Julius Caesar Act 5 Scene 1 - Brutus and Antony talk at Philippi
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Julius Caesar

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ACT V SCENE I The plains of Philippi. 
 Enter OCTAVIUS, ANTONY, and their army. 
OCTAVIUS Now, Antony, our hopes are answered: 
 You said the enemy would not come down, 
 But keep the hills and upper regions; 
 It proves not so: their battles are at hand;
 They mean to warn us at Philippi here, 5 
 Answering before we do demand of them. 
ANTONY Tut, I am in their bosoms, and I know 
 Wherefore they do it: they could be content 
 To visit other places; and come down
 With fearful bravery, thinking by this face 10 
 To fasten in our thoughts that they have courage; 
 But 'tis not so. 
 Enter a Messenger. 
Messenger Prepare you, generals: 
 The enemy comes on in gallant show;
 Their bloody sign of battle is hung out, 
 And something to be done immediately. 15 
ANTONY Octavius, lead your battle softly on, 
 Upon the left hand of the even field. 
OCTAVIUS Upon the right hand I; keep thou the left.
ANTONY Why do you cross me in this exigent? 19 
OCTAVIUS I do not cross you; but I will do so. 
 Drum. Enter BRUTUS, CASSIUS, and their Army; LUCILIUS, TITINIUS, MESSALA, and others. 
BRUTUS They stand, and would have parley. 
CASSIUS Stand fast, Titinius: we must out and talk. 
OCTAVIUS Mark Antony, shall we give sign of battle?
ANTONY No, Caesar, we will answer on their charge. 
 Make forth; the generals would have some words. 25 
OCTAVIUS Stir not until the signal. 
BRUTUS Words before blows: is it so, countrymen? 
OCTAVIUS Not that we love words better, as you do.
BRUTUS Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius. 
ANTONY In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words: 
 Witness the hole you made in Caesar's heart, 
 Crying 'Long live! hail, Caesar!' 
 The posture of your blows are yet unknown; 
 But for your words, they rob the Hybla bees, 
 And leave them honeyless. 
ANTONY Not stingless too. 35 
BRUTUS O, yes, and soundless too;
 For you have stol'n their buzzing, Antony, 
 And very wisely threat before you sting. 
ANTONY Villains, you did not so, when your vile daggers 
 Hack'd one another in the sides of Caesar: 40 
 You show'd your teeth like apes, and fawn'd like hounds,
 And bow'd like bondmen, kissing Caesar's feet; 

Whilst damned Casca, like a cur, behind
 Struck Caesar on the neck. O you flatterers! 
CASSIUS Flatterers! Now, Brutus, thank yourself: 45 
 This tongue had not offended so to-day,
 If Cassius might have ruled. 
OCTAVIUS Come, come, the cause: if arguing make us sweat, 
 The proof of it will turn to redder drops. Look; 
 I draw a sword against conspirators; 
 When think you that the sword goes up again?
 Never, till Caesar's three and thirty wounds 
 Be well avenged; or till another Caesar 
 Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors. 55 
BRUTUS Caesar, thou canst not die by traitors' hands, 
 Unless thou bring'st them with thee.
OCTAVIUS So I hope; 
 I was not born to die on Brutus' sword. 
BRUTUS O, if thou wert the noblest of thy strain, 
 Young man, thou couldst not die more honourable. 60 
CASSIUS A peevish schoolboy, worthless of such honour,
 Join'd with a masker and a reveller! 
ANTONY Old Cassius still! 
OCTAVIUS Come, Antony, away! 
 Defiance, traitors, hurl we in your teeth: 
 If you dare fight to-day, come to the field; 65
 If not, when you have stomachs. 
 Exeunt OCTAVIUS, ANTONY, and their army. 
CASSIUS Why, now, blow wind, swell billow and swim bark! 
 The storm is up, and all is on the hazard. 
BRUTUS Ho, Lucilius! hark, a word with you. 
LUCILIUS Standing forth. My lord? 70 
 BRUTUS and LUCILIUS converse apart. 
CASSIUS Messala!
CASSIUS Messala, 
 This is my birth-day; as this very day 
 Was Cassius born. Give me thy hand, Messala: 
 Be thou my witness that against my will, 
 As Pompey was, am I compell'd to set 75
 Upon one battle all our liberties. 
 You know that I held Epicurus strong 
 And his opinion: now I change my mind, 
 And partly credit things that do presage. 
 Coming from Sardis, on our former ensign 80
 Two mighty eagles fell, and there they perch'd, 
 Gorging and feeding from our soldiers' hands; 
 Who to Philippi here consorted us: 
 This morning are they fled away and gone; 
 And in their steads do ravens, crows and kites, 85
 Fly o'er our heads and downward look on us, 
 As we were sickly prey: their shadows seem 
 A canopy most fatal, under which 
 Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost. 
MESSALA Believe not so.
CASSIUS I but believe it partly; 90 
 For I am fresh of spirit and resolved 
 To meet all perils very constantly. 
BRUTUS Even so, Lucilius. 
CASSIUS Now, most noble Brutus,
 The gods to-day stand friendly, that we may, 
 Lovers in peace, lead on our days to age! 
 But since the affairs of men rest still incertain, 
 Let's reason with the worst that may befall. 
 If we do lose this battle, then is this
 The very last time we shall speak together: 
 What are you then determined to do? 100 
BRUTUS Even by the rule of that philosophy 
 By which I did blame Cato for the death 
 Which he did give himself, I know not how,
 But I do find it cowardly and vile, 
 For fear of what might fall, so to prevent 
 The time of life: arming myself with patience 
 To stay the providence of some high powers 
 That govern us below.
CASSIUS Then, if we lose this battle, 
 You are contented to be led in triumph 
 Thorough the streets of Rome? 110 
BRUTUS No, Cassius, no: think not, thou noble Roman, 
 That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome;
 He bears too great a mind. But this same day 
 Must end that work the ides of March begun; 
 And whether we shall meet again I know not. 
 Therefore our everlasting farewell take: 
 For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!
 If we do meet again, why, we shall smile; 
 If not, why then, this parting was well made. 
CASSIUS For ever, and for ever, farewell, Brutus! 120 
 If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed; 
 If not, 'tis true this parting was well made.
BRUTUS Why, then, lead on. O, that a man might know 
 The end of this day's business ere it come! 
 But it sufficeth that the day will end, 125 
 And then the end is known. Come, ho! away! 

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1
From Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



Historically, there were two battles at Philippi, separated by an interval of two weeks. It is the earlier of these battles that the poet adopts as the ground-work of his representation, though the death of Brutus took place immediately after the second. Such changes of time are common in Shakespeare, as in all historical drama and historical romance.

Scene 1

The brief but sharp disagreement between Octavius and Antony (17-20) is not in Plutarch, who, however, does speak of a disagreement between Brutus and Cassius on the same question as to which one should take command of the right wing, or the position of honor. Cassius, the older man, yields to Brutus in this matter, as we have seen him do whenever difference of opinion arose between them. This grudging acquiescence of Antony in the leadership of young Octavius the poet invents as a foil to set off the ready and willing deference paid by Cassius to Brutus. We are not told in the play that Brutus went into the battle in command of the right of his army; but as we learn from V, 3, 51-53, that Brutus' wing confronted that of Octavius, and have seen that Octavius has insisted on having the command of his own right, we must infer that the poet, if he thought the matter out, gave to Brutus the subordinate position on the left, choosing herein to differ from his authority.

Plutarch tells us: "Brutus prayed Cassius he might have the leading of the right wing, the which men thought was farre meeter for Cassius: both because he was the elder man, and also for that he had the better experience. But yet Cassius gave it to him," etc. In his life of Antony, Plutarch says: "When they had passed over the seas, and that they began to make warre, they being both camped by their enemies, to wit, Antonius against Cassius, and Caesar against Brutus: Caesar did no great matter, but Antonius had alway the upper hand, and did all." It is interesting to consider why Shakespeare, who in so many things follows Plutarch exactly, prefers not to follow him in this.

Several days have elapsed since the previous scene in Brutus' tent near Sardis. It is the autumn of B.C. 42, and the day has come that "must end that work the ides of March begun." For Philippi, see note on IV, 3, 168.

1. our hopes are answered: our wishes are granted.

3. regions. Pronounced in three syllables, re-gi-ons like "sol-di-er" in IV, i, 28.

4. battles: battle array, battalions.

5. warn: summon, challenge to fight.

7. I am in their bosoms: I know their real motives; I see into their hearts. We speak of a bosom friend, and a bosom sin, with much the same significance.

8. they could be content: they would be glad, or would prefer.

10. With fearful bravery: with bravado, or a show of bravery, that is full of fear, and in reality, cowardly. "With timorous, faint-hearted show of bravery." this face: this appearance, this show, this outward effect, -- as we speak of "putting on a bold face," and "facing it out."

14. Their bloody sign of battle. According to Plutarch, "the Signall of Battell . . . was an arming Scarlet Coat."

15. something to be done: something should be done.

16. lead your battle softly on: lead your forces slowly on.

19. exigent: exigency, critical moment.

20. I will do so. That is, I will do as I have said, -- lead the right wing. This gives us a glimpse of the true character of Octavius, who, as history tells us, always stood firm against Antony. Even here, when but a youth of twenty-one, he shows the stuff that later made him the great Emperor Augustus.

24. answer on their charge: await their attack; let them begin the battle.

25. Make forth: "step forward" (Craik).

33. The posture of your blows: The place where your blows are to fall; or possibly, "The nature of your blows."

34. the Hybla bees. Classical writers often speak of Hybla in Sicily as a town famous for its honey. Cassius, of course, is speaking tauntingly. Our expression "honeyed words" suggests beguiling, flattering language, -- "smooth talk," -- and is not exactly complimentary.

41-44. Compare these lines with the scene in the Capitol when Caesar was slain. Is it a faithful or an exaggerated description of the assassination?

46. This tongue: that is, Antony's tongue. To what does Cassius refer?

48. the cause: the real issue; "let's get down to business!"

49. The proof of it. That is, the proof of the matter about which they are arguing, namely, the real fighting.

52. goes up again: is again put into its sheath.

53. three and thirty wounds. Plutarch gives the number of wounds as twenty-three; but to change Shakespeare's statement is to make arithmetic out of poetry. What is the difference, anyway?

54, 55. till another Caesar have added slaughter, etc. That is, until my own death has added another Caesar to the list of those murdered by the swords of traitors. "Either you or I shall die," says Octavius.

59. thy strain: thy race, thy family.

60. honorable. We should say "honorably," but Shakespeare frequently uses an adjective for an adverb.

61. peevish: foolish, silly. Remember that Octavius at this time was only twenty-one, hence Cassius' taunting " schoolboy."

62. a masker and a reveller. Where did Brutus say of Antony, "he is given to sports, to wildness and much company"?

66. stomachs: spirit, courage. "He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart." ("Henry V," IV, 3, 35.)

68. all is on the hazard: all depends on the fortune of war.

71. as this very day. In this phrase "as" is redundant, or unnecessary for the sense. So Shakespeare often has "when as" where we should use merely "as."

74. As Pompey was. This is an allusion to the battle of Pharsalia, B.C. 48, into which Pompey was forced, against his own wishes, by younger and inexperienced officers. He was easily defeated by Julius Caesar.

74, 75. to set upon one battle, etc.: to risk our independence upon one battle; to stake everything on one fight.

77. I held Epicurus strong: I strongly believed in the teachings of Epicurus. The followers of this Greek philosopher believed that the gods were concerned but little with human affairs, and that pleasure was the chief end of life. As an Epicurean, Cassius would therefore not pay much attention to signs or omens.

79. presage: portend, foretell things to come.

80. our former ensign: our foremost banner.

83. consorted: accompanied.

85. kites. The kite is a small bird of prey of the falcon family. Ravens and crows were generally regarded as birds of evil omen.

87. As we were sickly prey: as if we were weak and feeble prey (for them to devour).

92. constantly: firmly. So in III, 1, 22, Brutus said, "Cassius, be constant."

93. Even so: just so, quite true. This refers, of course, to something Lucilius has just said, which we have not heard.

95. The gods to-day stand friendly: May the gods be friendly to us today!

96. Lovers: friends, -- as in Brutus' address to the people, "Romans, countrymen, and lovers!" and so often in Shakespeare.

97. Let's reason with the worst, etc. Let's confer together in view of the possible ruin of our cause in the impending battle.

100. Even by the rule, etc. That is, I am determined to act in accordance with that rule, or principle, by which I condemned Cato for killing himself. Brutus then goes on to explain further his feelings against suicide.

105, 106. so to prevent the time of life: to anticipate the end of life by suicide.

107. stay: await.

111, 112. In these lines Brutus seems strangely inconsistent. First he declares that he will not take his own life, -- that "he finds it cowardly and vile" to commit suicide, --and that he will await patiently the action of Providence. Then in the next breath, when Cassius asks him whether he will be "contented to be led in triumph Thorough the streets of Rome," he very decidedly implies that rather than be so degraded he will kill himself. It has been suggested that the humiliation mentioned by Cassius alters his purpose; but such a sudden and complete change of mind, just after his strong words against suicide, seems most improbable.

We must remember, however, that Shakespeare wrote his plays to be acted on the stage, not studied intensively; and not one person in a hundred at the theatre, then or today, would notice this inconsistency. It is therefore a matter of little importance, except as it shows us today the methods of composition which the dramatist used.


How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 26 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_5_1.html >.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Comment upon the words of Octavius in line 20, in relation to his later control over Antony and the Roman Empire.

2. What is there in the wrangling parley of the four generals that pleased the audience in Shakespeare's time?

3. Contrast this verbal battle with the methods of modern warfare.

4. Can you explain why this wrangling scene is nearly always omitted on the stage today?

5. What do you think of the omens of which Cassius speaks? Compare these with other superstitions in the play.

6. How does Shakespeare suggest to us that Brutus and Cassius will be defeated in the approaching battle?

7. Which of the two generals seems to you the wiser military leader? Why?

8. What is there noble and moving in the parting scene between Brutus and Cassius? Quote any lines you particularly admire.


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Brutus and Suicide

Even by the rule of that philosophy
By which I did blame Cato for the death
Which he did give himself, I know not how,
But I do find it cowardly and vile,
For fear of what might fall, so to prevent
The time of life: arming myself with patience
To stay the providence of some high powers
                               That govern us below. (5.1.101-108)

Brutus' inconsistency seems to give us some insight regarding Shakespeare's train of thought. It is almost as if Shakespeare forsakes consistency to further the idea of Divine Providence, which he also does in Hamlet. Moral philosophy and the works of Montaigne were clearly on the dramatist's mind throughout this period. For much more on this topic, please see Shakespeare and Montaigne: Parallel Passages and An Analysis of Hamlet's Soliloquy (3.1)


 Adjectives to Describe the Characters in Julius Caesar
 Julius Caesar Quotations (Full)
 All About Et tu, Brute?
 How to Pronounce the Names in Julius Caesar

 Sources for Julius Caesar: Important Excerpts from Plutarch
 Shakespeare’s Adaptation of Plutarch's Julius Caesar
 Plutarch's Influence on Shakespeare
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama