full title · The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
author · William Shakespeare
type of work · Play
genre · Tragic drama, historical drama
language · English
time and place written · 1599, in London
date of first publication · Published in the First Folio of 1623, probably from the theater company’s official promptbook rather than from Shakespeare’s manuscript
publisher · Edward Blount and William Jaggard headed the group of five men who undertook the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio
narrator · None
climax · Cassius’s death (V.iii), upon ordering his servant, Pindarus, to stab him, marks the point at which it becomes clear that the murdered Caesar has been avenged, and that Cassius, Brutus, and the other conspirators have lost in their attempt to keep Rome a republic rather than an empire. Ironically, the conspirators’ defeat is not yet as certain as Cassius believes, but his death helps bring about defeat for his side.
protagonists · Brutus and Cassius
antagonists · Antony and Octavius
setting (time) · 44 b.c.
setting (place) · Ancient Rome, toward the end of the Roman republic
point of view · The play sustains no single point of view; however, the audience acquires the most insight into Brutus’s mind over the course of the action
falling action · Titinius’s realization that Cassius has died wrongly assuming defeat; Titinius’s suicide; Brutus’s discovery of the two corpses; the final struggle between Brutus’s men and the troops of Antony and Octavius; Brutus’s self-impalement on his sword upon recognizing that his side is doomed; the discovery of Brutus’s body by Antony and Octavius
tense · Present
foreshadowing · The play is full of omens, including lightning and thunder, the walking dead, and lions stalking through the city (I.iii). Additionally, the Soothsayer warns Caesar to beware the Ides of March (I.ii); Calpurnia dreams that she sees Caesar’s statue running with blood (II.ii); and Caesar’s priests sacrifice animals to the gods only to find that the animals lack hearts (II.ii)—all foreshadow Caesar’s impending murder and the resulting chaos in Rome. Caesar’s ghost visits Brutus prior to the battle (IV.ii), and birds of prey circle over the battlefield in sight of Cassius (V.i); both incidents foreshadow Caesar’s revenge and the victory of Antony and Octavius.
tone · Serious, proud, virtuous, enraged, vengeful, idealistic, anguished
themes · Fate versus free will; public self versus private self; misinterpretation and misreading of signs and events; commitment to ideals versus adaptability and compromise; the relationship between rhetoric and power; allegiance and rivalry among men
motifs · Omens and portents, letters
symbols · The women in the play, Portia and Calpurnia, symbolize the neglected private lives of their respective husbands, Brutus and Caesar. The men dismiss their wives as hindrances to their public duty, ignoring their responsibilities to their own mortal bodies and their private obligations as friends, husbands, and feeling men.