Act III Summary
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

In Act 3, the rising action reaches a turning point (climax) that will precipitate the rest of the plays action.

ACT 3, Scene 1: Rome - in front of the Capitol
On his way to the Capitol, Caesar disregards Artemidorus' letter saying he'll put his needs last. At the Capitol he is surrounded by the conspirators who have a "suit" (petition) to present.

Trebonius draws Marc Antony away from Caesar. Metullus Cimber presents the suit that asks Caesar to repeal his brother's banishment. Caesar then gives an arrogant speech about how he's as steady and constant as the Northern Star. He is killed. Though Casca is the first to strike & 6 other men follow, it is the treachery of his friend Brutus that destroys him. He is shocked, "Et tu, Brute?" (You too, Brutus?), expresses his shattered trust in his friend.

Antony goes to the conspirators & says that he understands & forgives them and shakes each man's bloody hand. He asks permission to speak at Caesar's funeral and Brutus grants it.

Cassius is afraid that Antony's words may move the crowd, but Brutus disagrees saying it will only make them look good for allowing him to speak.

Brutus sets up the conditions under which Antony may speak & believes that will be enough to control him.

1. Antony has to speak after Brutus & from the same pulpit.
2. Antony can't say anything bad about the conspirators.
3. Antony must mention that Brutus let him speak.
4. Antony must stay in the pulpit during his speech.

Left alone with Caesar's corpse, Antony reveals his true feelings in a soliloquy. He vows that Rome will be total chaos - filled with destruction and battles so bloody that mothers will smile when their infant sons are killed as he gets revenge for Caesar's death.

ACT 3, Scene 2 - The Forum
Brutus delivers an unemotional and logical speech in which he tells the crowd that they killed Caesar because he was "too ambitious", thereby
saving them all from a tyrant. It's not that he loved Caesar less, but that he loved Rome more. The crowd is ready to forget Caesar and make Brutus king.

Antony then gives a masterful, emotional speech in which he breaks every rule set by Brutus. He destroys Brutus' argument that Caesar was too ambitious by giving examples of Caesar's generosity. He repeats the line, "but Brutus is an honorable man" and the people begin to realize that the conspirators are far from honor.

Antony descends from the pulpit to show them Caesar's bloodied toga and his corpse which evokes feelings of grief and anger. He then teases them with Caesar's will by saying he'd like to read it, but it would only make them angry. Of course, they demand that he read it.

When they hear that Caesar has left every Roman citizen 75 drachmas, plus all of his private gardens and orchards, the crowd turns into an unruly mob. They are ready to burn the conspirators' houses.

Antony's speech marks the turning point of the play.

ACT 3, Scene 3 - A street in Rome
Poor Cinna the poet is questioned and killed by the angry mob because they mistake him for Cinna the conspirator.

 

Posted May 9, 2007