Act I, Scene 1
The Roman people are celebrating in the streets and resident party poopers Flavius and Marullus are quite perturbed. They stop a group of tradesmen and ask why they aren’t working. They question why the carpenter doesn’t have his leather apron and rule on hand. They turn to another tradesmen. He’s a cobbler or shoemaker. They apparently didn’t hear his initial answer, so a lot of shoe puns ensue.
Flavius and Marullus ask the men why they are out celebrating instead of working. The men are celebrating Caesar and his triumphs. Marullus grows angry at this response because they seem to have forgotten Pompey, a leader they previously exalted. They used to cheer so loudly just to see Pompey that the very ground shook. Now, they are celebrating the man who benefitted from Pompey’s fall. They angrily dismiss the men and hope they are riddled with guilt. Flavius and Marullus decide to pull down all images and tokens that celebrate Caesar.
Act I, Scene 2 (prepare yourself for a super long scene)
Caesar prepares his grand entrance. He calls out for Calpurnia. He wants her to walk directly in front of Anthony and reminds Anthony to mind his pace. Everybody obeys because, well, it’s Caesar.
A soothsayer, or psychic, warns Caesar to beware the ides of March (middle of March). Caesar dismisses the whole thing as complete nonsense and goes on his merry way. Everybody leaves except Cassius and Brutus.
Cassius asks Brutus if he is going to go and join the festivities. Alas, Brutus is not going to join the festivities because he is not really in the mood to party. He doesn’t want to drag down his friend’s spirit though, so he offers to leave. Cassius comments on the fact that Brutus has not been himself lately. He’s not as friendly as he once was. Brutus assures Cassius that he still has love for his friend, but he is so preoccupied with his own internal conflicts that he can’t show it.
Cassius asks Brutus if he is able to see himself. Brutus cannot. Cassius explains that he wish there was a mirror that would allow Brutus to see his own worth and that many citizens of Rome think the same. Brutus can sense that Cassius is trying to pull Brutus in to some sort of scheme. Cassius can’t believe that Brutus would think such a thing when he is just trying to get Brutus to see the greatness that is already in him.
The people shout and Brutus fears that they have named Caesar as their king. Cassius asks if Brutus is opposed to Caesar being king. He would, even though he loves Caesar. Brutus still wants to know what Cassius is up to. Cassius explains that Caesar wasn’t born any greater than Cassius or Brutus, and yet, they must bow to him. In fact, Cassius saved Caesar from drowning and witnessed a sickly Caesar faintly asking for water. Caesar, who is apparently all god-like, being sick..psh.
The people shout again. Brutus worries that more glories are being heaped on Caesar. Cassius asserts that it is their own fault they are beneath Caesar’s greatness because they have done nothing about it. Brutus is just as great as Caesar, but Brutus would stop a king. Brutus promises to consider what Cassius has said, but insists they talk about it another time. Cassius tells Brutus to grab Casca from Caesar’s train to figure out what happened.
Caesar and his posse return. Brutus remarks how Caesar looks mad, Calpurnia pale, and Cicero all fired up. Cassius reiterates that Casca will tell them what’s up.
Caesar calls for Anthony. He wants Anthony to surround him with fat, bald men. He doesn’t want people like Cassius around him. “He thinks too much.” Anthony tries to defend Cassius, but Caesar is having none of it. He doesn’t like Cassius. Cassius is always reading and being sneaky and never does anything fun. Caesar and Anthony go off to talk more about how awful Cassius is.
Brutus and Cassius pull aside Casca to get the scoop on all the shouting. It turns out Caesar had been offered the crown, but refused it, not once, not twice, but three times. Casca hardly payed attention to the shenanigans because it was clearly all a charade. Marc Anthony handed Caesar a crown, really more of a coronet, but whatever. Caesar refused it and the people cheered. He was offered it two more times and refused all those offers. The final time the people cheered so loudly with their terrible breath that Caesar passed out at the stench. (He really had epilepsy, but way to love the people Casca). Brutus explains that Caesar had “the falling sickness.” Cassius quips that it is they that have the falling sickness. This confuses Casca, but he continues with the story. He explains that Caesar collapsed because the crowd would cheer or boo depending on what he did like they would at the theatre. Casca further explains that once Caesar realized the people were glad he refused the crown, he told Casca and the others to slit his throat. Then he collapsed and when he came to said that anything he did or said just prior should be attributed to his infirmity. Casca saw through the lies, but everyone else forgave him. Casca asserts they would have forgiven Caesar if he had killed their mothers.
Brutus and Cassius were eager to hear how Cicero responded to the whole situation. He apparently gave a moving speech in Greek. Unfortunately, Casca doesn’t speak Greek, but the people who did understand him smiled. So, there’s that. Also, Flavius and Marullus have been pulling down all the scarves and such off of Caesar’s images. Cassius invites Casca to dinner, but he’s busy, so they decide to meet tomorrow (these are the juicy details that are cut out of most Shakespeare summaries, but not here!).
Brutus and Cassius discuss how much Casca has changed. He’s so rude now! Anyway, Brutus has to go. Cassius, now alone, reveals his plot to coax Brutus to his side by leaving notes around Brutus’ house and property that look like they’re from random Roman citizens.
Act I, Scene 3
Cicero runs into Casca, who is all worked up with his sword drawn. Cicero asks him why he’s so worked up. Casca explains that he has seen many storms in his lifetime, but none that shook the Earth so fiercely and also it’s raining fire. Cicero, seemingly unfazed by the fire rain, asks if Casca saw anything more remarkable than that. Casca then explains that he saw a slave walking through the city with his hand on fire, but not being burned. Also, he saw a lion…and a hundred scared women who saw some men on fire…and an owl was out during the daytime yesterday. It’s all very concerning. Even Cicero has to admit that it doesn’t look good, but then again these signs always look bad in hindsight. Anyway, is Caesar coming to capitol tomorrow? He is. Cicero leaves.
Cassius comes in. They comment on how crazy this storm is and Cassius explains that he bore his chest to the sky and lightning. Casca thinks this seemed foolish. Men should be supplicant to the gods. Cassius, however, doesn’t think that’s very Roman. Casca is just scared because he doesn’t know what’s going on, but Cassius, he knows. He knows all too well. The heavens are clearly sending a warning about someone who thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips. Casca understands that Cassius clearly means Caesar, since that is pretty much all he’ll talk about now. Cassius thinks all of these logical Roman men have turned into weak-minded womenfolk. Casca reveals that the senators intend to make Caesar king tomorrow. Cassius will have none of this tyranny and will break the chains of bondage by violence, if necessary. Casca swears to do the same. Cassius laments that more Romans aren’t like him and Casca. They shake hands and agree to take down Caesar together.
This is when Cassius reveals that he has already pulled others into this plot. In fact, one of the other conspirators, Cinna, is heading toward them now. Cinna is quite perturbed by the strange happenings. He wishes Cassius could get Brutus on their side. Cassius has a perfect plan for that. He gives Cinna three letters to be put in various locations around Brutus’ house, so he might stumble upon them. Once Cinna does this, he is to go to Pompey’s house to meet with the other conspirators.
Cassius and Casca will go to Brutus first thing in the morning and finally convince him to come to their side.