Julius Caesar condensed

On the streets of 32 B.C. Rome, Rome’s most famous time, two tribunes are talking between themselves.  The tribunes are berating a group of “common people” (plebeians), people who have elected the tribunes to serve their interests.  Julius Caesar is about to return to Rome and the plebeians are celebrating.  When asked by a tribune “why dost thou lead these men about the streets,” a plebeian responds “we make holiday to see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph.” The irritated tribune asks “What conquest brings he home?”  We learn that Caesar’s “triumph” is that he has killed two of Pompey’s sons, his prospective adversaries.

Act 1. As Caesar enters Rome, a soothsayer famously warns him to “Beware the ides of March,” Caesar dismissing him as “a dreamer.” As Caesar passes by, two high level Roman Senators, Cassius and Brutus, brothers-in-law, reflect on the political climate, both displeased with current trends.  Their central fear is that a very popular Julius Caesar may soon be crowned Rome’s king.  Caesar notes them, saying “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. Such men are dangerous.”  His aide, Mark Antony, responds “Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous.” Cassius has known Caesar since childhood and feels he is overrated.  Cassius begins to assemble a group of men to plot against Caesar, the group to be known as the Conspirators. Cassius’ first recruit is Casca.  Casca joins the cause in spite of his fear that the terrible weather “might be tokens sent to us by the mighty gods.” The two of them recruit Cinna, Cinna saying “O Cassius, if you could but win the noble Brutus to our party.”  They make plans to meet with Brutus at his home that very night. 

Act 2.  Following a fortuitous middle-of-the-night meeting in his home, Brutus agrees to join the Conspirator’s cause.  Brutus’ wife Portia, frightened by the bits and pieces she’s heard being said downstairs, pleads with her husband “Dear my lord, make me acquainted with your cause of grief.” The die had been cast by the time the men had left their home. Decius, a Conspirator, assured his associates, when referring to Caesar, that in the morning “I will bring him to the Capitol.”  Neither Caesar nor his wife, Calphurnia, slept very well that night, the terrible storm keeping them up.  Artemidorus, a friend of some of the Conspirators, is loyal to Caesar and warns him through a hand delivered letter that “there is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar.”  Calphurnia does her best to talk her husband out of going to the Capitol, but Decius, a talented salesman, persuades him to attend the Senate as planned.  Caesar leaves for the Senate, knowing the Senate has plans to crown him king.  It’s March fifteenth, the ides of March.

Act 3. Both the Soothsayer and Artemidorus try to attract Caesar’s attention as he works his way through the crowd, but he’s focused on the crown and dismisses them.  Brutus, Cassius, Casca and other Conspirators draw near to Caesar on the Senate steps, Casca stabbing him with the other Conspirators soon following.  It’s here where Caesar famously says, the moment before he dies, “Et to Brute? Then fall Caesar.” Some believe Brutus to have been Caesar’s illegitimate son.  All but the Conspirators flee in fear.  Antony returns to the Senate steps and is welcomed.  He asks to speak during the memorial service for Caesar; Brutus agrees to the request; Cassius is much more suspect. But no one challenges Brutus.  Brutus is first to speak at the service and then leaves.  Mark Antony then steps up into the pulpit and wows the crowd in one of the world’s great public speeches, charming the crowd with warmth and empathy.  As the crowd disperses, a messenger arrives to tell Antony that Octavius Caesar (Julius’ nephew) and Lepidus are waiting for him at Caesar’s home.  Antony sees things falling into place. It is rumored that angry crowds have run Cassius and Brutus out of town.

Act 4. The triumvirate, a three-man group that includes Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, now rules Rome.  Their supporters kill scores of Roman senators; those believed to be associated with the Conspirators. Cassius and Brutus, now at Sardis, have formed their army.  They have some tense moments between themselves.  Brutus claims Cassius has been accepting bribes; Cassius saying in effect so what, we have bigger issues to deal with. Brutus apologizes to Cassius, letting him know that he is out of sorts, Portia having just died, “impatient of my absence, and grief that young Octavius and Mark Antony have made themselves so strong.” They bury the hatchet over “a bowl of wine.”  Brutus wants to attack the triumvirate at Philippi. Cassius thinks it’s best to wait for them to come to Sardis, thinking that they’ll be tired and hungry by the time they get there.  As usual, Brutus prevails, dominate personality that he is. 

Act 5. The leaders of the army that wins the battle on the Plains of Philippi will be the leaders of post-Julius-Caesar Rome. Caesar’s ghost visits Brutus the night before the battle.  It is Cassius’s birthday and he sees bad omens in the flight of birds. Through misinformation, Cassius is led to believe that Antony is about to overrun his position.  He kills himself.  Brutus wins the first battle with Octavius Caesar, but loses the second.  Brutus, the classic Roman warrior, takes his own life.  Antony enters to say that Brutus was “The noblest Roman of them all” and that “This was a man.”

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Condensed Shakespeare

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