Julius Caesar Review Questions

Act I – Review Questions

  1. What purposes are served by having the citizens appear in the opening scene of the play?
  2. What special contribution does the Second Citizen make to the appeal of the scene?
  3. Define “pun.” Give two instances of the use of the pun by the Second Citizen.
  4. What do you learn from the first scene of the conditions in Rome?
  5. By what devices has Shakespeare made Marullus’ long speech to the citizens a most inspiriting one?
  6. Do you think the play gains from having Caesar introduced only indirectly in Scene I and then directly in Scene 2? Discuss.
  7. How would you stage the opening scene if you were directing a production of the play?
  8. Why is it fitting that Caesar’s first appearance should be in the Feast of Lupercal procession?
  9. How does Shakespeare make dramatic the introduction of the Soothsayer?
  10. Which speeches of Cassius and Brutus inform us that Brutus has been disturbed recently by conditions in Rome?
  11. Why was the day of the Feast of Lupercal an opportune time for Cassius to approach Brutus on the subject of Caesar?
  12. What traits in the character of Brutus provide Cassius with soul to work on when he endeavours to turn Brutus against Caesar?
  13. What features do you find in the character of Cassius that are not evident in that of Brutus?
  14. What do we learn of Cassius, of Antony, and of Caesar himself from Caesar’s famous speech beginning, “Would he were fatter”?
  15. What is gained or lost by having Casca tell of the offering of the crown to Caesar rather than by having the incident take place on stage?
  16. Define “soliloquy.” Why is the soliloquy seldom used in modern drama? Mention at least two purposes it serves when used in the final speech of Scene 2.
  17. How does Cicero serve as a foil for Casca in the Storm Scene?
  18. Why does Shakespeare introduce the prodigies described by Casca? Do you know of any other Shakespearean play that resorts to the use of unnatural happenings for a similar purpose?
  19. Why is Cassius seeking to have Caesar destroyed? What is your opinion of the means to which he resorts to gain his ends?
  20. How far has the First Act advanced the plot of the play?

Act 2 – Review Questions

  1. Why do the incidents of Scene I take place at night and on the last night before the Ides of March?
  2. Into what four divisions can Scene I be naturally divided?
  3. What evidence is there in Scene I that Brutus has been much perturbed about the problem of Caesar?
  4. By what line of reasoning does Brutus justify his decision to take part in the murder of Caesar? Do you believe his reasoning is sound or faulty?
  5. Write down the talk, as you think it might have taken place, that went on between Brutus and Cassius while the other consipirators discussed the point of sunrise. (Use blank verse preferably, and try to catch the style of Shakespeare).
  6. On what matters do you find Brutus and Cassius not in agreement after Brutus joins the conspiracy? How are their characters further revealed by the attitudes on these matters? How is the introduction of these points of dispute concerned with the development of the plot? Why do the conspirators permit Brutus to have his way on these issues?
  7. What dramatic purposes are served by the introduction of the conversation (a) between Brutus and Portia, (b) between Brutus and Caius Ligarius?
  8. What is gained by reverting to the storm background in Scene 2?
  9. Where in Scene 2 do you find evidence of Caesar’s superstition, arrogance, fatalism, vacillation, susceptibility to flattery?
  10. Compare the characters of Portia and Calpurnia.
  11. Discuss the thought in Caesar’s speech, beginning, “Cowards die many times before their deaths”.
  12. Is it good drama for Caesar to be represented at the end of Scene 2 as being so friendly towards those who are shortly to assassinate him?
  13. If you were producing the play, would you include or omit the Artemidorus Scene? Why?
  14. Define “suspense.” How is the suspense of Scene 4 increased over that of Scene 3?
  15. Aside from the increased suspense in Scene 4 over that of Scene 3, why could this scene be less justifiably omitted from a stage presentation of the play than Scene 3?

Act 3 – Review Questions

  1. By what means is the suspense increased as Caesar goes towards the Capitol?
  2. In the Popilius Lena incident how is Brutus made to appear in a better light than Cassius?
  3. “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” How is this statement applicable in the closing minutes of Caesar’s life?
  4. How and why does Shakespeare make Caesar especially unappealing to us just before his assassination?
  5. What words uttered by Brutus in the confusion after Caesar’s death best indicate the reason for his having joined the conspiracy?
  6. What was the significance of the conspirators dipping their hands in Caesar’s blood?
  7. How does Shakespeare reveal new depths to Antony’s character in the assassination scene?
  8. Upon what prophecy has the plot of the play been built down to the point where Caesar is killed? Around what new prophecy uttered in this scene is the second half of the play likely to be built?
  9. Select at least two eulogistic remarks by Antony which reveals Caesar in a light distinctly different from that in which the conspirators viewed him. Do you think that public men of today are regarded with such a divergence of opinion as was Caesar?
  10. Contrast the respective attitudes of Brutus and Cassius towards Antony in the latter part of Scene I. What evidence is there in the scene that Cassius’ attitude is justified?
  11. What significance do you attach to the announcement at the end of the scene that Octavius is nearing Rome?
  12. Write out (preferably blank verse) Cassius’ speech to the mob as you think he might have delivered it in the “other street.”
  13. Write a precis of Brutus’ address to the crowd. What qualities are evident in Brutus’ speech that are lost in a precis?
  14. Why did Shakespeare have the crowd express approval at the end of Brutus’ speech?
  15. Trace the stages by which Antony in his speech gradually turned the mob against the conspirators.
  16. What are some of the devices – other than that of argument itself – by which Antony influenced his listeners?
  17. “The behaviour of the mob in this scene of the speeches links naturally with its behaviour in Act I, Scene I.” Discuss.
  18. “The dramatic crisis is that point in a play where the rising action ceases and the falling action begins.” Where in Scene I or Scene 2 of Act 3 would you say the dramatic crisis occurs? Why do modern plays have this point much later than the mechanical centre of the play?
  19. What dramatic purposes are served by the third scene of Act 3?

Act 4 – Review Questions

  1. Mention three actions of Antony in the triumvirate scene to which you object.
  2. How are Antony and Octavius, by their natures, better fitted to work together than are Brutus and Cassius?
  3. Considering their respective motives in killing Caesar, why should the news of the work of the triumvirs in Rome be even more disturbing to Brutus than to Cassius?
  4. Quarrels can be very bitterly contested when each party to the quarrel believes he is in the right. On what issues did Brutus and Cassius each believe the other had wronged him?
  5. In what respects is Brutus’ conduct during the quarrel in accordance with, or opposed to, what you would expect of him?
  6. How is Cassius’ conduct during the quarrel such as to earn – for the first time in the play – your sympathy and perhaps even your respect?
  7. In what various ways may quarrels end? How does this famous quarrel end? How is it good drama to have, just before the battle of Philippi, Brutus and Cassius brought more closely together than ever before?
  8. How does, after the reconciliation, Cassius’ habitual deference to the wishes of Brutus continue to endanger the conspirators’ cause?
  9. How is the gentler side of Brutus’ nature further revealed towards the end of Scene 3?
  10. What makes you feel sorry for Brutus in Scene 3 following the reconciliation?
  11. What dramatic purpose is served by the introduction of Caesar’s ghost at this stage of events?

Act 5 – Review Questions

  1. What evidence is there in Scene I that Brutus was wrong in his insistence on moving from Sardis to Philippi?
  2. How in Scene I does Shakespeare continue to present Octavius as a masterful character?
  3. Judging from Scene I, what does the shrewd and practical Cassius think of the chances of the republican army in the coming battle?
  4. Indicate from a study of Scenes II, III, and IV the Shakespearean technique of dealing with a battle. What advantages has the motion-picture ov erthe stage in dealing with a large-scale battle?
  5. Aside from any connection with history, do you believe the deaths of Cassius, Titinius, and Young Cato to be desirable in the drama?
  6. What is the dramatic significance of Cassius’ last words and of Brutus’ remark on learning of the deaths of Cassius and Titinius?
  7. What prompts Brutus to say to Volumnius, “I know my hour is come”? Why does Shakespeare introduce this speech in such a context?
  8. How and why does Shakespeare fix our attention on men rather than on the battle?
  9. What is your opinion of Brutus’ speech:
    “I shall have glory by this losing day,
    More than Octavius and Mark Antony”?
  10. Where do you find in the final scene justification for the play being called Julius Caesar?
  11. Why is Antony’s last speech an especially fine tribute to Brutus?