Act 5, Scene 1
Act five opens on the plains of Philippi. Octavius and Antony celebrate their good fortune that Brutus and Cassius have foolishly come down from the hills. Octavius demands to lead the more important army division, despite his inexperience. Brutus and Cassius arrive with their men, and the opposing leaders hold a brief conference. The exchange, short and bitter, ends with Octavius and Antony storming away.
In a moving speech Cassius tells Messala that he fears the upcoming battle. Although Cassius is not a superstitious, he cannot help but notice that the two eagles who accompanied the army on their long trek from Sardis have now flown away and in their place hover ravens, crows, and kites, who make "a canopy most fatal, under which/Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost." (88-9).
Cassius asks Brutus what he plans to do if they should lose the battle. Brutus rejects suicide, calling it "cowardly and vile" (104), but he also insists that he will never return to Rome as a prisoner. Before they rally the troops, Cassius and Brutus bid a solemn farewell to one another:
If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed;
If not, 'tis true this parting was well made.
Act 5, Scene 2
The battle has begun. Brutus sees an opportunity to strike Octavius' forces, which appear to be weakening, and he sends Cassius orders to attack immediately.
Act 5, Scene 3
On a hill in another part of the battlefield Titinius, a soldier and friend to Cassius, warns his commander that Brutus gave the word to attack prematurely, and Antony's men have them surrounded. Pindarus, Cassius's servant, rushes in with news that enemy troops are in the very tents of Cassius's headquarters. He begs Cassius to flee for his life. Cassius refuses and sends Titinius to make certain that they are not Brutus' men that have entered his camp. Pindarus ascends the hill to report on Titinius' movement. What he sees is grim indeed:
Titinius is enclosed round about
With horsemen, that make to him on the spur;
Yet he spurs on. Now they are almost on him.
Now, Titinius! Now some light.
O, he lights too. He's ta'en. (28-32)
Cassius knows that he too will soon be captured by Antony and Octavius, and will certainly be dragged through the streets of Rome in chains. He orders Pindarus to help him commit suicide: Come hither, sirrah:
In Parthia did I take thee prisoner;
And then I swore thee, saving of thy life,
That whatsoever I did bid thee do,
Thou shouldst attempt it. Come now, keep thine oath;
Now be a freeman: and with this good sword,
That ran through Caesar's bowels, search this bosom. (36-42)
Pindarus holds the sword steady. Cassius impales his chest on the blade. "Caesar, thou art revenged/Even with the sword that kill'd thee." (45-6). Pindarus flees as Titinius returns with Messala. Titinius was not captured by Antony -- Pindarus has made a terrible mistake. They come to tell Cassius that Brutus has defeated Octavius' troops, but, instead, they find Cassius's body. Messala leaves to inform Brutus, and Titinius laments the loss of his dear friend:
Why didst thou send me forth, brave Cassius?
Did I not meet thy friends? and did not they
Put on my brows this wreath of victory,
And bid me give it thee? Didst thou not hear their shouts?
Alas, thou hast misconstrued every thing! (80-85)
Titinius takes Cassius' sword and kills himself. Brutus arrives and sees the bodies of Cassius and Titinius. He cries, "Are yet two Romans living such as these?/The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!" (98-9). For Cassius he has special words:
Friends, I owe more tears
To this dead man than you shall see me pay.
I shall find time, Cassius, I shall find time. (102-3)
Brutus then announces that he plans another siege, this time against Antony.
Act 5, Scene 4
Antony proves too strong and Brutus is forced to retreat. He orders his men to remain fighting on the field. Lucilius pretends to be Brutus and is captured. When Antony arrives he sees that they have the wrong man, but he praises Lucilius' bravery and spares his life.
Act 5, Scene 5
Brutus and his few remaining servants gather at a rock. He asks Clitus and then Dardanius to kill him to avoid capture, but they refuse. He then implores Volumnius as a friend to help him commit suicide. But Volumnius too refuses: "That's not an office for a friend, my lord." (29). As the enemy troops draw near, Clitus, Dardanius, and Volumnius flee and Brutus remains behind with another servant, Strato. He convinces Strato to hold the sword for him as he runs upon it. With his final words Brutus addresses Caesar:
Caesar, now be still:
I kill'd not thee with half so good a will. (50-1)
Antony and Octavius arrive and find Brutus' body. Antony, knowing that Brutus was a valiant defender of Rome, delivers a tribute befitting so honest a man:
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.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world 'This was a man!' (68-75)
Octavius sends Brutus' body to his own tent until they can arrange a proper burial and the play comes to close: "So call the field to rest; and let's away/To part the glories of this happy day" (80-81).
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Julius Caesar Plot Summary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/juliuscaesar/juliuscaesarps3.html >.
Did You Know? ... Unlike many of Shakespeare's other dramas which suffered periods of unpopularity, Julius Caesar has remained a constant fixture of both British and post-independence American theatre. Eerily, in 1864, just a year before he assassinated Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth performed in a production of the play in New York, along with his brothers Edwin and the appropriately named Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. After he shot Lincoln, Booth apparently yelled out "Sic semper tyrannis" or "Thus ever to tyrants", the same phrase Brutus is said to have used as he murdered Caesar.