ACT III – Scene.i
We are outside the Capitol and Caesar enters with
Antony, Lepidus and all the conspirators. Caesar sees the soothsayer and tells him “The Ides of March are come”, to which the soothsayer responds, “Aye Caesar, but not gone”.
Artemidorus urges Caesar to read his letter, but Caesar refuses.
Caesar enters the Capitol and Trebonius discreetly diverts Antony
away. Metellus Cimber makes a petition to Caesar requesting his brother’s return from exile, which Caesar refuses. The other conspirators join in the plea and crowd around Caesar.
Casca is first to stab him followed by the others with Brutus giving the
final, fatal blow, to which Caesar says, “Et tu Brute? Then fall Caesar!”
Cinna calls out, “Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!”
Mark Antony’s servant enters requesting permission to come amongst them and
resolve their differences, on his behalf.
Antony enters and makes his farewell to the dead body of Caesar and requests that he is allowed to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Despite Cassius’ objections, Brutus agrees.
The conspirators exit and Antony says,
“O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.”
In this soliloquy Antony goes on to predict that there will be a raging
revenge, which will bring civil war and chaos to all Italy.
A servant enters to advise Antony that Octavius Caesar is but seven leagues
from Rome. He tells the servant to stay and observe the funeral and then to report back to Octavius.
Shakespeare cunningly introduces tension and gathering
suspense in the moments before Caesar’s assassination.
This is done by shifting from lengthy speeches and soliloquies to short burst of dialogue between the characters. There is still an element indicating that the plot may be discovered, especially if Caesar was to read Artemidorus’ letter, but this does not happen. Like a lamb, he is led to the slaughter, being separated from his ally, Mark Antony. After Caesar’s death, Shakespeare maintains the tension by revealing for the first time the full nature of Mark Antony. He is clearly a survivor and needs to ingratiate himself with the conspirators in the short term, until Caesar’s funeral.
The audience may now appreciate that Caesar is just a pawn in the power
struggle that is evident in the Senate. It may be that these events might in the end suit Mark Antony and accelerate his progress to the seat of power.
We have the first indication that Antony can change his feelings and
behavior according to the circumstances prevalent.
He is known for being a drunkard and a womanizer, but he is also a clever manipulator using the innocence of Brutus in order to secure a position at Caesar’s funeral where he can make a speech to the Roman people.
Cassius sees the danger in Antony, but he is overruled by Brutus.
Brutus and Cassius have an uneasy alliance.
Mark Antony sees the chance to gain power, knowing that Octavius and his
army are just outside Rome. You will note that he does not send word for Octavius to enter Rome, and it may be that he does not wish to share power with anyone else in the long term.