Here is a more detailed look at what happens in each scene of Julius Caesar, to help you look at the structure of the play and interrogate it.

As you look at each act we’ve included some things to notice. These are important character developments, or key questions that an acting company might ask when they first go through the play together at the start of rehearsal. If you work through these as you go, they will help you to make sense of the play. It’s a good idea to have a copy of the text nearby.

  • Act 1

    Act 1 Scene 1

    The play opens with the citizens of Rome celebrating Caesar’s victory in war. The tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, tell them off for reacting that way and taking a holiday to honour Caesar, telling them that he has not brought back any ‘conquests’ or spoils and that they are forgetting how much they used to love Pompey, the Roman leader who Caesar has defeated. The tribunes say to them ‘And do you now strew flowers in his way / That comes in triumph over Pompey’s blood?’ Flavius suggests he and Marullus tear down the decorations from Caesar’s statues, saying Caesar will 'soar above the view of men / And keep us all in servile fearfulness.’


    • Caesar has defeated Pompey, his former ally, in battle.
    • Marullus thinks the people of Rome are disloyal and fickle because they used to love Pompey and now they’re celebrating his defeat.
    • Marullus and Flavius fear that Caesar is becoming too powerful and might use his power to keep people down.

    Act 1 Scene 2

    Caesar arrives with his entourage, including his wife Calphurnia and loyal friend Antony. A Soothsayer in the crowd calls out a warning to Caesar, saying ‘Beware the ides of March’, but Caesar dismisses it. The entourage then leaves to go to a ceremonial race, leaving Brutus, a trusted friend of Caesar’s, and Cassius alone. Cassius begins to flatter Brutus, but Brutus is distracted by shouts he can hear coming from the race. He fears Caesar is being crowned king and accidentally voices this thought out loud. At this, Cassius begins to openly criticise Caesar, recalling times when Caesar showed physical weakness. Cassius reminds Brutus of his reputation and his concern for the good of Rome rather than personal triumph.

    Caesar and his entourage return after the race and Caesar says to Antony that ‘Cassius has a lean and hungry look. / He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous’ but Antony assures him that Cassius is 'noble'. After Caesar leaves again, Casca tells Brutus and Cassius that Antony offered Caesar a crown three times at the race but that Caesar refused it. Casca adds that Caesar fell down and ‘foamed at the mouth’ and Brutus confirms that Caesar has ‘the falling-sickness’. He tells Cassius he will give his words thought. Left alone with the audience, Cassius points out how easily Brutus’ noble nature can be manipulated.


    • Caesar has physical weaknesses (possibly fits caused by epilepsy).
    • Brutus thinks one man ruling as king will be disastrous for Rome and he cares about the republic.
    • Caesar has been offered a crown three times and refused it but Casca believes he wanted it really.
    • Cassius is plotting to manipulate Brutus and bring down Caesar.

    Act 1 Scene 3

    Cassius meets Casca during a violent storm. Casca sees the storm as a bad omen but Cassius dismisses this and compares it to the political turmoil within Rome. Casca tells Cassius that the senators intend to crown Caesar the next day and Cassius speaks strongly against Caesar saying, ‘What trash is Rome, / What rubbish, and what offal when it serves / For the base matter to illuminate / So vile a thing as Caesar!’ He says that he has the support of several 'noblest-minded Romans' to undertake 'an enterprise / Of honorable-dangerous consequence’ and to stop Caesar. They are then joined by one of these Romans, Cinna. Cassius gives him letters containing material against Caesar to throw into Brutus’ house before they visit him. Casca comments that Brutus’ involvement will make their ‘offence’ appear as ‘virtue’ and ‘worthiness’ as people love and respect him and believe Brutus is a good man.


    • The Senate intend to crown Caesar as king the next day but Cassius has the support of several noble Romans to stop this happening.
    • The plot to murder Caesar is well advanced and Cassius has evidence against Caesar which he has sent to Brutus’ house.
    • The people of Rome respect Brutus and the conspirators need him to join them so the people will support their efforts to overthrow Caesar.


    • Notice how carefully Cassius manipulates Brutus in Scene 2. He starts with flattery and chips away at Caesar’s character. Note how emotional he gets and how personally he attacks Caesar. What does this show us about Cassius’ character? What is it about his words that work on Brutus?

    • Notice the mention of omens and signs throughout Act 1. How many are there? Who seems more afraid of them than others? Who is more dismissive? What language does Shakespeare use to describe these events?

    • We only see a little of Caesar but hear a great deal about him from other characters. What characteristics does he seem to have? Which do you believe and why?

    • Act 1 is important because it sets up the characters – letting us know that opinion on Caesar is divided and that there is a plot to murder him before he is crowned. What do you think is the most important detail Shakespeare gives you about each character in this act of the play?

  • Act 2

    Act 2 Scene 1

    Brutus is in his orchard unable to sleep. In a soliloquy, he reveals he can see no way of stopping Caesar except 'by his death’. He reads a letter that Cassius and Cinna have planted. His servant tells him that tomorrow is 15 March (the Ides of March) and that several men have arrived with ‘half their faces buried in their cloaks’. Brutus lets the men, or conspirators, in. One of them is Cassius who introduces the rest. Brutus rejects Cassius’ wish to ‘swear’ their ‘resolution’. He believes an ‘oath’ is unnecessary if they are acting as ‘countrymen’ and ‘Romans’. Cassius argues that Antony should also be killed but Brutus says this will make them seem ‘too bloody’. They arrange to accompany Caesar to the Capitol the next day and the conspirators leave.

    Portia, Brutus’ wife, enters. She is worried about him, saying ‘you have some sick offense within your mind'. Portia begs him to tell her his ‘cause of grief’. Brutus assures her that she is his 'true and honourable wife' and that he will explain later.


    • Brutus’ reasons for killing Caesar are not personal but he believes it will be for the good of Rome and has agreed.
    • Cassius does not trust Antony and anticipates that he will be difficult to deal with after Caesar is killed.
    • Brutus is taking the lead in the conspiracy.
    • Portia has noticed that Brutus is troubled to the point of sickness and he has promised to tell her why at a later point.

    Act 2 Scene 2

    The storm rages at Caesar’s house. Like Brutus, Caesar has had a troubled night. His wife, Calphurnia, has dreamt about his murder three times. Other omens have been noted in the streets of Rome and Calphurnia begs Caesar not to go to the Capitol as she is afraid of what the signs mean. Caesar maintains he is stronger than fate saying ‘Danger knows full well / That Caesar is more dangerous than he.’ However, he orders the priests to make a sacrifice to determine his success that day and, out of love for Calphurnia, he agrees to stay at home. Decius, one of the conspirators, arrives to fetch Caesar. Caesar says he’s not going because Calphurnia ‘saw my statue, / Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts, / Did run pure blood; and many lusty Romans / Came smiling and did bathe their hands in it.’ Decius informs Caesar there are plans to crown him at the senate and if he does not go because of his wife, he will seem cowardly.

    This is enough for Caesar to change his mind. The conspirators enter to escort him to the Capitol.


    • Calphurnia believes the omens and bad dreams she has had mean danger for Caesar and she doesn’t want him to go to the Capitol.
    • This is the only private scene with Caesar and he does listen to his wife at first.
    • Caesar chooses to go to the senate despite Calphurnia’s warnings, because he doesn’t want to seem like a coward.
    • Caesar is being escorted to the Capitol by the conspirators, who plan to murder him.

    Act 2 Scene 3

    Artemidorus reads the petition he plans to give to Caesar, warning him against the conspirators.


    • Other people are aware of the plot and want to warn Caesar.

    Act 2 Scene 4

    Portia has been told by Brutus about the plot. She struggles between her fears for her husband and her promise to Brutus to ‘keep counsel’ and not speak out. The Soothsayer enters on his way to warn Caesar ‘to befriend himself’ and Portia betrays her nerves as she questions him.


    • Brutus has told Portia about the plot and trusts her enough to confide in her.
    • Portia is finding it hard to keep her word and is very concerned that something will happen to Brutus.
    • There are more plans to warn Caesar.


    • Notice the reasons Brutus gives for murdering Caesar and how he feels about it. How different are they to those of Cassius? What does this tell us about the difference between the two men?

    • Take note of how Portia approaches Brutus and his problems. How does she try to affect him? What does this reveal about their relationship?

    • Take note of Caesar’s decision-making in Scene 2. What things do Calphurnia and Decius say that change his mind? What does this say about Caesar’s character compared to what we’ve heard?

    • Act 2 is important because it sets up conflict – letting us know exactly who is for and against Caesar and why. It also introduces us to two domestic relationships - Portia and Brutus and Caesar and Calphurnia. What do we learn about these marriages? Portia and Calphurnia are the only two women in the play - how different/similar are they?

  • Act 3

    Act 3 Scene 1

    Caesar approaches the Capitol. He observes that the ‘Ides of March have come’ but the Soothsayer points out they are not over yet. Caesar refuses to read Artemidorus’ warning. Cassius has a moment of panic and fears the plot has been discovered but Brutus reassures him.

    The conspirators surround Caesar, pretending to kneel in appeal, and Caesar is stabbed to death by all the conspirators. Brutus is the last to strike, a betrayal of friendship which shocks Caesar. The conspirators claim publicly that ‘Tyranny is dead!’ and Brutus invites them to ‘bathe' their hands in Caesar’s blood, echoing the image in Calphurnia’s dream.

    Antony, who has fled, returns to the scene. After being promised safety, he shakes hands with the murderers. Brutus tells him he will explain his motives at Caesar’s funeral where he will speak to the crowd. Antony asks to speak also. Cassius advises against this but Brutus allows it, as long as Brutus speaks first. When left alone with Caesar’s body, Antony weeps and speaks of revenge. We hear that Caesar’s great-nephew Octavius is coming to Rome.


    • The fears and prophecies of the Soothsayer and Calphurnia have come true.
    • Cassius’ confidence can be shaken easily.
    • Antony is a dangerous threat to Brutus and the conspirators.
    • Caesar’s great-nephew, Octavius, is joining forces with Antony.

    Act 3 Scene 2

    At Caesar’s funeral, the crowd demand an explanation from the murderers. Brutus speaks first. He argues with logic and reason, saying that he loved Rome more than Caesar and asking the crowd if they would rather be free with Caesar dead or ‘slaves' with him alive. The crowd are on his side, saying 'Caesar’s better parts / Shall be crowned in Brutus.’

    Then Antony enters with Caesar’s body. He speaks with emotion, reminding the crowd of Caesar’s qualities and deliberately repeating that Brutus is ‘an honourable man'. Antony shows them the wounds on Caesar’s body, where each knife stabbed it before revealing Caesar’s will in which he has left the people of Rome money and land. Antony not only wins the crowd but turns them into an angry mob intent on revenge: 'They were traitors: honourable men?’ The conspirators flee from the mob. Caesar’s body is taken to be burnt ‘in the holy place’. A servant announces that Octavius and Lepidus have arrived in Rome.


    • The citizens of Rome are a powerful force.
    • The conspirators are now on the run.
    • Antony now has Octavius and Lepidus on his side.

    Act 3 Scene 3

    The angry mob of citizens chase and catch Cinna the poet, mistaking him for Cinna the conspirator and calling out ‘Tear him to pieces! He’s a conspirator!’

    Cinna insists that he is a poet, not a conspirator but the mob don’t care. They kill Cinna with their bare hands.


    • The movement to avenge Caesar’s murder is gathering force.
    • The brutal anarchy of the mob is loose on the streets of Rome.


    • Notice the language that Shakespeare uses to describe the dreams and omens in Scene 1. What does this scene reveal about the different characters’ opinions on omens and superstition?

    • Notice how Shakespeare builds towards the chaos surrounding Caesar’s murder. What does he use to create the tension?

    • Take note of how both Brutus and Antony speak at Caesar’s funeral. How different is their language? What public speaking skills do both men use to win the crowd?

    • Act 3 is important because it is packed with drama – by now, we care about the characters or at least know their motives for action. Here we watch how their plans succeed and fail, taking us in a different direction than expected. How have our feelings changed towards these characters? Who is the most important person in the play?

  • Act 4

    Act 4 Scene 1

    Octavius, Lepidus and Antony, the three men who will form the new triumvirate of Rome, meet in Antony’s house to discuss which conspirators are to die. Antony sends Lepidus to fetch Caesar’s will. Alone with Octavius, Antony belittles Lepidus: 'He must be taught and trained and bid go forth— /A barren-spirited fellow’. Octavius disagrees, saying he is ‘a tried and salient soldier'. The subject changes to Brutus and Cassius who are preparing to fight. Octavius and Antony prepare to do the same.


    • The new triumvirate are not united, hinting at a more troubled political future for Rome.
    • The situation has escalated into civil war.

    Act 4 Scene 2

    Brutus waits for Cassius in the rebel camp. Lucilius comments that Cassius’ is not as open and friendly as he once was. Brutus agrees that Cassius is ‘cooling’ in his friendship. Cassius arrives and directly accuses Brutus of wronging him. To hide the row from their men, Brutus invites him into his tent. The argument escalates and political accusations become personal insults until Cassius offers Brutus his dagger to kill him with. Brutus backs down and they embrace as friends again. Brutus then reveals why he is so angry. Portia, his wife, is dead. She has killed herself: ‘Impatient of my absence, / And grief that young Octavius with Mark Antony / Have made themselves so strong’. Not wanting to talk more of Portia, Brutus changes the subject to battle plans. Cassius suggests they wait for Antony and Octavius’ armies to reach them so they’ll be tired when they fight. Brutus disagrees, wanting to meet them in Philippi. Cassius is overruled. When Brutus is left alone, he is visited by Caesar’s ghost: ‘Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil, / That mak’st my blood cold and my hair to stare?’ Claiming to be Brutus’ evil spirit, the ghost says they will meet again at Philippi. Brutus wakes his men but they all deny crying out or seeing anything. Brutus sends word to Cassius to be ready to march ahead of him next morning.


    • The friendship between Cassius and Brutus is troubled.
    • Portia, Brutus’ wife, has killed herself.
    • Brutus and Cassius will march to Philippi to fight Antony and Octavius.


    • Notice what Antony says about Lepidus in Scene 1. Does this tell us anything new about Antony’s character?

    • Notice how Cassius speaks to Brutus in Scene 2. How different is his attitude to Brutus here to Act 1 Scene 2?

    • Take note of what Brutus says and how he behaves in Scene 2. Are there signs that he is suffering? Changing?

    • Act 4 is important because it sets up the battle – letting us know how events are changing the characters we have met. How have the actions of the conspirators backfired? Who has more power now? Who has the strength to win this battle?

  • Act 5

    Act 5 Scene 1

    At Philippi, Octavius and Antony briefly disagree over tactics. Brutus and Cassius enter with their armies and the two sets of leaders exchange insults: 'when your vile daggers / Hacked one another in the sides of Caesar. / You showed your teeth like apes and fawned like hounds’ (Antony). Octavius and Antony lead their armies away. Away from Brutus, Cassius reveals his concern over certain omens he saw on their march, despite never believing in them before. Brutus returns and he and Cassius discuss what will happen if they lose. Brutus vows he will not be taken captive to Rome. The two friends bid farewell to each other and go into battle: 'Forever and forever farewell, Cassius. / If we do meet again, why we shall smile; / If not, why then this parting was well made.'


    • Antony and Octavius win the verbal battle.
    • Cassius is struggling to stay confident.

    Act 5 Scene 2

    Brutus sends a message to Cassius that he can see a possible weakness in Octavius’ army and is going to attack.


    • The fight has begun.

    Act 5 Scene 3

    Cassius watches his troops flee Antony’s army. Cassius hears that Antony has entered his camp. He notes that it is his birthday, the day he is also likely to die: 'where I did begin, there shall I end’. Mistaking a victory for Titinius for defeat, Cassius hands his sword to his servant, Pindarus, and asks him to kill him: ‘with this good sword, / That ran through Caesar’s bowels, search this bosom.’ Pindarus kills Cassius and flees. Titinius lays the victory wreath sent by Brutus on his body and kills himself with Cassius’ sword. Brutus enters and, seeing the bodies, says that the spirit of Caesar ‘walks abroad’. He promises Cassius that he will 'find time' to mourn and speaks fondly of his friend: ‘The last of all the Romans, fare thee well. / It is impossible that ever Rome / Should breed thy fellow.’


    • Cassius’ troops have been defeated by Antony.
    • Cassius kills himself on his birthday.
    • Brutus' army must now fight alone.

    Act 5 Scene 4

    Brutus rallies his men and exits, fighting. Cato is killed. Lucilius pretends to be Brutus and is captured. Antony arrives and praises Lucilius’ bravery, telling his men to treat him well: ‘I had rather have / Such men my friends than enemies.’ (5:4)


    • Antony is merciful and values bravery.
    • Brutus is close to defeat.

    Act 5 Scene 5

    Recognising that he is defeated, Brutus asks his men to kill him but they refuse. He speaks of his visions of Caesar’s ghost, saying that his own ‘hour is come'. Alarms sound and his men urge Brutus to flee but he bids them farewell: ‘Night hangs upon mine eyes; my bones would rest, / That have but labored to attain this hour.’ Brutus runs onto his own sword and dies as Antony and Octavius arrive. Antony praises Brutus’ honour: ‘All the conspirators save only he / Did that they did in envy of great Caesar.’ Octavius agrees and says Brutus will be buried with a soldier’s honours.


    • Antony and Octavius have won the battle.
    • All the conspirators are dead.
    • Brutus will be given an honourable funeral.


    • Notice how Shakespeare creates the illusion of battle with short physical and verbal clashes between characters. How successful do you think this is?

    • Notice the language of defeat creeping into Cassius’ words. Is his suicide a surprise?

    • Take note of how Antony and Octavius receive the news of Brutus’ death. What does this say about their characters?

    • Act 5 is important because it resolves the drama – Caesar’s murder is avenged and the conspirators dealt with. A lot is said about the characters of Brutus and Cassius. Do you think they die heroes or villains?