Summary and Analysis
Act V: Scene 3
On another part of the field, Cassius sees his men retreating; Brutus' forces, having driven back those of Octavius, are foraging about the battlefield for spoils, leaving Antony's army free to encircle Cassius' troops. Thus Cassius sends Titinius to ride toward the soldiers that he sees in the distance and determine who they are, and he asks Pindarus to mount the hill and watch Titinius. When Pindarus reports that he saw Titinius alight from his horse among soldiers who were shouting with joy, Cassius mistakenly concludes that Titinius has been taken prisoner by the enemy. He asks Pindarus to keep his oath of obedience and to stab him. Pindarus does so, and Cassius dies, saying, "Caesar, thou art revenged, / Even with the sword that killed thee."
Titinius was not captured at all, but hailed by some of Brutus' troops when he arrived on horseback. He now enters with Messala, hoping to comfort Cassius with the news that Octavius' men have been overthrown by Brutus. They find Cassius' dead body. While Messala goes to report his tragic discovery to Brutus, Titinius kills himself with Cassius' sword.
Brutus comes onstage with Messala, Young Cato, Strato, Volumnius, and Lucilius and finds the bodies of Titinius and Cassius. To both of them, he pays a sad farewell, calling Cassius "the last of all the Romans." The men leave for another encounter with the enemy.
"Alas, thou hast misconstrued every thing." If earlier scenes were about misuse and misinterpretation of language, this is a scene about miscommunication. Cassius dies because Pindarus misreads the battle and Cassius despairs — a despair that began in Scene 1. Cassius grasps at Pindarus' words as justification for what he desires: death. Titinius and Messala believe that Cassius killed himself because he lost faith in the rightness of their cause and in Brutus' abilities. This interpretation of his death will be all the more hurtful to Brutus.
What is interesting to note is the way in which the audience's views of these two characters has changed since the beginning of the play. Cassius was a dark manipulator of language. His motives for killing Caesar were murky — the readers knew there was more to Cassius' intentions than he admitted. He was emotionless, clinical, and detached; not a friend to Brutus, but a suitor of his power and reputation. At the end, Cassius is prepared to show his great love for his friend and, although this love is noble in itself, it diminishes him to some degree. Note that Cassius' melancholy is the "mother" to his death. In contrast to Brutus' virility in the face of his great friend's death, Cassius is less manly.
Brutus, who at the beginning of the play was passive and pursued by Cassius, is now a man of action. In addition, any doubts that the audience may have had about Brutus' nobility are swept aside by the sympathy gained for him through the powerful friendship he has developed with Cassius.
ensign an officer who served as flag bearer.
did take it took the standard.
spoil to seize goods by force.
even with a thought quickly.
ever thick Cassius tells us that his eyesight is poor. He is short-sighted. Note the irony of this phrase, because Cassius will shortsightedly commit suicide.
make to him on the spur move rapidly toward him.
light here, alight.
I swore thee I made you promise.
now be a freeman Pindarus was a prisoner of war and Cassius is offering him his freedom if he will do as he asks.
stand not to answer don't try to change my mind.
change here, exchange of advantage.
apt thoughts of men men who are ready to be deceived.
the mother here, refers to Cassius whose melancholy caused him to accept the false report and kill himself.
own proper our own.
look whe'er he have not crown'd dead Cassius! see how he has placed the garland on Cassius.
Thasos island of Greece in the north Aegean; near Phillipi. Plutarch writes that Cassius was buried there.