Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar opens with the tribunes (the elected representatives of the people) reproaching the commoners for celebrating Caesar’s victory over Pompey the Great in the recent civil war. We later learn the tribunes are condemned to death for their actions. At the festival of Lupercal, a fortune-teller advises Caesar to beware of a specific date, the Ides of March. Meanwhile, the conspirator Cassius and Caesar’s friend Brutus nervously discuss how Caesar is amassing more power than is healthy in a republic. Brutus reluctantly agrees with Cassius’s plan to assassinate Caesar as the only way to avoid tyranny. Brutus’s wife, Portia, tries to persuade him to explain what is going on, showing him a self-inflicted wound on her leg as proof of her equality to men in fearlessness and resolve. Caesar goes to the Capitol, despite the warning of his wife, Calphurnia, where the fortune-teller reminds him the Ides of March are not yet over. He is stabbed by all of the conspirators – Brutus last.

Brutus, against Cassius’s advice, agrees to let Mark Antony speak after him at the funeral. Brutus’s speech initially pursuades the crowd with the argument that Caesar had to die for the sake of the Republic, but Antony reminds the people of Caesar’s virtues, shows them his corpse and reads Caesar’s will, which leaves his money and private gardens to the people. Antony’s speech provokes a riot that turns into civil war. Brutus is visited by Caesar’s ghost on the eve of the Battle of Philippi. Cassius and Brutus are defeated in battle the next day and have their followers help them commit suicide. Antony and Octavius (Julius Caesar’s nephew) distinguish Brutus from the other conspirators, reflecting that his motives had been honourable.


Click here for a short PDF summary of the sources relating to Julius Caesar from 'Discovering Literature: Shakespeare'.

William Shakespeare
1623 (F1)
Renaissance drama
Literary period:

Related articles

Republicanism and assassination in Julius Caesar

Article by:
Malcolm Hebron
Tragedies, Power, politics and religion

Malcolm Hebron situates Julius Caesar in the context of Shakespeare's life and times, examining the contemporary political relevance of the play's themes of Republicanism and assassination. He explores the play's use of rhetoric and theatricality, and assesses its reception over the past 400 years.

Ghosts in Shakespeare

Article by:
John Mullan
Magic, illusion and the supernatural

John Mullan explains the position of ghosts in Elizabethan and Jacobean culture, and shows how the ghosts in Shakespeare's plays relate to and boldly depart from ghostly representations in other drama of the period.

Rhetoric, power and persuasion in Julius Caesar

Article by:
Kim Ballard
Tragedies, Power, politics and religion

Rhetoric was a much-valued skill in Renaissance England, as it was in ancient Rome. Kim Ballard discusses the connections between rhetoric and power in Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare's Roman plays.

Related collection items

Related people

Related teachers' notes


Putting Julius Caesar in context: a summary of sources

This summary of sources is a quick and easy way to explore the contexts for Julius Caesar – from early modern views on ghosts and tyrannicide to later readings of the play in light of fascist ideas.

PDF Download Available

Related works

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Created by: William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens with Theseus, Duke of Athens, eagerly anticipating his marriage to Hippolyta, ...


Created by: William Shakespeare

Coriolanus is a tragedy following the fortunes of Caius Martius: a Roman general distinguished in the field of ...

Doctor Faustus

Created by: Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus: plot and character overview Would you sell your soul? And, if you would, for what? Doctor Faustus ...

Edward II

Created by: Christopher Marlowe

Edward II: plot and character overview Outraged by Edward’s elevation of his male favourite Gaveston, ...