Tragedy of Julius Caesar Lesson Plans

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is my favorite unit to teach. I love to engage my students with the conspiracy, and help them to understand Brutus's motives. The play takes place at the end of Julius Caesar's rule of Rome, and serves both as a Tragedy and History. Students will analyze friendship and leadership alongside characters, themes, plot, and five act structure.

Student Activities for Julius Caesar

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?

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar Summary (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.

Other Activity Ideas for Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

  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. Depict the important parts of Antony’s funeral monologue in six cells.
  4. Add a presentation to any storyboard project to showcase your abilities! (and hit CCSS Speaking and Listening Standards)

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How To Understand the Motives of Different Characters


Read the Text

Encourage the students to read the text carefully and highlight any important points they think play a significant role in the narrative. Pay close attention to the actions and dialogues of the characters to find out more about their motivations and goals.


Analyze Backgrounds

Analyze the background of the main characters such as their relationships, their upbringing, and their personal experiences. In specific, these three things will determine the future behavior and actions of the characters. Students can also take help from character maps to analyze the background of characters.


Investigate Conflicts

Look for different types of conflict present in the story and investigate what type of conflicts each character is dealing with which will ultimately result in their happy or sad ending. Also, analyze the reason behind these conflicts for instance check if the reason is the character itself or someone else.


Connect With Themes

Relate characters' inspirations to the broader subjects of the story. How do their wants contribute to the overarching message? Understanding these associations improves the interpretation. The basic theme of the story also gives away a lot of important information regarding the characters.


Read Between the Lines

Pay consideration to what's not unequivocally expressed. Characters may withhold their genuine thought processes due to fear, disgrace, or other reasons. This sort of information can reveal some important insights.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

What is the main plot of "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar"?

"The Tragedy of Julius Caesar" is a play written by the famous poet William Shakespeare that talks about the events that led up to the murder of Julius Caesar, the motivation behind killing Caesar and the consequences of his death, and lastly the political commotion in Ancient Rome. This play is an epic story of betrayal and the consequences of betrayal.

Who are the primary characters within the play?

The protagonist of the play is Julius Caesar, a powerful and ambitious ruler of Rome, who is the target of a plot driven by fear of his increasing power and ambition for absolute control. This plot is further complicated by the presence of several other characters, such as Brutus and Cassius, as well as Mark Antony and Octavius. These characters are essential to the development of the play and its themes.

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