Julius Caesar | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Julius Caesar | Act 3, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

As he walks to Caesar's funeral, Cinna the poet thinks of a dream he had earlier. He dreamed that he dined with Caesar and, though he feels drawn to the funeral, his dream makes him uneasy. He wonders if the dream is an omen.

Cinna runs into four plebeians who ask him his name and business. When he says his name is Cinna, the plebeians call for his death, crying, "He's a conspirator!" Cinna protests that they have the wrong man; he's Cinna the poet, not Cinna the conspirator. The plebeians say the name is sullied to them. They attack Cinna and run with firebrands to the homes of Brutus, Cassius, and the other conspirators.

Analysis

This brief scene shows mob mentality at its worst. It's also a tragicomic interlude before the main action picks up again. The plebeians in the crowd are now fueled by one another and by their own adrenaline. They'll willingly execute an innocent man for having the wrong name at the wrong time. "Tear him for his bad verses" is a bit of dark comedy on Shakespeare's part, in which he makes fun of himself as the author of a rhyming play, as well as a reminder of the crowd's thirst for violence.

As the crowd heads to the conspirators' homes with firebrands (burning torches), the audience wonders what will happen to the characters they've come to know. Will Brutus survive? Cassius? Portia? Rome itself? How much mischief has Antony instigated?

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