Flavius is the very first character to speak in William Shakespeare’s ”Julius Caesar”.
In this lesson we will take a look at just who this ‘opening act’ is, and how he sets the tone for the play.
Flavius Opens the Play
The very first thing that happens in Julius Caesar is that Flavius yells at everyone. When the play opens, there are a bunch of commoners celebrating Caesar’s victory in the streets.
Flavius and Marullus are tribunes, or officers of the military. They have come to clear out the streets. Flavius says ‘Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home: Is this a holiday?’ In other words, he is telling the people to go home and asking why they are celebrating in the streets. He then asks them why no one is wearing their work clothes.
He is obviously irritated, and his anger sets the tone for the play.
Behind Flavius’ Words
At first glance, it might be tough to see what is really going on with Flavius. With a few more facts, we can understand his anger. The people are in the streets celebrating Julius Caesar’s defeat of a ruler named Pompey, who was formerly honored by everyone.
Now (and this is why Flavius is angry) the people have completely abandoned Pompey and are celebrating Caesar’s victory. Because Flavius demands that people stop celebrating, we understand that not everyone is as impressed by Caesar’s victory as the common people. In fact, many people are quite unhappy about it – Flavius included.After he and Marullus harass the common folk, the people begin to disperse. As they leave, Flavius tells them to gather everyone they know and go to the ‘Tiber banks, and weep your tears Into the channel, till the lowest stream Do kiss the most exalted shores of all.
‘ Translated into modern language, he is suggesting that these people who are celebrating Caesar should in fact be crying over the defeat of Pompey. Flavius’ strong language here makes it clear to the reader that Caesar is not loved by all.
Flavius the Feather Plucker
Flavius and Marullus decide to go around the town and remove any signs of celebration. If there are decorations or flowers on Caesar’s statues, they will pull them down. The last time we hear from Flavius, he says ‘These growing feathers pluck’d from Caesar’s wing Will make him fly an ordinary pitch, Who else would soar above the view of men And keep us all in servile fearfulness.’ In other words, when Flavius and Marullus tear down the decorations, it will remind Caesar that he is just an ordinary man. Flavius believes that if they do not make Caesar to ‘fly an ordinary pitch’ he will believe he is better than everyone and keep his subjects afraid and submissive.
Flavius Is Punished
The next time we hear about Flavius, he has been ‘put to silence’ for tearing down the decorations. There is no way to know exactly what ‘put to silence’ means, but it was most certainly a punishment. Flavius and Marullus may have been thrown in jail or may have been demoted or removed from the military.
In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Flavius is the very first person who speaks. What he says sets the tone for the rest of the play. There is a crowd in the street celebrating Caesar’s victory over Pompey. Flavius demands an explanation for why the people are celebrating, and he is not impressed to find that they are celebrating Pompey’s loss.
Flavius tells the people that they should be crying over Pompey’s defeat, not celebrating it. Then Flavius and Marullus go around town and remove decorations from Caesar’s statues. The last mention of Flavius in the play indicates that he was punished for his actions.