Octavius and Antony enter the battlefield at Philippi with their armies. A messenger arrives to report that the enemy is ready for battle. Antony, the more experienced soldier, tells Octavius to attack from the left. Octavius refuses and replies that he will attack from the right and Antony can come from the left. Antony asks Octavius why he questions his authority, but Octavius stands firm.
The enemy factions—consisting of Brutus, Cassius, and their armies—enter; Titinius, Lucillius, and Messala are among them. Octavius asks Antony if their side should attack first, and Antony, now calling Octavius “Caesar,” responds that they will wait for the enemy to attack. Antony and Octavius go to meet Brutus and Cassius. The leaders exchange insults. Octavius draws his sword and calls for Caesar’s death to be avenged; he swears that he will not lay the sword down again until another Caesar (namely himself) adds the deaths of the traitors to the general slaughter. The leaders insult each other further before parting to ready their armies for battle.
After the departure of Antony and Octavius, Brutus calls Lucillius to talk privately. Cassius calls Messala to do the same. Cassius tells the soldier that it is his birthday and informs him of recent bad omens: two mighty eagles alighted on the foremost banners of their army and perched there, feeding from the soldiers’ hands; this morning, however, they are gone. Now ravens, crows, and other scavenger birds circle over the troops as if the men were diseased and weak prey. Cassius walks back to join Brutus and comments that the future looks uncertain; if they lose, they may never see each other again. Cassius asks Brutus if Brutus would allow himself to be led through Rome as a captive should they lose. Brutus replies that he would rather die than go to Rome as a defeated prisoner; he declares that this day “must end that work the ides of March begun”—that is, the battle represents the final stage in the struggle for power that began with the murder of Caesar (V.i.114). He bids Cassius “for ever and for ever farewell” (V.i.117). Cassius echoes these sentiments, and the men depart.Read a translation of Act V, scene i →
The battle begins between the scenes, and the next scene, comprising a scant total of six lines, depicts the two sides’ first surge against each other. Brutus sends Messala to Cassius to report that he senses a weakness in Octavius’s army and will push forward to exploit it.Read a translation of Act V, scene ii →
The next scene finds Cassius standing on a hill with Titinius, watching the battle and lamenting its course. Though Brutus was correct in noting Octavius’s weakness, he proved overeager in his attack, and the tide of battle has turned against him. Pindarus now runs up to Cassius with a report: Antony’s troops have entered Cassius’s camp. He advises Cassius to flee to some more distant spot. Cassius refuses to move but, catching sight of a group of burning tents, asks if those tents are his. Titinius confirms that they are. Cassius then notices a series of advancing troops in the distance; he gives Titinius his horse and instructs him to find out whose troops they are. Titinius obeys and rides off.
Cassius asks Pindarus to ascend a nearby hill and monitor Titinius’s progress. Pindarus calls down his reports: Titinius, riding hard, is soon surrounded by the unknown men; he dismounts the horse and the unknown men cheer. Distraught at this news of what he takes to be his best friend’s capture, Cassius tells Pindarus to watch no more. Pindarus descends the hilltop, whereupon Cassius gives Pindarus his sword, covers his own eyes, and asks Pindarus to kill him. Pindarus complies. Dying, Cassius’s last words are that Caesar has now been revenged by the very sword that killed him.