Act V - Scene I

[The plains of Philippi.]

Enter Octavius, Antony, and their Army.

OCTAVIUS:
Now, Antony, our hopes are answered.
You said the enemy would not come down,
But keep the hills and upper regions.
It proves not so. Their battles are at hand;
They mean to warn us at Philippi here,(5)
Answering before we do demand of them.
ANTONY:
Tut, I am in their bosoms, and I know
Wherefore they do it. They could be content
To visit other places, and come down
With fearful bravery, thinking by this face(10)
To fasten in our thoughts that they have courage;
But 'tis not so.

Enter a Messenger.

MESSALA:
Prepare you, generals.
The enemy comes on in gallant show;
Their bloody sign of battle is hung out,(15)
And something to be done immediately.
ANTONY:
Octavius, lead your battle softly on,
Upon the left hand of the even field.
OCTAVIUS:
Upon the right hand I, keep thou the left.
ANTONY:
Why do you cross me in this exigent?(20)
OCTAVIUS:
I do not cross you, but I will do so.

March.

Drum. Enter Brutus, Cassius, and their Army [Lucilius, Titinius, Messala, and others.]

BRUTUS:
They stand, and would have parley.
CASSIUS:
Stand fast, Titinius; we must out and talk.
OCTAVIUS:
Mark Antony, shall we give sign of battle?
ANTONY:
No, Caesar, we will answer on their charge.(25)
Make forth, the generals would have some words.
OCTAVIUS:
Stir not until the signal.
BRUTUS:
Words before blows. Is it so, countrymen?
OCTAVIUS:
Not that we love words better, as you do.
BRUTUS:
Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius.(30)
ANTONY:
In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words.
Witness the hole you made in Caesar's heart,
Crying “Long live! Hail, Caesar!”
CASSIUS:
Antony,
The posture of your blows are yet unknown;(35)
But for your words, they rob the Hybla bees,
And leave them honeyless.
ANTONY:
Not stingless too.
BRUTUS:
O, yes, and soundless too,
For you have stol'n their buzzing, Antony,(40)
And very wisely threat before you sting.
ANTONY:
Villains! You did not so when your vile daggers
Hack'd one another in the sides of Caesar.
You show'd your teeth like apes, and fawn'd like hounds,
And bow'd like bondmen, kissing Caesar's feet;(45)
Whilst damned Casca, like a cur, behind
Struck Caesar on the neck. O you flatterers!
CASSIUS:
Flatterers? Now, Brutus, thank yourself.
This tongue had not offended so today,
If Cassius might have ruled.(50)
OCTAVIUS:
Come, come, the cause. If arguing make us sweat,
The proof of it will turn to redder drops.
Look, I draw a sword against conspirators;
When think you that the sword goes up again?
Never, till Caesar's three and thirty wounds(55)
Be well avenged, or till another Caesar
Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors.
BRUTUS:
Caesar, thou canst not die by traitors' hands,
Unless thou bring'st them with thee.
OCTAVIUS:
So I hope,(60)
I was not born to die on Brutus' sword.
BRUTUS:
O, if thou wert the noblest of thy strain,
Young man, thou couldst not die more honorable.
CASSIUS:
A peevish school boy, worthless of such honor,
Join'd with a masker and a reveller!(65)
ANTONY:
Old Cassius still!
OCTAVIUS:
Come, Antony, away!
Defiance, traitors, hurl we in your teeth.
If you dare fight today, come to the field;
If not, when you have stomachs.(70)

Exeunt Octavius, Antony, and Army.

CASSIUS:
Why, now, blow and, swell billow, and swim bark!
The storm is up, and all is on the hazard.
BRUTUS:
Ho, Lucilius! Hark, a word with you.
LUCILIUS:
My lord?

Lucilius and Messala stand forth.

CASSIUS:
Messala!(75)
MESSALA:
What says my general?
CASSIUS:
Messala,
This is my birthday, as this very day
Was Cassius born. Give me thy hand, Messala.
Be thou my witness that, against my will,(80)
As Pompey was, am I compell'd to set
Upon one battle all our liberties.
You know that I held Epicurus strong,
And his opinion. Now I change my mind,
And partly credit things that do presage.(85)
Coming from Sardis, on our former ensign
Two mighty eagles fell, and there they perch'd,
Gorging and feeding from our soldiers' hands,
Who to Philippi here consorted us.
This morning are they fled away and gone,(90)
And in their steads do ravens, crows, and kites
Fly o'er our heads and downward look on us,
As we were sickly prey. Their shadows seem
A canopy most fatal, under which
Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost.(95)
MESSALA:
Believe not so.
CASSIUS:
I but believe it partly,
For I am fresh of spirit and resolved
To meet all perils very constantly.
BRUTUS:
Even so, Lucilius.(100)
CASSIUS:
Now, most noble Brutus,
The gods today stand friendly, that we may,
Lovers in peace, lead on our days to age!
But, since the affairs of men rest still incertain,
Let's reason with the worst that may befall.(105)
If we do lose this battle, then is this
The very last time we shall speak together.
What are you then determined to do?
BRUTUS:
Even by the rule of that philosophy
By which I did blame Cato for the death(110)
Which he did give himself: I know not how,
But I do find it cowardly and vile,
For fear of what might fall, so to prevent
The time of life: arming myself with patience
To stay the providence of some high powers(115)
That govern us below.
CASSIUS:
Then, if we lose this battle,
You are contented to be led in triumph
Thorough the streets of Rome?
BRUTUS:
No, Cassius, no. Think not, thou noble Roman,(120)
That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome;
He bears too great a mind. But this same day
Must end that work the ides of March begun.
And whether we shall meet again I know not.
Therefore our everlasting farewell take.(125)
For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then this parting was well made.
CASSIUS:
For ever and for ever farewell, Brutus!
If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed;(130)
If not, 'tis true this parting was well made.
BRUTUS:
Why then, lead on. O, that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known. Come, ho! Away!(135)

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. So ends the philosophical discussion between Cassius and Brutus on the topics of foresight and determinism. Brutus arrives at the position that the future is ultimately unknowable until you have reached it. To Brutus, this state of affairs is not ideal but will have to do.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Despite the tensions in the friendship of Brutus and Cassius, these characters part on touching terms. The audience gets the sense that this will indeed be their final encounter.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Cassius evokes a nautical image that serves as a reiteration of Brutus’s “tide” metaphor from the previous scene: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Cassius is implicitly saying that high tide is nigh; it is time to set sail. Note too the dense internal rhymes of the first line.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. This is an elegant chiasmus—reversal of words—by Antony. He turns Brutus’s own phrase around, calling to mind the “bad strokes” Brutus dealt to Caesar. Antony does not trust Brutus’s stated desire to talk rather than fight.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Octavius is a young newcomer. He feels he has to assert himself. Here he wants to look as if he is giving the orders, although it is really the infinitely more experienced Antony who knows how things should be done.

    — William Delaney
  6. Antony is only amused by being called a masker and a reveller by Cassius. He calls Cassius "Old Cassius" because he thinks of him as a grumpy old man who would never engage in masking and revelling and thoroughly disapproves of such rowdy and wasteful behavior. Antony accepts the fact that there is a world of difference between them in their habits and characters. Both are strong men but entirely different characters.

    — William Delaney
  7. When the conspirators were plotting the assassination of Caesar, Cassius suggested that Marc Antony should also be killed; but Brutus overruled him. Cassius is realistic and ruthless. Brutus is idealistic and kind-hearted. Cassius also tried to dissuade Brutus from allowing Antony to make a funeral address for Julius Caesar, but Brutus would not listen to him. 

    — William Delaney
  8. Neither Cassius nor Brutus seems to have much confidence about the impending battle. Their enemies, Antony and Octavius, have the great advantage of holding the city of Rome with its wealth, resources, and political authority. Cassius did not want to fight at Philippi, and Brutus has been somewhat unnerved by his encounters with the ghost of Julius Caesar.

    — William Delaney
  9. Brutus is consistently concerned about what other people think of him. His egotism seems to be his one weakness or flaw. In this parley with Antony and Octavius, Brutus seems shocked and hurt by the way they address him. He thought of himself as a patriot and even thought that he could use his intelligence, philosophical acumen, and powers of persuasion to negotiate a truce. He does not understand other people. He is not ambitious like the other three men. He would probably be content with a settlement which just allowed him to live peacefully and read his books. He still thinks he was morally justified in helping to assassinate Julius Caesar.

    — William Delaney
  10. This comment shows Octavius' keen intelligence. He understands that Brutus is proud of his learning and eloquence. Octavius also understands that Brutus would much rather talk things over than risk a battle. Octavius may have never been in a battle and may not realize what a horrible thing it can and will be.

    — William Delaney
  11. Young, inexperienced Octavius appears to be trying to assert his authority as heir apparent to Julius Caesar. This seems like a grave mistake when he is in partnership with a mature and thoroughly battle-hardened soldier like Marc Antony. It will turn out that Octavius' forces are nearly overwhelmed and the battle is only won by the generalship of Antony. In Act V, Scene 2, Brutus says he perceives "but cold demeanor in Octavius' wing," suggesting that Octavius does not know how to lead effectively and that his men lack fighting spirit because they don't respect this cocky youngster who is all bravado and no military wisdom.

    — William Delaney
  12. This is a little confusing. Brutus tells Cassius that Antony and Octavius "would have parley," but Antony tells Octavius that the "generals," presumably Brutus and Cassius, "would have some words." It would appear that it is Brutus who especially wants a "parley" because he seems to be hoping that their differences can be settled without bloodshed. This would be in keeping with Brutus' character because he prides himself on his skill with words and because he values reason over emotion. 

    There really is no logical reason for a "parley" at this point, but Shakespeare invented one because his play relies on spoken dialogue and he could not show an actual battle on his small stage. All the fighting occurs offstage.

    — William Delaney
  13. Octavius is an inexperienced young newcomer. The other three men are well known to the audience, but Shakespeare takes this parley as an opportunity to characterize Octavius, since he is Caesar's heir and destined to become the first Roman emperor. Octavius is represented as being young, ambitious, pugnacious, somewhat reckless, and anxious to show by his courage that he is a worthy heir of the great Julius Caesar. 

    — William Delaney
  14. This is a marvelous simile! We have all seen how chimpanzees habitually curl their lips back and expose all their teeth and even their gums. It is a bitterly insulting remark.

    — William Delaney
  15. Cassius is alluding directly to what Brutus said to open this conversation: "Words before blows, is it so countrymen?" Cassius here should emphasize the word "your" twice: e.g.: "The posture of *your *blows are yet unknown, / But for your words . . ." etc.

    — William Delaney
  16. Brutus would like very much to arrive at a nonviolent settlement. This is partially because he knows his forces are weaker, but also because he is essentially a peaceful, rational man who believes in reason. He reminds Antony and Octavius that they are fellow countrymen. The subsequent dialogue by Octavius, Antony, and Cassius is all like variations on the theme of "words before blows" initiated by Brutus.

    — William Delaney
  17. Up to this point, Brutus has been hoping to arrive at a peaceful arrangement with Antony and Octavius. He calls them "countrymen" and says that words are better than blows. But once his pride is injured by both Cassius and Antony, he uses harsh language to Antony and provokes harsh words in return. After this the battle will have to be fought.

    — William Delaney
  18. Antony is not threatening to use bees or bees' stingers as weapons in the coming battle. He means that in addition to stealing the Hybla bees' honey for use in his speech, he also stole their stingers to use in that same speech and succeeded in stinging Brutus and Cassius, especially Brutus, many times. The line "Not stingless too" has, and should have, a question mark after it in many editions.

    — William Delaney