David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 1-5 (Conclusion)

— 5.1 —

On the plains of Philippi, Octavius was talking to Mark Antony. Their troops were camped on the plains.

“Now, Antony, our hopes are answered,” Octavius said. “The enemy forces have made a tactical mistake. You said that the enemy would not come down from their strong defensive position,but would instead stay on the hills and upper regions. They did not do that. Their armies are close to us. They mean to challenge us at Philippi here. They are responding to our challenge even before we have made it.”

“I can put myself in their place and know what they are thinking,” Antony said. “I know why they are doing this. They would like to approach us from different directions and make a surprise attack against us with a show of bravery, thinking to make us believe that they are courageous, but they are not brave.”

A messenger arrived and said, “Prepare yourselves, generals. The enemy marches toward us and makes a gallant show. They are wearing red vests — their bloody signs of battle — over their armor. Some action will have to be taken immediately.”

“Octavius, lead your army slowly to the left side of the level field,” Antony said.

“My army will take the right side of the battlefield. You and your army will take the left side,” Octavius replied.

“Why are you opposing me in this urgent matter?” Antony said.

“I am not opposing you, but my army and I will take the right side of the battlefield.”

Brutus, Cassius, Lucilius, Titinius, Messala, and others approached to talk to Mark Antony and Octavius before the battle began.

Brutus said, “They are willing to talk.”

“Stay here, Titinius,” Cassius said. “Brutus and I will talk to them.”

“Mark Antony, shall we give the order to attack?” Octavius Caesar asked.

“No, Caesar, we will respond when they attack. Let you and I go forward. Their generals would have some words with us.”

Octavius said to his officers, “Don’t move until we give the signal.”

“Words before blows,” Brutus said. “Is that the way it is, countrymen?”

“We do not love words better than battle, as you do,” Octavius said.

“Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius,” Brutus replied.

“To accompany your bad strokes, Brutus, you gave good words,” Antony replied. “Your dagger put a hole in Caesar’s heart as you cried out, ‘Long live Caesar! Hail, Caesar!’”

“Antony, we do not yet know what kind of blows you will strike, but we do know that your words rob the bees around Hybla, a town in Sicily that is famous for its honey,” Cassius said. “Your words leave those bees honeyless.”

“But not stingless,” Antony said.

“Oh, yes, and soundless, too,” Brutus said. “For you have stolen their buzzing, Antony, and very wisely you threaten before you sting.”

“Villains, you gave no warning before your vile daggers crashed against each other in the body of Julius Caesar,” Antony replied. “You grinned like apes, and fawned like hounds, and bowed like slaves. You kissed Caesar’s feet, while damned Casca, like a dog, stood behind Caesar and stabbed him in the neck. You flattered Caesar as you murdered him!”

“We are flatterers!” Cassius said. “Now, Brutus, thank yourself. Antony’s tongue would not be insulting us in this way today, if you had listened to me and let us kill Antony when we killed Julius Caesar.”

“Get to the point,” Octavius Caesar said. “If arguing makes us sweat, settling the argument in battle will make us drip redder drops — our blood! Look, I am drawing my sword against conspirators. When do you think that I will sheathe my sword again? Not until Julius Caesar’s three and thirty wounds are well avenged, or until another Caesar — me — has been killed by the swords of traitors.”

“Caesar, it is impossible for you to die at the hands of traitors unless you yourself bring traitors here. We are not traitors; we are loyal to Rome,” Brutus said.

“I hope that it is impossible for me to die at the hands of traitors,” Octavius Caesar said. “I was not born to die on Brutus’ sword.”

“Even if you were the noblest of your family, young man, you could not die more honorably than on my sword,” Brutus said.

“Octavius is a peevish schoolboy, unworthy of such honor,” Cassius said, knowing that Octavius was only 21 years old. “He is allied with Mark Antony, who is known for partying and reveling.”

“Cassius — you never change,” Antony said.

“Antony, let’s leave,” Octavius said.

To Brutus and Cassius, Octavius said, “We hurl defiance in your teeth. If you dare fight today, come to the battlefield. If not, come when you have stomachs for fighting.”

Octavius and Antony left.

Cassius said, “Why, now the wind is blowing, the swells are billowing, and the ships are floating. The storm has started, and everything is at stake.”

“Lucilius!” Brutus said.

“Yes, my lord?”

“I want to speak to you.”

Brutus and Lucilius talked privately.

Cassius said, “Messala!”

“Yes, my general?”

“Messala, this is my birthday; on this very day was Cassius born. Give me your hand, Messala. Be my witness that against my will, as Pompey was, am I compelled to risk everything in one battle. Pompey fought at Pharsalia against his better judgment — he was defeated. You know that I used to strongly believe in the Greek philosopher Epicurus and his teachings. He believed that omens were mere superstitions. Now I change my mind, and I partially believe in things that do presage the future. As we travelled here from Sardis, on our foremost standard — our foremost flag — two mighty eagles fell, and there they perched, gorging and feeding from our soldiers’ hands. From Sardis to Philippi, they accompanied us. This morning, they flew away and are gone. And in their steads do ravens, crows, and kites — all kinds of scavenger birds — fly over our heads and look down on us, as if our corpses will soon be food for them. Their shadows seem to be a deadly canopy, under which our army lies, ready to die.”

“Do not believe that this is an omen,” Messala said.

“I only partially believe it,” Cassius said. “I am of good spirits and resolved to face all dangers very courageously.”

“That is right, Lucilius,” Brutus said, ending their private conversation.

“Now, most noble Brutus,” Cassius said, “may the gods today be friendly to us, so that we, lovers of peace, may live on to reach old age! But since the affairs of men are always uncertain, let us consider the worst that may befall us. If we lose this battle, then this is the very last time we shall speak together. What are you determined to do if we lose the battle?”

“As a Stoic, I blame Marcus Porcius Cato for the death that he gave himself,” Brutus said. “He opposed Julius Caesar, and rather than surrender to him he committed suicide. I am not sure why, but I find it cowardly and vile to commit suicide out of fear of what may happen. I plan to be patient and accept without complaining whatever the gods send to us.”

“Then, if we lose this battle, you will accept being led as a prisoner in triumph through the streets of Rome?” Cassius asked.

“No, Cassius, no,” Brutus said. “Do not think, noble Roman, that Brutus will allow himself to go bound to Rome. I bear too great a mind for that — I am too proud to allow that to happen. But this day must end that work the Ides of March began. Whether we shall meet again, I do not know. Therefore, let make our final farewells. So, farewell forever, Cassius! If we meet again, then we shall smile. If we do not meet again, then this parting was well done.”

“Forever, and forever, farewell, Brutus!” Cassius said. “If we do meet again, we will smile indeed. If not, it is true that this parting was well done.”

“Why, then, lead on,” Brutus said. “I wish that a man might know how this day will end before it happens! But it is enough that the day will end, and then we will know the end. Let us go now.”

 — 5.2 —

The battle had not yet started.

Brutus gave Messala some written orders and said, “Ride, Messala, ride, and give these orders to Cassius’ legions on the other side. Let them set on and fight at once because I see only faint courage in the soldiers in Octavius’ army. A sudden attack by my wing will defeat them. Ride, Messala. Let all our soldiers attack now.”

 — 5.3 —

Later, in Cassius’ part of the battlefield, Cassius and Titinius were talking.

“Look, Titinius, some of our soldiers have turned cowards and are fleeing! I myself have turned enemy to my own soldiers. This standard bearer here of mine was running away, and so I killed the coward, and took the flag from him.”

“Cassius, Brutus gave the orders to attack too early,” Titinius said. “Having some advantage over Octavius’ army, he took it too eagerly and his soldiers began to loot, while we are surrounded by Antony’s army.”

Pindarus came running and said, “Run further off, my lord, run further off. Mark Antony is at your tents, my lord. Run, therefore, noble Cassius, run further off. Retreat.”

“This hill is far enough away,” Cassius said. “Look, Titinius. Are those my tents where I see fire?”

“Yes, they are, my lord.”

“Titinius, if you are my friend, mount my horse, and ride quickly to the troops there and bring back news of whether those troops are our friends or our enemies.”

“I will be here again as quickly as thought.”

Titinius left.

“Go, Pindarus, get higher on that hill,” Cassius ordered. “My sight has always been poor. Watch Titinius, and tell me what happens.”

Pindarus climbed higher on the hill.

Cassius said to himself, “This day is the day I breathed first. This is the day that I was born. Time has come round, and where I began, there I shall end. My life has run its circle, and I will die today.”

He called to Pindarus, “What do you see?”

“My lord!”

“What is happening?”

“Titinius is surrounded by horsemen who quickly ride toward him. He is riding quickly toward them. Now they are almost on him. Titinius! Now some horsemen dismount. Now, he dismounts, too. He has been captured.”

Shouts rose in the air.

“Listen,” Pindarus said, “The enemy soldiers are shouting for joy.”

“Come down and don’t look any more,” Cassius said. “I am a coward because I have lived so long that I have seen my best friend captured before my eyes!”

Pindarus came down from higher on the hill.

“Come here,” Cassius said. “In Parthia I took you prisoner and then I made you swear that if I did not kill you that whatever I ordered you to do you would attempt to do it. Come now, and keep your oath. Now you can earn your freedom. Take this good sword that ran through Caesar’s bowels and helped to kill him — plunge this good sword into my chest. Don’t talk. Don’t hesitate. Here, take the hilt of the sword, and wait until I have covered my face.”

Cassius covered his face with some clothing.

“Now plunge the sword into my chest.”

Pindarus stabbed Cassius, who said, “Caesar, you are revenged with the sword that killed you.”

Cassius died.

Pindarus said to himself, “So, I am free, yet this is not the way I wanted to gain my freedom. Cassius, I will run far from this country. I will go where no Roman shall ever take note of me.”

He ran away.

Titinius, wearing a wreath of victory, and Messala rode toward Cassius’ corpse.

“The armies have simply changed their positions,” Messala said to Titinius. “Brutus’ army defeated Octavius’ army, and Antony’s army defeated Cassius’ army.”

“This news of Brutus’ victory will well comfort Cassius,” Titinius said.

“Where did you leave him?” Messala asked.

“He was disconsolate and in despair with Pindarus, his slave, on this hill,” Titinius said.

“Is not that he who is lying on the ground?”

“He does not lie like a living person,” Titinius said. “Oh, my heart!”

“Is that Cassius?”

“No, but he was Cassius,” Titinius said. “Messala, Cassius lives no more. Oh, setting Sun, just as in your red rays you will sink tonight, so in his red blood Cassius’ day has set. The Sun of Rome has set! Our day is over. Clouds, the dews of evening, and dangers come. Our deeds are done! Mistrust of my success has done this deed — Cassius mistook good news for bad news and so killed himself.”

“Mistrust of good success has done this deed,” Messala said. “Oh, hateful error, you are the child of melancholy. You make men think thoughts that are false. Error is quickly conceived, but it kills its mother and nothing good can come from it.”

“Pindarus! Where are you, Pindarus?” Titinius said.

“Seek him, Titinius,” Messala said, “while I go and meet the noble Brutus, and tell him what has happened here. I may as well say that I will thrust this report into his ears because piercing steel and poisoned darts shall be as welcome to the ears of Brutus as the news of the suicide of his friend.”

“Hurry, Messala,” Titinius said. “I will look for Pindarus while you are gone.”

Messala rode away.

“Why did you send me to your camp, brave Cassius?” Titinius said to Cassius’ corpse. “Didn’t I meet your friends? And didn’t they put on my brows this wreath of victory, and tell me to give it to you? Didn’t you hear their joyful shouts? You misunderstood everything! You mistook very good news for very bad news! But let me put this wreath of victory upon your brow. Brutus told me to give it to you, and I will do what he asked. Brutus, come quickly, and see how I respected Caius Cassius.”

He took Cassius’ sword and said, “Give me your permission to kill myself, gods — this is what is expected of a Roman. Come, Cassius’ sword, and find Titinius’ heart.”

Titinius killed himself with Cassius’ sword.

Messala returned with Brutus, young Cato, Strato, Volumnius, and Lucilius. Young Cato’s father was Marcus Porcius Cato, who had supported Pompey and had killed himself rather than surrender to Julius Caesar. Young Cato’s sister was Portia, Brutus’ late wife.

“Where, Messala, does Cassius’ body lie?” Brutus asked.

“Over there,” Messala said. “Titinius was mourning the corpse.”

“Titinius is facing upward,” Brutus said.

“He is dead,” young Cato said.

“Julius Caesar, you are powerful even now,” Brutus said. “Your spirit walks abroad and turns our swords so that they pierce our own bodies.”

“Look, noble Titinius has crowned the dead Cassius with a wreath of victory.”

“Are there still two Romans living such as these?” Brutus asked. “The last of all the Romans, fare you well! It is impossible that Rome should ever breed your equals. Friends, I owe more tears to this dead man than you shall see me pay. I shall find time to mourn you properly. Cassius, I shall find time. Come, let us send his body to the nearby island of Thasos. We will not hold his funeral in our camps because it would dishearten and demoralize us. Lucilius, come, and come, young Cato, let us return to the battlefield.”

He added, “Labeo and Flavius, set our troops in battle formation. It is three o’clock, and, Romans, before night falls we will try our fortunes in a second fight.”

 — 5.4 —

The armies were fighting each other. Brutus, Messala, Flavius, young Cato, and Lucilius and others were fighting.

“Keep fighting, countrymen,” Brutus shouted. “Hold your heads up high!”

Brutus, Messala, and Flavius left to fight on another part of the battlefield.

“Who is of such bastard blood that he will not hold his head up high?” young Cato shouted. “Who will go with me? I will shout my name in the battlefield — I am the son of Marcus Cato! I am a foe to tyrants, and my country’s friend! I am the son of Marcus Cato!”

Cato fought fiercely, but an opposing soldier killed him.

“And I am Brutus, Marcus Junius Brutus! I am Brutus, my country’s friend!” Lucilius shouted. “Know that I am Brutus!”

Lucilius wanted Brutus to be safe. By saying that he was Brutus, he knew that the opposing soldiers who heard him would focus on him, not on the real Brutus.

He saw the corpse of young Cato and said, “Oh, young and noble Cato, are you down? Why, now you die as nobly as Titinius. And you, being Marcus Cato’s son, will be honored.”

One of Antony’s soldiers said to Lucilius, “Surrender, or die!”

“I prefer to die,” Lucilius said. “Here is some money. Take it, and kill me. I am Brutus. Kill me and win honor because you have killed me.”

“We must not kill you,” the soldier said. “You are nobly born.”

A second soldier of Antony’s shouted, “Make room for us! Get out of the way! Carry the news to Antony that Brutus has been captured.”

The first soldier said, “I will tell him. Here he comes now.”

Antony arrived, and the first soldier said, “Brutus has been captured, my lord.”

“Where is he?” Antony asked.

“He is somewhere safe,” Lucilius said. “I have been pretending to be him. Brutus is safe enough, and I assure you that no enemy shall ever take the noble Brutus alive — may the gods defend him from so great a shame! When you find him, whether he is alive or dead, he will be found to be noble Brutus — he will behave in accordance with his own true and noble nature.”

“This man is not Brutus, friends,” Antony told his soldiers, “but he is, I assure you, a prize no less in worth. Keep this man safe and show him kindness. I prefer that such men be my friends than my enemies. Go and see whether Brutus is alive or dead and come to Octavius’ tent and tell us your news.”

 — 5.5 —

Brutus, Dardanius, Clitus, Strato, and Volumnius knew that they had lost the battle. Strato was one of Brutus’ servants.

Brutus said, “Come here, poor friendly survivors of this battle, and last of my living friends, and rest on this rock.”

Clitus said, “Statilius showed the torchlight to us — a signal that all was going well in another part of the battle — but, my lord, he did not return to us. He must have been either captured or killed.”

“Sit down and rest, Clitus,” Brutus said. “‘Killed’ is the word most likely to be accurate. Today, killing has been fashionable. Clitus, let me speak privately to you.”

Brutus whispered to Clitus, who replied, “What, I, my lord? No, not for all the world.”

“Be quiet, then,” Brutus said. “Say no more.”

“I’ll rather kill myself than do what you asked me to do.”

Brutus went to Dardanius and said, “Listen to me.”

Brutus whispered to Dardanius, who said, “Shall I do such a deed?”

Clitus said, “Oh, Dardanius!”

Dardanius said, “Oh, Clitus!”

“What evil thing did Brutus ask you to do?”

“To kill him, Clitus. Look, he is meditating about what to do.”

“That noble vessel is so full of grief that it trickles out of his eyes,” Clitus said.

“Come here, good Volumnius,” Brutus said, “and listen to me.”

“What is it, my lord?”

“Why, this, Volumnius. The ghost of Caesar has appeared to me twice by night: once at Sardis, and, once last night here on the battlefield of Philippi. I know that my hour of death has come.”

“No, my lord,” Volumnius said.

“I am sure it has, Volumnius,” Brutus said. “You see how the world goes. Our enemies have beaten us back to the pit. It is much better for us to leap into the pit ourselves than to wait until they push us in. Good Volumnius, you know that we two went to school together. For the sake of our old friendship, I ask you to please hold my sword while I run on it and kill myself.”

“That’s not a job for a friend, my lord,” Volumnius said.

Noises made it clear that enemy soldiers were approaching.

“Run, run, my lord,” Clitus said. “We can wait here no longer.”

“Farewell to you; and you; and you, Volumnius. Strato, you have been asleep all this while. Farewell to you, too, Strato. Countrymen, my heart rejoices that in all my life I have found only men who were true to me. I shall gain glory on this losing day — more glory than Octavius and Mark Antony shall gain with their dishonorable and vile victory. So farewell now. Brutus’ tongue has almost ended its life’s history. Night hangs upon my eyes, and my bones want to rest. My body has labored hard to bring me to this hour of death.”

The noise of enemy soldiers grew nearer. Some of Brutus’ soldiers shouted on the battlefield, “Run! Run for your lives!”

“Run, my lord, run!” Clitus pleaded.

“Go now! I will follow you,” Brutus said.

Clitus, Dardanius, and Volumnius fled.

“Please, Strato, stay here by me,” Brutus said. “You are a fellow with a good reputation. You have earned honor in your life. Hold then my sword, and turn away your face, while I run on my sword and kill myself. Will you do that for me, Strato?”

“Give me your hand first,” Strato said.

They shook hands, and Strato said, “Farewell, my lord.”

“Farewell, good Strato.”

Strato held the sword firmly and turned his face to the side.

Brutus ran on his sword, fell, and said, “Caesar, now be still. I did not kill you with half so good a will as that with which I kill myself.”

Brutus died.

Octavius and Mark Antony and some of their soldiers arrived with two bound prisoners: Messala and Lucilius.

“What man is that?” Octavius said, referring to Strato.

“My master’s servant,” Messala said. “Strato, where is Brutus, your master?”

“He is free from the bondage you are in, Messala,” Strato said. “The conquerors can but make a funeral fire for him because Brutus conquered himself, and no other man but himself has gained honor from his death.”

“It is fitting that Brutus should be found like this,” Lucilius said. “I thank you, Brutus, because you have proved what I said to be true. I said that when Antony found Brutus, whether he is alive or dead, he would be found to be noble Brutus — he would behave in accordance with his own true and noble nature.”

“Everyone who served Brutus, I will take into my service,” Octavius said.

He said to Strato, “Will you join with me?”

“Yes, if Messala will recommend me to you,” Strato replied.

“Recommend him, good Messala,” Octavius said.

First, Messala asked, “How did my master, Brutus, die, Strato?”

“I held the sword, and he ran on it,” Strato said.

“Octavius, take Strato into your service. He did the final service to my master.”

Mark Antony said over Brutus’ corpse, “This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators except only he did what they did out of envy of great Caesar. Brutus joined the conspirators only because he honestly believed that he was acting for the general good of all. His life was noble, and his character was such that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’”

“Let us treat him according to his virtue and excellence,” Octavius said. “We will give him all respect and rites of burial. Within my tent his bones shall lie tonight with the honors due to a soldier. Order the fighting to stop, and let us return to our camp to enjoy the glories of this happy day.”


In Shakespeare’s plays based on history, he collapses time. The events of Julius Caesarappear to take place in six days, but in reality, they took place in three years. Here are some dates:

In 48 BCE, Julius Caesar defeated Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalia.

On March 17, 45 BCE Julius Caesar defeated Pompey’s sons at the Battle of Munda.

In October 45 BCE, Julius Caesar celebrated his victory over Pompey’s sons in a triumphal procession in Rome. In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare had this triumphal procession occur on 15 February 44 BCE — the day of the Feast of Lupercal, a festival of fruitfulness and fertility.

In 44 BCE on the Ides of March (March 15), Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome. His assassins included Caius Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus.

In the first week of October 42 BCE, Caius Cassius committed suicide at Philippi after an engagement with the troops of Mark Antony and Octavian.

On 23 October 42 BCE, a second engagement occurred at Philippi, and Marcus Junius Brutus committed suicide.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved





Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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