But I am constant as the Northern Star,
Of whose true fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
See Important Quotations Explained
Artemidorus and the Soothsayer await Caesar in the street. Caesar enters with Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Decius, Metellus, Trebonius, Cinna, Ligarius, Antony, and other senators. Artemidorus approaches with his letter, saying that its contents are a matter of closest concern for Caesar. Caesar responds, “What touches us ourself shall be last served”—that is, his personal concerns are his last priority (III.i.8). Artemidorus tells him to read it instantly, but Caesar dismisses him as crazy.
The group enters the Senate, and Cassius worries that the assassination plot has been discovered. Trebonius draws Antony away from the Senate room. Metellus approaches Caesar to request that his brother, Publius Cimber, who has been banished from Rome, be granted permission to return. Caesar answers that since Publius was banished by lawful decree, there is not just cause for absolving his guilt. Brutus and Cassius kneel at Caesar’s feet and repeat Metellus’s plea; Caesar answers that he will not change his mind now, declaring himself as “constant as the Northern Star” (III.i.60). When Cinna comes forward and kneels to plead further, Caesar adds another comparison, suggesting that they might as well hope to “lift up Olympus,” the mountain where the gods were believed to dwell, as to sway Caesar in his convictions (III.i.74).
Decius and Ligarius, followed by Casca, come forward to kneel at Caesar’s feet. Casca stabs Caesar first, and the others quickly follow, ending with Brutus. Recognizing that Brutus, too, has joined with the conspirators, Caesar speaks his last words: “Et tu, Brute?—Then fall Caesar” (III.i.76). He then yields and dies. The conspirators proclaim the triumph of liberty, and many exit in a tumult, including Lepidus and Artemidorus. Trebonius enters to announce that Antony has fled.
Brutus tells the conspirators that they have acted as friends to Caesar by shortening the time that he would have spent fearing death. He urges them to bend down and bathe their hands in Caesar’s blood, then walk to the marketplace (the Roman Forum) with their bloodied swords to proclaim peace, freedom, and liberty. Cassius agrees, declaring that the scene they now enact will be repeated time and again in the ages to come as a commemorative ritual.
Antony’s servant enters with a message: Antony, having learned of Caesar’s death, sends word that he loved Caesar but will now vow to serve Brutus if Brutus promises not to punish him for his past allegiance. Brutus says that he will not harm Antony and sends the servant to bid him come. Brutus remarks to Cassius that Antony will surely be an ally now, but Cassius replies that he still has misgivings.
Antony enters and sees Caesar’s corpse. He marvels how a man so great in deed and reputation could end as such a small and pathetic body. He tells the conspirators that if they mean to kill him as well, they should do it at once, for there would be no better place to die than beside Caesar. Brutus tells Antony not to beg for death, saying that although their hands appear bloody, their hearts have been, and continue to be, full of pity; although they must appear to him now as having acted in cruelty, their actual motives stemmed from sympathy and love for the Roman populace. Brutus tells Antony to wait until the conspirators have calmed the multitude; then they will explain fully why they have killed Caesar. Antony says he does not doubt their wisdom and shakes each of their bloody hands, staining the not-yet-bloodied hands of Trebonius, who has returned from leading Antony astray, in the process.