Directing Act 3 scene 2 of Julius Caesar
Length: 1726 words (4.9 double-spaced pages)
Act 3 scene 2 is a pivotal scene in the play for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it develops the growing conflict between the conspirators and
Anthony. It creates the main division that ultimately leads to the
ensuing war. It also introduces Anthony as a more powerful figure, as
if he fills the vacuum that Caesars death left.
From a directing point of view, it is a very hard scene to direct, as
we need to keep the suspense and momentum created by the juxtaposition
made by placing this pivotal scene right after the last highly charged
and emotional scene. In this scene, I want to try and create an
atmosphere of anger and emotion, anger first at Caesar during Brutus'
speech and then at Brutus himself during Anthony's, the emotion is in
a way not only the anger, but also the grief that the plebeians feel
at the loss of their leader.
Before the scene starts, a couple of actors in plebeian clothes take
up places in the standing area close to the stage ready to divide the
audience for when Anthony comes down among them.
At the beginning of the scene when Brutus and Cassius enter, I would
like them to enter through the main back door onto the stage and walk
towards the plebeians. Cassius then leaves with some citizens and
exits back through the back door through which Brutus then follows to
emerge a moment later in the main pulpit above the stage (see diagram
1-2). This is because it shows he thinks he is above all the citizens
around him and asserts the air of authority that he is trying to make.
One of the main points I want to get across in Brutus' speech is the
fact that he does not actually have any good reason for killing Caesar
and that he has to try and promote the one point that he has. To do
this, I want him to use a lot of emotive actions and tone of voice. In
Caesar's time when the people were mostly uneducated and easily led,
this kind of speech would have won them over if it were performed
well. If they got so caught up on one point, then they would forget
that it was not actually a very good point and believe it feverantly
until they could be persuaded otherwise by another speaker, such as
Brutus starts out by pleading with the plebeians to listen to him,
"Hear me for my cause, and
be silent, that you may hearâ€¦"
When he says this, I want him to say it almost desperately but still
with an air of authority. He should reach out to the crowds while they
watch him. As Brutus' speech is written in blank verse and not iambic
pentameter, all of it would usually be spoken with normal stresses,
but now in this part of the speech, I want him to stress certain
important words so that they make more of an impact on the plebeians.
"living, and DIE all SLAVES"
"was AMBITIOUS, i SLEW him"
Once he reaches the part where he tells how he was "ambitious," he
should start to sound angry and clench his fists as he asks if he has
offended anyone. At this time, the people would still be in two minds
about whether the murder was right or wrong and want to let Brutus go
on but without the great enthusiasm that we shall see later on.
When Anthony enters with the body, he should also come in through the
back door. This makes it seem as though all three people, Brutus,
Cassius and Anthony have come from the same place. Anthony lays the
body down covered by the bloodstained cloth at the front of the stage
and holds a piece of paper in his hand and stands back to watch Brutus
speak (see diagram 3).
Once Brutus asks what the people want with him, they should now be
very enthusiastic for Brutus to live and shout "live, Brutus live"
with great joy. They then start to get worked up and individually
shout for him to Caesar. Brutus should look on this with dismay, as it
isn't what he wanted. He then hurriedly called them to silence and
reluctantly hands over to Anthony as he knows that he can do no more
to make the plebeians believe what he wants them to believe as they
are too worked up.
One point that I think Shakespeare is trying to show in this speech is
the division between the masses and the monarchy. He is in a way
recreating what is happening around him at the time with some people
arguing for the monarchy and some against. I think he makes it very
clear though as to what side he is on; he portrays the republicans,
Brutus and the conspirators as having a very weak argument but just
being deeply resentful for no real reason other than jealousy.
When Brutus leaves he just goes straight backstage whilst Anthony
takes up his place at the front of the stage. This shows he is trying
to be more informal and friendly with the citizens by coming down near
them (see diagram 4).
When Anthony comes to the front of the stage, he has to speak in a
calming and gentle way, as the plebeians are very angry at Caesar by
this time. He should put out his palms as a gesture to quell the
crowds shouting and begin his speech.
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury Caesar not to praise him"
These lines should be said quietly; this is so the audience have to
really be quiet so that they can hear him thus making sure everyone is
listening. Most of the things he says at the beginning of his speech
including part of the quote above are lies. This is to fool the
plebeians that he is honourable and on their side and that he just
happens to have the will. He claims he is "no orator as Brutus is,"
this makes him seem more innocent and makes the plebeians trust him
All through the speech he should say things as if he is trying to
desperately plead with the plebeians in a controlled way. He has to
make the audience believe that he really is grieving which should
therefore earn their sympathy. The way he uses iambic pentameter helps
this by stressing many of the important words;
"the STONES of ROMEto RISE and MutiNY"
When he gets to the part where he says he must pause because of the
grief, he should turn away with his head in his hands whilst looking
through his fingers at the crowd's reaction in a way that is obvious
to the audience watching. This is an example of dramatic irony, by
which the audience knows that he is not really grieving but the
plebeians do not. His earlier plea for sympathy is now seen to work as
we hear some of the audience speak up for Anthony.
Another theme that is carried on throughout the whole of Anthony's
speech is how he says Brutus is "honourable." As the speech
progresses, every time he says it, it should sound more and more
sarcastic, maybe even with some of the actors in the audience laughing
Then when he declares he has Caesar's will, the plebeians should shout
in an excited and impatient way that they want to hear it. Anthony
then uses this to see whether the citizens are really on his side, yet
by telling them that he could not possibly read the will in a very
humble way. The crowd then reply angrily that he should because the
conspirators "were villains" and "murderers."
Then Anthony is asked come down to the citizens ; he comes down from
the stage and stands in a parting of the crowd, made by the actors,
close to the stage within reach of the body of Caesar (see diagram 5).
He then goes on to show the plebeians where each of the conspirators
stabbed Caesar by holding up the cloak and pointing to the tears where
he was stabbed. This part of the speech and that ensues after it,
makes the people really grieve for Caesar which can be seen by their
shouts of grief for the dead emperor. They then become very angry and
Anthony has to stop them from going off to riot straight away.
For the last main part of his speech, Anthony has to act calmly and
innocently to keep the citizens under his control until he finally
builds up the emotion in his voice until it is both sad but also angry
when he finally ends by telling the people out right to "mutiny"
against the conspirators.
It is only while the citizens are shouting that he reminds them of the
will, this is mainly to get them even angrier by showing them how good
Caesar was to them. This sends them into a frenzy of anger against
those who killed their great leader.
They leave in a mass of shouting whilst carrying the body between them
to the exit of the theatre. They can then take the body backstage by
going around the theatre.
Because this is being performed to a modern audience, most of this
speech and its meaning would be understood which allows the actors to
be more subtle in their movements. But if this were to be performed to
an Elizabethan audience, many of the people in the standing area would
be largely uneducated, like Caesar's plebeians, and would need to be
told more openly what Anthony was doing. This also reflects on
Shakespeare's opinion of the commoners in his time by representing
them as simple whilst the upper class are much smarter and can
manipulate the masses.
Overall, I hope I have been able to portray Brutus as a desperate man
who badly needs the people on his side and Anthony as a quietly
confident schemer who uses the suppleness of the plebeians to his
advantage. Hopefully it still has the same tension and energy the
previous scene generated and will keep the audience interested.