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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Tragedy of Julius Caesar Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Caesar Include:

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is my favorite unit to teach. I get my students into the conspiracy, and help them to understand Brutus's motives. With this teacher guide, your students can create visual storyboards that incorporate all four ELA Common Core standards.

Caesar Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Julius Caesar Play and the Five Act Structure


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Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of the Five Act Structure by making a six-cell storyboard, like the one below. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.



Example Julius Caesar Five Act Structure

Act 1: Prologue

The play takes place in Rome, Italy.

Caesar returns from battling a former Roman general. He is victorious, and the citizens are celebrating in his honor. Not all Romans are pleased with Caesar though; they fear him, and believe that he is on the path to becoming a dictator.


Act 1: Conflict

A group of senators have turned against Caesar and elicit Brutus, one of Caesar’s friends, to join a conspiracy against him.


Act 2: Rising Action

Brutus considers whether or not to trust Caesar. He eventually joins the conspiracy because he fears what Caesar may become, if he is made King. He states it is not that he loves Caesar less, but that he loves Rome more.


Act 3: Climax

The conspirators lure Caesar to the capital and kill him.


Act 4: Falling Action

Brutus asks Antony to stand support his actions by speaking to the crowd. Antony is supposed to agree with the conspirators, but he backhandedly causes a riot, forcing the conspirators to flee the city.


Act 5: Denouement

Antony forms an alliance with two other powerful Romans. They vow revenge for Caesar’s death. He, Caesar's nephew Octavius, and Lepidus go after the conspirators in battle. Eventually, all the conspirators commit suicide, and Antony proclaims that Brutus shall receive a hero's burial.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Julius Caesar.


  1. Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar Themes Graphic Organizer


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Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols to Discuss

Persuasion

Throughout the play, characters try to persuade themselves and others of many things. Cassius convinces Brutus to join the conspiracy, and when Antony uses his eulogy to persuade the citizens of Rome that Caesar was cruelly assassinated.


Gender Roles

At several points in the play, characters try to defy or adhere to traditional notions about their gender. Portia stabs herself to prove she is strong, despite being a woman, and that Brutus should include her in his plans. When Caesar faints, he lies to the crowd so that he doesn't look weak in the eyes of the public.


Caesar’s Death, Funeral, and Will

Caesar’s funeral is very interesting and concludes some foreshadowed events. One noticeable symbol is Caesar being killed at the base of Pompey’s statue. This is ironic; Pompey was the general Caesar defeated in order to win the crown. Other elements to note are the uses of verbal and situational irony, including the reading of his will. Caesar left land, money, and other items to the citizens of Rome which disprove the conspirators reasoning for killing him in the first place.


Suicide

In Roman times, suicide was seen as a sign of strength and honor. At the end of the play, knowing that they are finished, the conspirators kill themselves to symbolically fulfill their promise to Rome. During Brutus’ oration, he told the citizens that if they did not agree with his actions, he would kill himself.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Julius Caesar. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Julius Caesar you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Shakespearean Vocabulary


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Another great way to engage your students by creating a storyboard that uses Shakespearean vocabulary. Many students struggle with common Shakespearean words. Getting students to use them in context before reading is an excellent way to cultivate vocabulary comprehension. In the example below, students created storyboards using standard Shakespearean terms.

In a Shakespearean vocabulary board, students can use the words in a sentence they create, or they can pick a phrase from the play. In the example storyboard, the student has chosen to create their sentences for their words:

  • Marry - Indeed:

    "Then they asked me if that was the word of the Prince, and I replied, 'It was marry!'"

  • Pray - To hope:

    "I pray the nurse comes quickly with good news!"

  • Sauce - Sassy:

    "The saucy porter wouldn't let me in without a password."

  • Thou - You (used for one person who is the subject of a sentence):

    "If thou hast a cold come see me... the friendly apothecary!"

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a spider map storyboard for Shakespearean vocabulary words and phrases.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify unfamiliar words or phrases that Shakespeare uses.
  3. Type each into the title boxes.
  4. Briefly describe the meaning of the word in the description box.
  5. Create a standalone comic in each cell that has the word in a sentence in a speech or thought bubble.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



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Et Tu Brute - Brutus as a Tragic Hero


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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is full of important literary elements for students to explore. One of these elements is the tragic hero, a protagonist who seems to be ill-fated, and destined for doom. In this play, Brutus is the tragic hero as he leads himself and many others to their ruin and deaths.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, first articulated the specific attributes or principles of a tragic hero. For the storyboard below, students can use a template to storyboard the qualities that make Brutus, a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Brutus - Tragic Hero

ATTRIBUTEDESCRIPTIONExample from Julius Caesar
HamartiaHero's Flaw that Causes Downfall Brutus’s love of Rome demands he do anything required to preserve it.
HubrisExcessive Pride Brutus was so certain of his justness in killing Caesar, he didn’t anticipate that the people of Rome would follow Antony against him.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Antony turns the crowd against him during Caesar’s eulogy.
AnagnorisisMoment of Critical Discovery He discovers that the people of Rome have turned on the conspirators and they must prepare for battle.
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided Once Caesar has been killed, it is inevitable that Brutus will go to war with Antony. Caesar’s ghost foreshadows this defeat.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall Antony finds Brutus’ body and requests that he be buried as a hero. The audience is sad that a noble man, with good intentions, suffered such a tragic fate.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


"

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Brutus can be considered a tragic hero.


  1. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Brutus that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Brutus as a tragic hero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.

"

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The Tragedy of Julius Caesar Character Map


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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a play, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

Using a character map for Shakespeare is often even more beneficial. It also allows students to record the nuances of characteristics which create foil" characters. The information that they record will help them to return and review personalities that contrast. The ability to visually see this helps students create connections and makes understanding concepts easier.

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.


Major Characters

  • Caesar: Consul of Rome.
  • Brutus: Friend of Caesar and supporter of the Republic. He ultimately joins the conspirators to protect it.
  • Cassius: The villain, a senator who has known Caesar for a long time. He sees Caesar as a threat and forms a conspiracy against him.
  • Antony: Friend of Caesar who claims allegiance to Brutus to avoid being killed. However, he later battles the conspirators.
  • Casca: A conspirator.
  • Calpurnia: Caesar’s wife.
  • Portia Brutus’ wife.
  • Flavius and Murellus: Two Tribunes who condemn the public for celebrating Caesar. They end up getting punished for removing decorations from Caesar’s statue.
  • Cicero: A Senator of Rome.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Julius Caesar and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "Classical Era" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for For or Against Caesar, Reasons, Major Conflict and Survives?.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar


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Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are elements of rhetoric which teach students how to write using strong persuasive skills. Aristotle was the first to coin the three methods that discuss the ways in which a person could use persuasion.

In the play, rhetoric is frequently used. Two most notable examples are uses to convince Brutus to join the conspirators and also when Antony speaks at Caesar’s funeral to backhandedly persuade the people of Rome to go against the conspirators.

Having students create storyboards that show examples of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos is a great way to introduce and teach basic rhetoric in the classroom!

Examples of Rhetoric in Antony’s Speech

Ethos/Expertise

“He was my friend, faithful and just to me.” Antony is justifying his words with the credibility of knowing Caesar. He is saying that he was always fair and just and that a true friend would know this.


Pathos/Appeal to Emotion

“This was the unkindest cut of them all.” Antony creates an emotional connection with the crowd. He makes them look at the stab wounds inflicted by Brutus, Caesar’s friend. With his words and actions, Antony creates feelings of pity, anguish, and distrust in the Roman citizens.


Logos/Logic

“He hath brought many captives home to Rome, Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.” Throughout his speech, Antony gives examples of Caesar's generosity and humility as evidence that he was wrongly assassinated. This culminates in the reading of Caesar's will, which gives each citizen 75 Drachmas and half of his orchards. Antony uses this as evidence to logically prove that Caesar was not a tyrant.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows examples of ethos, pathos, and logos from the text.


  1. Identify one example of each rhetorical strategy: ethos, pathos, and logos.
  2. Type the example into the description box under the cell.
  3. Illustrate the example using any combination of scenes, characters, and items.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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A Quick Synopsis of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (Contains Plot Spoilers)

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar might look like both a History, and a Tragedy. Although some may argue it is both, typically it is classified as a Tragedy. Shakespearean Histories deal with matters of British history, whereas Julius Caesar is set in Rome.

The play starts with Caesar returning victorious over Pompey, a former ally and powerful Roman. Cassius, a senator, becomes fearful of the power and prestige Caesar has gained, and convinces Brutus, Caesar's close friend and ally, to turn on Caesar. Cassius uses Brutus' patriotism to amplify fears of Caesar's potential tyranny, if crowned king.

Fearing Rome would lose its democracy under the rule of Caesar, Brutus agrees to kill his friend in the name of Rome. “It is not that I love Caesar less, but that I love Rome more.” (Act 3 Scene 2) Conspiring with other senators, Brutus and Cassius stab Caesar to death Caesar on the day of his coronation. Julius Caesar famously says, "Et tu, Brute?" indicating his deep feeling of betrayal.

Brutus uses the capital as a forum to defend his actions, but makes one tragic mistake: he allows Marc Antony, another one of Caesar's loyal friends, to give a speech under the pretense that Antony would show support for the conspirators. Antony uses his speech to whip the crowd into an angry mob, forcing the conspirators to flee.

In the final act, Cassius and Brutus are seen fighting with one another. Together with their armies, they must defend themselves against the upheaval they have caused. In the end, the conspirators are defeated in battle and commit suicide.


Essential Questions for The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

  1. Will the decisions that I make today affect my future? How?
  2. When is it alright to betray a friend?
  3. What makes a good leader?
  4. Is there anything more valuable than friendship? If so, what?

Other Shakespeare Julius Caesar Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Create a storyboard that compares and contrasts weaknesses between characters in the play.
  2. Depict one event from Julius Caesar that, if it happened differently, would have changed the entire play.
  3. Create a parody or satire of the play using social networking! Storyboard That has the icons you need to take the story of Caesar to your favorite site! Make a Facebook page using storyboards that depict a modern day social media frenzy with the characters from Julius Caesar.
  4. Depict the important parts of Antony’s funeral monologue in six cells.
  5. Add a presentation to any storyboard project to showcase your abilities! (and hit CCSS Speaking and Listening Standards)



This play helps readers visualize the political struggles of Rome, and the personal struggles between Caesar and his council. It vividly depicts the problems that come with power, especially in an empire at its peak.

  • Personal Favorite - Romans had fascinating inventions, culture, and politics.
  • Pro-Tip - Many Greek and Roman characters and scenes work well for both mythical, and historical needs. Make sure to explore all the categories to get the most for your storyboards.

Make sure to search for extra images using the terms "Greek", "Roman", and "Caesar".



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•   (English) The Tragedy of Julius Caesar   •   (Español) La Tragedia de Julio César   •   (Français) La Tragédie de Jules César   •   (Deutsch) Die Tragödie von Julius Cäsar   •   (Italiana) La Tragedia di Giulio Cesare   •   (Nederlands) De Tragedie van Julius Caesar   •   (Português) A Tragédia de Júlio César   •   (עברית) הטרגדיה של יוליוס קיסר   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مأساة يوليوس قيصر   •   (हिन्दी) जूलियस सीजर की त्रासदी   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Трагедия Юлия Цезаря   •   (Dansk) Tragedien i Julius Caesar   •   (Svenska) Tragedin av Julius Caesar   •   (Suomi) Tragedia Julius Caesarin   •   (Norsk) Tragedie Julius Caesar   •   (Türkçe) Julius Caesar'ın Trajedi   •   (Polski) Tragedia Juliusza Cezara   •   (Româna) Tragedia lui Julius Caesar   •   (Ceština) Tragédie Julius Caesar   •   (Slovenský) Tragédia Julia Caesara   •   (Magyar) Tragédiája Julius Caesar   •   (Hrvatski) Tragedija Julija Cezara   •   (български) Трагедията на Юлий Цезар   •   (Lietuvos) Julius Cezaris Tragedija   •   (Slovenščina) Tragedija Julij Cezar   •   (Latvijas) Traģēdija Jūlija Cēzara   •   (eesti) Tragöödia Julius Caesar