The play is set in Rome and begins in February 44 BC.
Julius Caesar has returned to Rome in triumph, having defeated the sons of
his old enemy, Pompey the Great in Spain.
Caesar is a favorite of the people as opposed to Pompey who was a true
leader of the Senate. Spontaneously the people celebrate Caesar’s return to Rome.
Many in the Senate fear Caesar’s power over the people. Two in particular, Flavius and Marullus, scold the people for having so quickly forgotten Pompey’s triumphs. They notice that some of the statues of Caesar now wear crowns and they set about removing these. Caesar enjoys the festivities, but receives a warning from a soothsayer to “Beware the Ides of March”.
Marcus Brutus and Cassius discuss Caesar’s newfound position of power and
they are envious of this. They do not wish the loss of the Republic and if Caesar was installed as King, the Senate would lose its power.
Brutus is a man of high principle, but he is eventually persuaded to join
the growing band of conspirators against Caesar. They decide to assassinate Caesar on 15th March (the Ides of March), and despite various ill omens, and the pleadings of his wife, Calphurnia, Caesar decides to go to the Senate on this day.
Caesar’s main ally is Mark Antony and although some of the conspirators wish
him killed as well, Brutus opposes this. He is, therefore, led away from Caesar, who is then assassinated by the conspirators.
When Mark Antony hears of Caesar’s murder, he ingratiates himself with the conspirators who agree his request to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Cassius speaks first at the funeral and appears to win over the crowd, but when Antony speaks he persuades them to seek vengeance for Caesar’s murder.
The conspirators are forced to flee Rome and Antony, together with Caesar’s
grandnephew, Octavius gather together an army to seek out Caesar’s killers.
Lepidus, who is a wealthy banker, joins these two and they are known as the 2nd Triumvirate, and they gain control over the Roman Empire.
Eventually, the warring factions meet at a town called Sardis, and Antony’s
forces are victorious.
Caesar’s ghost visits Brutus and this shakes his courage, and when the
battle goes against him, he takes his own life rather than being brought back to Rome.
The play ends with Antony delivering a eulogy over Brutus’ body, calling him
‘the noblest Roman of them all’.
The play is a political commentary on the battle between the Republican
State as designed by Pompey and his followers, and Caesar who would have absolute power over the Senate, and who would be maintained in this position by the love of the people.
Mark Antony, who is the one who has always sought power, uses that love of the people in order to bring down the conspirators.