Julius Caesar | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Julius Caesar | Act 5, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Brutus regroups with the soldiers Dardanius, Clitus, Strato, and Volumnius after a harrowing day on the battlefield. When another man of their company is captured, Brutus whispers a request in Clitus's ear. Clitus refuses, and later he and Dardanius confide to each other that Brutus has asked them both to kill him.

Brutus confesses to Volumnius that he has seen the ghost of Caesar two times—once at Sardis and once at Philippi. He asks Volumnius to kill him, but Volumnius also refuses. Clitus urges Brutus to run, as the enemy will soon overtake him. Brutus stays where he is. He says quiet goodbyes to his men and sends all away but Strato, who agrees to help him die.

Antony and Octavius enter with their armies and two of Brutus's former servants. They find Brutus dead. Antony praises Brutus's nobility and virtue, saying he was the only conspirator to act for the common good. Octavius promises to give Brutus honorable burial rites. Antony and Octavius exit to divide their victory spoils, and the war is over.

Analysis

As the final dramatic event, Brutus's death symbolizes the conclusion the play has been working toward—the fall of a tragic hero, and the rise of an antihero in Antony. Brutus is determined to do the right thing. Now that circumstances have changed radically, this is the last noble action he can take.

For stoics death brings rest. The motif of Brutus's exhaustion runs throughout many of his major scenes. He was tired in his orchard, tired in the camp at Sardis, and tired as he approached his death. His exhaustion comes with worry. Shakespeare emphasizes the weight of responsibility, and the punishing toll it takes.

While Antony's elegy for Caesar was grandiose and full of flourishes, his elegy for Brutus is simple, eloquent, and heartfelt. The tribute indicates that Brutus, not Caesar, was in many ways the true leader of Rome.

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