caesar's wife Calpurnia makes note of several portents which indicate bad things happening, including:
    Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,
    In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
    Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol
  • With Friends Like These...: Brutus and Cassius are supposedly best friends, but in a lot of scenes, it's hard to see this. Almost, but not quite, Vitriolic Best Buds. Cassius sure does get snippy once in a while. And he used less than honest means of winning Brutus to the conspiracy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Caesar's assassination, the rest of the conspirators basically vanish. However, it can be inferred that they were most likely hunted down and killed after Antony and Octavius seized power and initiated a series of purges all across Roman society. This in fact did happen in real life:
    • Following the assassination, Trebonius immediately left for the Roman province of Asia (modern-day Turkey). While there, he raised money and troops for Brutus and Cassius. He also helped Cassius on his way to Syria later in the year. However, the Caesarian general Dolabella captured Trebonius, and in January 43 BC, put him on trial for treason before proceeding to torture and then behead him.
    • Decimus Brutus, attempting to reach Macedonia where Brutus and Cassius were, was executed en route in mid-September 43 BC by a Gallic chief loyal to Mark Antony.
    • It is highly likely that both Cinna and Ligarius were executed during the proscriptions against the supporters of Brutus and Cassius in Italy no earlier than late 43 BC.
    • Both Casca and Cimber, like Brutus and Cassius, perished during the Philippi campaign in October 42 BC.

Tropes found in adaptations:

  • Age Lift: In the "Shakespeare: The Animated Tales" episode, Cassius is a grey-haired individual and looks more like he could be of Caesar's generation than of Brutus's, which he historically was.
  • The Dying Walk: The stage directions do not specify it, but most productions and adaptations will have a dying Caesar stagger up to Brutus for the "Et tu, Brute" line, or stagger over to Pompey's statue to die as happened in Real Life, or both.
  • Gender Flip: The 2018 National Theater production did this with a couple of characters, most notably Cassius. (No, not crosscasting — they changed the pronouns and everything.)
    • The 2018 Bell Shakespeare Company production did the same thing, this time making Mark Antony, Octavius, Casca, Trebonius, and a bunch of minor characters (played by the same actresses) into women.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • It's not uncommon for productions to frame the various characters as stand-ins for contemporary politicians. Notably, the 2018 National Theater production had all the characters played this way — most obviously, Caesar is Donald Trump, Calpurnia is Melania Trump, a Gender Flipped Cassius is Hillary Rodham Clinton, Casca is Maxine Waters, and Decius is Kellyanne Conway.
    • Back in the 1930s Orson Welles staged a production that was a thinly veiled commentary on Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy.
    • During Obama's Presidency, The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis had a rather obvious Obama stand-in as Caesar, with an older and white Antony, vaguely resembling Obama's older and white vice-president, Joe Biden.
  • Putting on the Reich: Orson Welles' version was inspired by Fascist Italy with Caesar being modelled on Mussolini.
  • Scare Chord: In Orson Welles' famous version, the play was considered pedestrian until they changed the murder of the poet Cinna by a mob. The change was that Cinna was grabbed by a mob accompanied by all of the keys of a pipe organ being blasted, as he's dragged into the darkness to his doom. Every performance was a sellout afterward.