Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
ACT V, SCENE 5
In yet another part of the battlefield, Brutus enters along with Dardanius, Clitus, Strato, and Volumnius. They are tired and depressed, having lost another battle. Brutus asks his loyal followers to kill him, but none will. Brutus then tells Volumnius that the ghost of Caesar had appeared to him again last night in the fields of Philippi, warning him that he must die. Volumnius unsuccessfully tries to comfort Brutus. He responds by telling Volumnius that the enemy has driven them to the edge of the pit, and it is more honorable that they leap in themselves than be pushed in by the enemy.
An alarm is sounded, indicating the advancing forces of the enemy. Clitus urges Brutus to flee. Brutus ignores the warning and bids his companions farewell, including Strato who has just awakened. As the alarm grows more intense, Brutus sends his soldiers away, saying that he will follow them. He sees that Strato has remained behind and asks him to hold the sword while he runs on it. Strato agrees and shakes Brutus' hand. Brutus runs on his sword and dies saying, "Caesar, now be still; / I kill'd not thee with half so good a will." Strato then commits suicide.
The battle ends. Octavius and Antony enter along with Messala, Lucilius, and others. They find the bodies of Brutus and Strato. Lucilius is glad that Brutus has proved him true by killing himself rather than being taken captive. Antony expresses his esteem for the fallen patrician and says that he was the only conspirator who was guided by concern for the general welfare of Rome. He eulogizes Brutus as "the noblest Roman of ... all." Octavius orders that Brutus be buried with full military honors. He then calls upon his men to celebrate their joyous victory.
The final scene ends with Brutus taking his own life in much the same way as Cassius. At first, he can convince none of his faithful followers to help him commit suicide; ironically, Brutus derives a grim satisfaction from their refusal. The loyalty of his friends and servants makes Brutus feel that he has won a moral victory; but he still has no recourse but death, as Caesar's ghost has predicted.
The alarms signaling the approach of the enemy add to the tension and urgency of the scene. As the alarms grow nearer, Brutus bids his friends and servants farewell. He consoles himself in two ways: he "found no man but he was true to me," meaning his followers believed in him so much they supported him without limitation; and he feels confident that he will be vindicated and respected by history. What he fails to realize is that Rome will probably be much worse under Antony and Octavius than under Caesar, and he will bear the responsibility for having aided in the creation of that situation. Still there is some nobility in Brutus' suicide. Even Antony glorifies him as the epitome of creation and the only one among the conspirators who acted solely in the interests of Rome.
The tragedy ends with Antony and Octavius arriving on the scene. Octavius announces that he will induct all those who had served Brutus into his service, hinting that there will be a restoration of peace and order in Rome, rather than civil strife. As indicated earlier in the play, the new Triumvirate is a shaky one, for Antony has already voiced reservations about sharing the threefold division of the world with Lepidus. History reveals that Octavius eventually takes the name of Augustus and easily overcomes Antony, who has succumbed to the fatal charms of Cleopatra. He then becomes the Roman Emperor, ruling without warmth or weakness.