Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Act 5, scene 5 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Summary
Analysis
Brutus enters with several friends; battle-weary, they sit down together to rest. Tearfully, Brutus speaks to three different companions—Clitus, Dardanius, and Volumnius—asking each of them in turn to kill him. To Volumnius, Brutus explains that Caesar’s ghost has appeared to him again, and that he knows his hour has come. They each refuse his request, urging him to keep running from the enemy. Brutus declines and bids each of them farewell, explaining that now he only desires rest. Finally, he asks Strato to hold Brutus’s sword while Brutus runs upon it. Strato agrees, and Brutus kills himself, saying, “Caesar, now rest. I killed you half as willingly as I kill myself.”
Unlike Pindarus when he assisted Cassius’s suicide, Brutus's men are reluctant to participate in his death, showing their esteem for him. Brutus's dying words indicate that, unlike Cassius, he kills himself not to avoid the humiliation of capture, but because he believes his actions deserve death. If his suicide is a just punishment rather than an avoidance of future events, then it could be argued that Brutus does not exactly violate his Stoic belief that suicide is improper. Rather, it’s in keeping with Brutus’s honorable principles.
Themes
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
Politics and Morality Theme Icon
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Octavius enters with Antony, Messala, Lucilius (both captives), and other soldiers. They see Strato with Brutus’s body, and Strato explains to them the circumstances of Brutus’s suicide. Antony declares that Brutus was “the noblest Roman of them all,” since he was the only conspirator who did not act out of envy of Caesar; instead, he acted from lofty ideals. Octavius agrees, making plans for Brutus’s honorable burial. They all leave to celebrate their victory in battle.
Even Brutus’s enemies affirm the difference between Brutus and the other conspirators. The closing focus on the ironic difference between Brutus's great virtue and his disastrous end provides a good argument for seeing the play as the tragedy of Brutus, rather than that of Caesar. Octavius, now the highest-ranking character, speaks the closing lines—he will go on to be the first emperor of the Roman Empire.
Themes
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
Politics and Morality Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
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