Short summary - Caligula - Albert Camus

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Caligula
Albert Camus

Act I

Palace of the Roman Emperor Caligula. Everyone is looking for someone. The patricians are worried. It turns out that for several days everyone has been looking for Caligula, who went somewhere after the death of his beloved woman.

The Guardian reports that Caligula was seen in the garden. Everyone comes out and sees the emperor, dirty, with an aloof look. When Helikon entered, he explains that he wanted to find the moon - the only thing that he does not have.

This world, as it is, cannot be endured. Therefore, I need the moon, or happiness, or immortality, even something crazy, but not from this world.

Caligula declares that from this moment everything will change, it will become logical. Later, he repeats this to Caesonia, the closest girl.

Caligula announces his first decree to fill the treasury. He orders everyone to be executed without a list, taking away funds in favor of the state, and so to fill the treasury. To the reproaches of the ruler and Caesonia, Caligula replies that he only wants to make the impossible possible. He demands that the guilty be brought in, beats the gong and demands that everything be changed. It scares everyone around.

Act II

Three years pass. Patricians express their dissatisfaction with Caligula. For three years now, he has been instilling fear in his surroundings and throughout the country. He executed many, including the relatives of the patricians, insults and humiliates everyone.

The patricians agree that it is unbearable to continue to tolerate this behavior, but at the same time they are hesitant to do anything to change the situation. The patricians Muzio and Kerey are especially unhappy. They are ready to take revenge.

Caligula enters with Caesonia and Helikon, who have become his confidants. He orders the senators to set the table and, noticing confusion, threatens punishment. Senators carry out the order.

At dinner, Caligula reminds one of the patricians how he killed his son, to the other how he executed his parents, then for a while he leaves the hall with his wife Muzia. The Emperor is amused that the patricians do not dare to contradict him. After dinner, he makes them laugh and dance, and they obey.

Honor, dignity, good name, age-old wisdom - everything ... disappears before fear. Yes, fear ... that's a high feeling, without any admixtures, pure and disinterested ...

It turns out that Caligula is writing a literary work. Everyone leaves, with Caligula there is only Mereya. He drinks something from a bottle, and Caligula accuses him of being an antidote, and then forces him to drink poison.

After the death of Mereus, it turns out that he was drinking medicine, which he tried to tell the emperor about. But it doesn't matter anymore. Caligula begins a conversation with the poet Scipio, asks him about the latest work. They find they have something in common.


There is a performance in which Caligula portrays a god. As spectators - patricians, from whom the emperor demands to repeat petitions, eulogy after him. Everyone expresses delight and leaves, only Scipio reproaches the emperor for blasphemy, but Caligula does not change his opinion and behavior.

A person who loves power, the rivalry of the gods irritates ... I proved to these imaginary gods that if a person has a will, then he can cope with their pitiful craft without preparation.

Later, Caligula orders Helikon to bring the moon, and he agrees to fulfill it. The old patrician convinces Caligula that a conspiracy is being prepared against him, but Caligula pretends to be convinced of the opposite, because the patrician would not betray his friends. Kereya openly tells Caligula about her thoughts and plans, including the impending assassination attempt, but nevertheless leaves the palace unharmed.

Act four [ed.]

Kerai persuades Scipio to take part in the conspiracy, but he hesitates and does not dare to support the rebellion. The guards come onto the stage, and the frightened patricians think that the conspiracy has been discovered and they can not escape torture. In fact, Caesonia invites everyone to a meeting with the beautiful and informs that Caligula is bad. One of the patricians turns to Jupiter, declaring his readiness to die instead of Caligula.

A healthy Caligula appears, informs him that he is already better, thanks the patrician for his love and orders him to be executed. After that Caesonia announces that the day is dedicated to art. There will be a tournament of poets. Ten of them must write a poem about death in a minute. Prizes await the winners.

In the jury of Caligula. He only listens to the first phrase and interrupts all the poets. Only Scipio makes him think. He drives out all the rest, forcing them to lick the tablets with written verses, after which he is left alone with Caesonia. They talk about love and the fate that Caligula chose. At the end of the conversation, the emperor strangles Caesonia.

I live, I kill, I have the dizzying power of a destroyer, next to which the power of the creator seems a pitiful parody. This is what it means to be happy.

Caligula's gaze is mad, he is giving a monologue about his inner state, standing in front of the mirror. A noise is heard, Helikon appears, who is killed by the conspirators who have entered. Caligula breaks the mirror and laughs madly. The conspirators stab him, and the emperor shouts out with his last breath: "I'm still alive!"

The retelling is based on the translation by Yu. A. Ginzburg.