Julius Caesar Plot Explanation

Essay by hunuamuz May 2006

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When the moment of crisis arrives and Caesar enters the public square, the conspirators are pent up and concerned when Popilius wishes them well. Their anxiety is at such a pitch that they are unable to determine what he actually means when he says "I wish your enterprise to-day may thrive." In fact, they almost act precipitously to kill him but are calmed by Brutus who makes them wait to see if Caesar is put on guard. To heighten the crises, Shakespeare shifts from lengthy speeches, asides, and soliloquies to short bursts of dialogue.

The first crisis in this scene is the accumulating danger of discovery arising from the words of the soothsayer, Artemidorus, and Popilius. As that danger is resolved, a graver crisis is suitably expressed in slower and heavier tones. The conspirators ritualistically turn to their prey (Caesar) and mock him with their courtesies. Metellus Cimber kneels before Caesar to press his case that his banished brother be allowed to return to Rome, but Caesar preempts him, mocks him and humiliates him.

Cimber is a "base spaniel fawning." There is no suit, really. Instead, Metellus Cimber's actions are a trick on the part of the conspirators to get close enough to Caesar to kill him, and to keep others who may help away. One by one, slowly and methodically, the conspirators come to Caesar, circle him, and kneel. Their words bear all the malice that "sweet words" can afford, during which Caesar shows himself as a self-involved, self-important tyrant.

They kill him, but the murder is not the last crisis of the scene. There is a slight pause in the action for purposes of regrouping, both for the characters and for the audience. The conspirators turn away from the body of Caesar and shout to the populace of...