Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 2 - Soothsayer warns beware the ides of March
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Julius Caesar

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ACT I SCENE II A public place. 
 Flourish. Enter CAESAR; ANTONY, for the course; CALPURNIA, PORTIA, DECIUS BRUTUS, CICERO, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, and CASCA; a great crowd following, among them a Soothsayer. 
CAESAR Calpurnia! 
CASCA Peace, ho! Caesar speaks. 
CAESAR Calpurnia! 
CALPURNIA Here, my lord.
CAESAR Stand you directly in Antonius' way, 
 When he doth run his course. Antonius! 
ANTONY Caesar, my lord? 
CAESAR Forget not, in your speed, Antonius, 
 To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
 The barren, touched in this holy chase, 
 Shake off their sterile curse. 
ANTONY I shall remember: 
 When Caesar says "do this," it is perform'd. 10
CAESAR Set on; and leave no ceremony out.
Soothsayer Caesar! 
CAESAR Ha! who calls? 
CASCA Bid every noise be still: peace yet again! 
CAESAR Who is it in the press that calls on me? 15 
 I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
 Cry "Caesar!" Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear. 
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March. 
CAESAR What man is that? 
BRUTUS A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March. 
CAESAR Set him before me; let me see his face. 20
CASSIUS Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar. 
CAESAR What say'st thou to me now? speak once again. 
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March. 
CAESAR He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass. 
 [Sennet. Exeunt all except BRUTUS and CASSIUS.] 
CASSIUS Will you go see the order of the course?
CASSIUS I pray you, do. 
BRUTUS I am not gamesome: I do lack some part 
 Of that quick spirit that is in Antony. 
 Let me not hinder, Cassius, your desires; 30
 I'll leave you. 
CASSIUS Brutus, I do observe you now of late: 
 I have not from your eyes that gentleness 
 And show of love as I was wont to have: 
 You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand 35
 Over your friend that loves you. 
BRUTUS Cassius, 
 Be not deceived: if I have veil'd my look, 
 I turn the trouble of my countenance 
 Merely upon myself. Vexed I am
 Of late with passions of some difference, 40 
 Conceptions only proper to myself, 
 Which give some soil perhaps to my behaviors; 
 But let not therefore my good friends be grieved-- 
 Among which number, Cassius, be you one--
 Nor construe any further my neglect, 45 
 Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war, 
 Forgets the shows of love to other men. 
CASSIUS Then, Brutus, I have much mistook your passion; 
 By means whereof this breast of mine hath buried
 Thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations. 50 
 Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face? 
BRUTUS No, Cassius; for the eye sees not itself, 
 But by reflection, by some other things. 
CASSIUS 'Tis just:
 And it is very much lamented, Brutus, 55 
 That you have no such mirrors as will turn 
 Your hidden worthiness into your eye, 
 That you might see your shadow. I have heard, 
 Where many of the best respect in Rome,
 Except immortal Caesar, speaking of Brutus 60 
 And groaning underneath this age's yoke, 
 Have wish'd that noble Brutus had his eyes. 
BRUTUS Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius, 
 That you would have me seek into myself
 For that which is not in me? 65 
CASSIUS Therefore, good Brutus, be prepared to hear: 
 And since you know you cannot see yourself 
 So well as by reflection, I, your glass, 
 Will modestly discover to yourself
 That of yourself which you yet know not of. 70 
 And be not jealous on me, gentle Brutus: 
 Were I a common laugher, or did use 
 To stale with ordinary oaths my love 
 To every new protester; if you know
 That I do fawn on men and hug them hard 75 
 And after scandal them; or if you know 
 That I profess myself in banqueting 
 To all the rout, then hold me dangerous. 
 [Flourish, and shout.] 
BRUTUS What means this shouting? I do fear, the people
 Choose Caesar for their king. 
CASSIUS Ay, do you fear it? 80 
 Then must I think you would not have it so. 
BRUTUS I would not, Cassius; yet I love him well. 
 But wherefore do you hold me here so long?
 What is it that you would impart to me? 
 If it be aught toward the general good, 85 
 Set honour in one eye and death i' the other, 
 And I will look on both indifferently,
 For let the gods so speed me as I love

 The name of honour more than I fear death. 
CASSIUS I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus, 90 
 As well as I do know your outward favour. 
 Well, honour is the subject of my story. 
 I cannot tell what you and other men
 Think of this life; but, for my single self, 
 I had as lief not be as live to be 95 
 In awe of such a thing as I myself. 
 I was born free as Caesar; so were you: 
 We both have fed as well, and we can both
 Endure the winter's cold as well as he: 
 For once, upon a raw and gusty day, 100 
 The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores, 
 Caesar said to me "Darest thou, Cassius, now 
 Leap in with me into this angry flood,
 And swim to yonder point?" Upon the word, 
 Accoutred as I was, I plunged in 105 
 And bade him follow; so indeed he did. 
 The torrent roar'd, and we did buffet it 
 With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
 And stemming it with hearts of controversy; 
 But ere we could arrive the point proposed, 110 
 Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!' 
 I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor, 
 Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
 The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber 
 Did I the tired Caesar. And this man 115 
 Is now become a god, and Cassius is 
 A wretched creature and must bend his body, 
 If Caesar carelessly but nod on him.
 He had a fever when he was in Spain, 
 And when the fit was on him, I did mark 120 
 How he did shake: 'tis true, this god did shake; 
 His coward lips did from their colour fly, 
 And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world
 Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan: 
 Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans 125 
 Mark him and write his speeches in their books, 
 Alas, it cried "Give me some drink, Titinius," 
 As a sick girl. Ye gods! it doth amaze me
 A man of such a feeble temper should 
 So get the start of the majestic world 130 
 And bear the palm alone. 
 [Shout. Flourish.] 
BRUTUS Another general shout! 
 I do believe that these applauses are
 For some new honours that are heap'd on Caesar. 
CASSIUS Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world 
 Like a Colossus, and we petty men 136 
 Walk under his huge legs and peep about 
 To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
 Men at some time are masters of their fates: 
 The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, 140 
 But in ourselves, that we are underlings. 
 Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that "Caesar"? 
 Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
 Write them together, yours is as fair a name; 
 Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well; 145 
 Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with 'em, 
 Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar. 
 Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
 Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed, 
 That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed! 150 
 Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods! 
 When went there by an age, since the great flood, 
 But it was famed with more than with one man?
 When could they say till now, that talk'd of Rome, 
 That her wide walls encompassed but one man? 155 
 Now is it Rome indeed and room enough, 
 When there is in it but one only man. 
 O, you and I have heard our fathers say,
 There was a Brutus once that would have brook'd 
 The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome 160 
 As easily as a king. 
BRUTUS That you do love me, I am nothing jealous; 
 What you would work me to, I have some aim:
 How I have thought of this and of these times, 
 I shall recount hereafter; for this present, 165 
 I would not, so with love I might entreat you, 
 Be any further moved. What you have said 
 I will consider; what you have to say
 I will with patience hear, and find a time 
 Both meet to hear and answer such high things. 170 
 Till then, my noble friend, chew upon this: 
 Brutus had rather be a villager 
 Than to repute himself a son of Rome
 Under these hard conditions as this time 
 Is like to lay upon us. 175 
CASSIUS I am glad that my weak words 
 Have struck but thus much show of fire from Brutus. 
BRUTUS The games are done and Caesar is returning.
CASSIUS As they pass by, pluck Casca by the sleeve; 
 And he will, after his sour fashion, tell you 180 
 What hath proceeded worthy note to-day. 
 [Re-enter CAESAR and his Train.] 
BRUTUS I will do so. But, look you, Cassius, 
 The angry spot doth glow on Caesar's brow,
 And all the rest look like a chidden train: 
 Calpurnia's cheek is pale; and Cicero 185 
 Looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes 
 As we have seen him in the Capitol, 
 Being cross'd in conference by some senators.
CASSIUS Casca will tell us what the matter is. 
CAESAR Antonius! 190 
ANTONY Caesar? 
CAESAR Let me have men about me that are fat; 
 Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
 Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; 
 He thinks too much: such men are dangerous. 195 
ANTONY Fear him not, Caesar; he's not dangerous; 
 He is a noble Roman and well given. 
CAESAR Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
 Yet if my name were liable to fear, 
 I do not know the man I should avoid 200 
 So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much; 
 He is a great observer and he looks 
 Quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
 As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music; 
 Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort 205 
 As if he mock'd himself and scorn'd his spirit 
 That could be moved to smile at any thing. 
 Such men as he be never at heart's ease
 Whiles they behold a greater than themselves, 
 And therefore are they very dangerous. 210 
 I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd 
 Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar. 
 Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,
 And tell me truly what thou think'st of him. 
 [Sennet. Exeunt CAESAR and all his Train, but CASCA.] 
CASCA You pull'd me by the cloak; would you speak with me? 
BRUTUS Ay, Casca; tell us what hath chanced to-day, 
 That Caesar looks so sad. 
CASCA Why, you were with him, were you not?
BRUTUS I should not then ask Casca what had chanced. 
CASCA Why, there was a crown offered him: and being 
 offered him, he put it by with the back of his hand, 
 thus; and then the people fell a-shouting. 222 
BRUTUS What was the second noise for?
CASCA Why, for that too. 
CASSIUS They shouted thrice: what was the last cry for? 
CASCA Why, for that too. 
BRUTUS Was the crown offered him thrice? 
CASCA Ay, marry, was't, and he put it by thrice, every
 time gentler than other, and at every putting-by 
 mine honest neighbours shouted. 230 
CASSIUS Who offered him the crown? 
CASCA Why, Antony. 
BRUTUS Tell us the manner of it, gentle Casca.
CASCA I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it: 
 it was mere foolery; I did not mark it. I saw Mark 
 Antony offer him a crown;--yet 'twas not a crown 
 neither, 'twas one of these coronets;--and, as I told 
 you, he put it by once: but, for all that, to my
 thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he 
 offered it to him again; then he put it by again: 
 but, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his 
 fingers off it. And then he offered it the third 
 time; he put it the third time by: and still as he
 refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their 
 chapped hands and threw up their sweaty night-caps 
 and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because 
 Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked 
 Caesar; for he swounded and fell down at it: and
 for mine own part, I durst not laugh, for fear of 
 opening my lips and receiving the bad air. 248 
CASSIUS But, soft, I pray you: what, did Caesar swound? 
CASCA He fell down in the market-place, and foamed at 
 mouth, and was speechless.
BRUTUS 'Tis very like: he hath the failing sickness. 
CASSIUS No, Caesar hath it not; but you and I, 
 And honest Casca, we have the falling sickness. 
CASCA I know not what you mean by that; but, I am sure, 
 Caesar fell down. If the tag-rag people did not
 clap him and hiss him, according as he pleased and 
 displeased them, as they use to do the players in 
 the theatre, I am no true man. 
BRUTUS What said he when he came unto himself? 260 
CASCA Marry, before he fell down, when he perceived the
 common herd was glad he refused the crown, he 
 plucked me ope his doublet and offered them his 
 throat to cut. An I had been a man of any 
 occupation, if I would not have taken him at a word, 
 I would I might go to hell among the rogues. And so
 he fell. When he came to himself again, he said, 
 If he had done or said any thing amiss, he desired 
 their worships to think it was his infirmity. Three 
 or four wenches, where I stood, cried 'Alas, good 
 soul!' and forgave him with all their hearts: but
 there's no heed to be taken of them; if Caesar had 
 stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less. 272 
BRUTUS And after that, he came, thus sad, away? 
CASSIUS Did Cicero say any thing? 275
CASCA Ay, he spoke Greek. 
CASSIUS To what effect? 
CASCA Nay, an I tell you that, I'll ne'er look you i' the 
 face again: but those that understood him smiled at 
 one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own 280
 part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more 
 news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs 
 off Caesar's images, are put to silence. Fare you 
 well. There was more foolery yet, if I could 
 remember it.
CASSIUS Will you sup with me to-night, Casca? 285 
CASCA No, I am promised forth. 
CASSIUS Will you dine with me to-morrow? 
CASCA Ay, if I be alive and your mind hold and your dinner 
 worth the eating.
CASSIUS Good: I will expect you. 
CASCA Do so. Farewell, both. 
BRUTUS What a blunt fellow is this grown to be! 
 He was quick mettle when he went to school. 
CASSIUS So is he now in execution
 Of any bold or noble enterprise, 295 
 However he puts on this tardy form. 
 This rudeness is a sauce to his good wit, 
 Which gives men stomach to digest his words 
 With better appetite.
BRUTUS And so it is. For this time I will leave you: 300 
 To-morrow, if you please to speak with me, 
 I will come home to you; or, if you will, 
 Come home to me, and I will wait for you. 
CASSIUS I will do so: till then, think of the world.
 Exit BRUTUS. 
 Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet, I see, 305 
 Thy honourable metal may be wrought 
 From that it is disposed: therefore it is meet 
 That noble minds keep ever with their likes; 
 For who so firm that cannot be seduced?
 Caesar doth bear me hard; but he loves Brutus: 
 If I were Brutus now and he were Cassius, 
 He should not humour me. I will this night, 
 In several hands, in at his windows throw, 
 As if they came from several citizens,
 Writings all tending to the great opinion 315 
 That Rome holds of his name; wherein obscurely 
 Caesar's ambition shall be glanced at: 
 And after this let Caesar seat him sure; 
 For we will shake him, or worse days endure.

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



Scene 2

With the second scene all the great characters are introduced. First is Marcus Brutus, the hero of the tragedy. Although the play bears the name of Julius Caesar, Brutus is the veritable hero of it, for it is his fate that furnishes the motive for the entire piece, his is the only figure that moves to its tragic exit in unbroken dignity and majesty. With not a single touch does the poet derogate from the impression of moral greatness which he means we shall form of his Brutus. In his conception of Brutus' character he follows Plutarch, but goes further than his authority, as was dramatically right, and as he has done with the other chief persons of the drama, notably wath Caesar.

The main motive of the tragedy, -- the essentially tragical point of it, -- is the mistake of Brutus in undertaking a task for which his moral nature renders him unfit. The assassination of Caesar is, in the play, incidental to the development of the career of Brutus. Brutus commands deference from all; and Cassius, who is Brutus's superior in practical sagacity, cheerfully yields to him in matters of crucial moment, being overawed by his commanding force of character. This force of personal character, joined with a reputation for absolute integrity of purpose, makes Brutus the natural leader of the men of his own rank with whom he is brought into contact. He stands well with the mob also, but does not make sufficient allowance for its fickleness, and foolishly imputes to it something of his own constancy and sense of honor.

As Shakespeare is not writing history or chronicle, but drama, -- though indeed he is dramatizing a chapter of history, -- he is no more bound to observe the exact proportions of character as these may be deduced from the records, than he is to respect the unities of time and place. For his present purpose he wished to enlarge and idealize Brutus, and to obscure and vulgarize Caesar. For this procedure with regard to Caesar he found a shadow of warrant in his historian. Plutarch is a gossip, by no means always careful to tell of his heroes only the grand achievements by which they won renown. Caesar appears in his pages quite subject to the infirmities of human nature. The poet finds this aspect of the great dictator suitable to his purpose, exaggerates it in accordance with dramatic custom, -- and so gives us his Julius Caesar.

Antony, for the course. That is, ready to run the course: undressed.

Soothsayer. One who claims to have supernatural foresight; a prophet or diviner. Literally, one who "says sooth," i.e. "tells the truth."

3. in Antonius' way. It was the custom at the Lupercalia for the priests to run through the streets of Rome, waving leather thongs and striking any whom they passed. Marcus Antonius at this time was at the head of one of the bands of Luperci.

8. The barren. Caesar at this time had no children. His only daughter, Julia, who was the wife of Pompey, had died a few years before.

9. sterile curse: the curse of childlessness.

11. Set on: move on, start.

18. ides of March: March 15th.

24. pass: let us pass on. Sennet. A peculiar set of notes on the trumpet which Shakespeare frequently uses as a signal for a march, or to accompany a royal procession.

25. the order of the course. That is, the running of the priests in the streets.

28. gamesome: fond of games.

29. quickspirit: lively, gay spirit (Compare "quick" here with quicksilver and with the word in the expression, "the quick and the dead.")

32. I do observe, etc. "I have been noticing you lately, Brutus, and," etc.

34. show: evidence. as: which, or "such as." wont: accustomed.

35. You bear too stubborn, etc. "You treat your friend too harshly and unfamiliarly." The picture is of a man driving a horse with too tight and too harsh a rein. "This man, Caius Cassius Longinus, had married Junia, a sister of Brutus. Both had lately stood for the chief Praetorship of the city, and Brutus, through Caesar's favor, had won it. . . . This is said to have produced a coldness between Brutus and Cassius, so that they did not speak to each other, till this extraordinary flight of patriotism brought them together." (Hudson.)

39. Merely: wholly, altogether.

40. passions of some difference: fluctuating, contradictory feelings; a "discord of emotions."

41. only proper to myself: belonging exclusively to me; peculiar to me alone.

42. give some soil . . . to: soil, tarnish, blemish. behaviors: manners, actions. Such plurals of abstract nouns are not uncommon in Shakespeare. Here it has the effect of repetition, or "behavior on several occasions." (Cf. line 133 below.)

45. construe: explain, interpret. This word is always accented on the first syllable in Shakespeare's plays. Notice also "misconstrued" in The Merchant of Venice II, ii, 178: "I be misconstrued in the place I go to."

48. mistook your passio: misunderstood your feelings. Similarly Shakespeare has "spoke" for "spoken," "wrote" for "written," etc. (Cf. II, i, 125.)

49. By means whereof: because of which.

50. cogitations: thoughts.

53. But by reflection, etc. That is, the eye can see itself only by reflection in a mirror or some other polished surface.

54. 'Tis just: that is true; "that's so."

58. shadow: reflected image, reflection.

59. Where. Used loosely for "when" or "that," -- much as we sometimes say, "I read in the paper where the governor," etc. many of the best respect: many of the most highly respected men in Rome.

66. Therefore. Ignoring Brutus's question, Cassius refers here to the wish which he has heard expressed, and which he is going to answer by what follows.

69. Will modestly discover: will disclose to you without exaggeration that side of yourself, etc.

71. jealous on me: doubtful, suspicious of me. In line 162 Brutus says: "That you do love me I am nothing jealous."

72. laugher: buffoon, jester. In the Folio editions of the play the word here is "laughter," which would mean "object of laughter or scorn." The change to "laugher," which was made by Pope in the i8th century, has generally been accepted. Do you feel, however, that perhaps the change was not necessary after all?

72, 73. did use to stale, etc. "were I accustomed to cheapen my love with too frequent oaths."

74. every new protester: every new claimant for my friendship.

75, 76. fawn on men, etc. "If you know that I am one who flatters men, holds them close to my heart, and afterwards defames them." Shakespeare often uses a noun as a verb in a strikingly forceful way, as "scandal" in this passage.

77. I profess myself, etc. "If I declare myself, when at banquets, a friend to all the company, then you should regard me as a dangerous flatterer." "Rout" of course is used contemptuously, as we might speak of "the mob," "the crowd," "the common herd." Flourish. This was probably a few notes on a trumpet. (See opening stage directions of this scene, and compare "Sennet" in line 24.)

80. How should this line be read to show Cassius' meaning?

85. the general good: the good of the community, the common weal.

86. Set honor, etc. "I will look upon honor and death together without emotion."

88. speed: prosper, bless.

91. your outward favor: your face, personal appearance. In this sense we still use "ill-favored," and in some parts of America we have now and then such an expression as "she favors her mother," meaning "she looks like her mother."

95. lief. To bring out clearly the play on "live," which Shakespeare undoubtedly intended, we should pronounce this word "lieve."

101. chafing with: rubbing against. (Any large dictionary will explain the interesting connection between this word and "chauffeur" and "chafing-dish.")

104. And swim to yonder point. This incident, apparently invented by Shakespeare, may have been suggested to him by Plutarch's statement that Caesar was a great swimmer.

105. Accoutred: dressed, clothed.

108. With lusty sinews: with vigorous muscles.

109. stemming it: making headway against it. hearts of controversy: contending hearts, courage that contended against the torrent. Similar constructions are common in Shakespeare, as "passions of difference" in line 40 above, "thieves of mercy" for "merciful thieves," "mind of love" for "loving mind."

110. arrive the point. Point out other places where you have already noticed similar omissions of prepositions.

112. Aenas. According to the legend, the Trojan hero Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Venus. The story of his wanderings, after the Greeks had sacked Troy, and his founding of Rome, is told in Vergil's great epic poem, the "Aeneid."

119. He had a fever. This incident again was probably suggested by Plutarch's Life of Caesar: "... the falling sickness (the which took him the first time, as it is reported, in Cordoba, a city of Spain)."

122. His coward lips, etc. That is, "the color fled from his lips." The picture is evidently of cowardly soldiers fleeing from their colors, or their flag.

123. whose bend: whose inclination, frown.

124. his lustre: its brightness. (See note on "her shores," I, i, 50.)

126. Mark: notice.

129. temper: nature, constitution, temperament. In "The Merchant" Portia says that "a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree."

130, 131. So get the start, etc. The figure is from the running of a foot-race.

133. these applauses. Remember the plural "behaviors" in line 42 above.

136. Colossus. A gigantic bronze statue of Apollo erected in 280 B.C. on the shore of the harbor at Rhodes, and known as one of the "seven wonders of the world." Cassius here uses the word "bestride" because of the tradition that the statue stood astride the mouth of the harbor, so that ships sailed "under his huge legs." Why does he speak of the world as narrow?

140. our stars. That is, the planets that govern our lives. The plays of Shakespeare abound with references to the belief of his time that men's fortunes were controlled by the stars and planets. (Look up "astrology.")

141. underlings: inferiors, servile persons. Note the force of the ending -ling in these words: " hireling," "groundling," "changeling," "starling."

146. conjure with 'em, etc. That is, use them as means of summoning up, or "starting," spirits.

150. Age: the times, "the age in which we live."

152. the great flood. Not the flood of Noah and the Ark, but the great flood of Greek mythology from which Deucalion and Pyrrha were the sole survivors.

156. Rome indeed and room enough. We can understand Cassius' play upon words here when we remember that "Rome," in Shakespeare's time, was pronounced almost exactly like "room."

159. a Brutus. This was Lucius Junius Brutus who drove the tyrant Tarquin from Rome, and led in reestablishing the republic. Our Marcus Brutus of the play, according to Plutarch, was descended from him. would have brooked, etc.: would have tolerated the Devil to rule in Rome as soon as a king. Shakespeare uses "eternal" several times for "infernal." "Perhaps," says Hudson, "our Yankee phrases, 'tarnal shame, 'tarnal scamp,' etc., are relics of this usage. It seems that the Puritans thought infernal too profane for godly mouths, and so translated its sense to eternal."

162. am nothing jealous: do not doubt. Remember Cassius' "be not jealous on me" in line 71 above.

163. aim: guess, conjecture.

166. so: if, provided that, -- as often in Shakespeare.

170. such high things: such important matters.

171. chew. This is a translation of the Latin "ruminate," which we still use in the sense of "reflect," "ponder."

172. a villager. To be a countryman, -- a rustic, --from the point of view of a Roman citizen, was to be an outcast and a boor.

173. Than to repute: than consider myself. Today we do not use "to" after the idiom "had rather."

174. as: which, such as. (A similar use of "as" occurred in line 34 of this scene.)

177. but: even. The figure here is from the starting of fire by the use of steel and flint. Later in the play Brutus describes his own cold nature thus:

O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
That carries anger as the flint bears fire
Who, much enforced, shows a hasty sparky
And straight is cold again.
181. What hath proceeded, etc. "What has happened worthy of notice today." Noteworthy has become a common adjective today.

184. chidden: rebuked, censured, scolded.

186. ferret . . . eyes. The ferret has small reddish eyes.

187. seen him. That is, seen him look with.

188. crossed in conference: opposed in debate.

193. Sleek-headed men. According to Plutarch, Caesar once said to friends who "complained unto him of Antonius and Dolabella, that they pretended some mischief towards him, 'As for those fat men and smooth-combed heads, I never reckon of them; but these pale-visaged and carrion lean people, I fear them most,' meaning Brutus and Cassius."

193. o' nights: at night.

194. Yond. An old form of "yon." (Cf. "yonder.")

197. well given: well disposed. This expression, like many others in the play, occurs in North's "Plutarch," from which Shakespeare drew the material for his tragedy.

199. if my name were liable to fear: that is, "If it were possible for me to be afraid." Caesar uses "my name" for "myself."

204. he hears no music. Such a man Shakespeare evidently considered dangerous.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.
("Merchant of Venice," V, i, 83-88.)
205. sort: way, manner.

209. Whiles. An old form of "while," closely related to our "whilst."

217. sad. Probably here in the earlier sense of "grave," "serious."

228. marry. An exclamation about equivalent to our "indeed." Originally, as the word shows, it was an oath, being a shortened form for "by the Virgin Mary."

229. gentler than other: more gently than the other.

237. coronets. These were inferior to crowns, and in various forms denoted different degrees of noble rank less than sovereign. Here again the poet transfers to Rome an English custom.

239. fain: gladly, willingly.

243. rabblement: rabble, noisy crowd, mob.

244. chopt: chapped, rough and cracked. Macbeth speaks of the choppy finger of a witch.

247. swounded ... 250. swound. Shakespeare uses these forms as well as the modern swoon and swooned.

250. soft: hold! stop! not so fast!

253. 'Tis very like: quite likely, it's very probable. the falling-sickness. That is, epilepsy, -- a nervous disease accompanied, in its violent forms, with loss of consciousness, foaming at the mouth, and convulsions. Suetonius, in his life of Caesar, says that the great Roman general was subject to fainting fits and that "he was twice seized with the falling-sickness while engaged in active service."

257. tag-rag: ragged and idle. (Cf. the expression "the rag, tag, and bobtail.")

260. no true man: no honest man.

264. plucked me ope his doublet: he opened his coat. The "me" in this construction is called the ethical dative (for me). It has no particular meaning here, though it may possibly add a little force to Casca's words. The doublet (which did not come into use until the close of the 15th century) was a close-fitting outer garment with sleeves, and was belted at the waist. The expression "doublet and hose" occurs frequently in the plays.

265. An: if, -- as often in Shakespeare. a man of any occupation. That is, "had I been a mechanic like those to whom he offered his throat."

266. at a word. We should say "at his word."

270. wenches: girls, -- the sisters or daughters of the "commoners." As used here, and often in Shakespeare, the word corresponds almost exactly to the masculine "fellow."

274. sad. See note on "sad" in line 217 above.

277. he spoke Greek. How does Casca speak these words? What light do they throw on Cicero's character?

282. it was Greek to me: it was meaningless to me. The proverb here includes, of course, a play upon Casca's earlier remark, "Ay, he spoke Greek."

287. I am promised forth: I have promised already to dine out. In "The Merchant of Venice" Shylock says, "I am bid forth to supper" and " I have no mind of feasting forth."

293. blunt: dull, slow, -- just the opposite of "quick mettle" in the next line, which means "of high or lively spirit."

297. this tardy form: this sluggish, slothful manner, -- probably of talking, in reference to Casca's beating about the bush and hesitation in his story of Caesar and the crown.

305. think of the world. That is, "think of the affairs of Rome." What is the significance of this remark as a farewell to Brutus?

307. metal: spirit, character. Point out two similar uses of the word earlier in the play.

307, 308. may be wrought From, 'etc.: may be moved, or changed, from that to which it is inclined. meet: fitting, suitable.

311. bear me hard. That is, "Caesar regards me with ill-will, or disfavor."

313. He should not humor me. "He (that is, Brutus) should not cajole me (play upon my humor) as I do him." (Warburton.) Cassius seems to think that he would not be as easy to work upon as he is finding Brutus.

314. hands: handwritings, -- as often in Shakespeare.

316. tending to: setting forth, indicating.

318. glanced at: hinted at, suggested.

319, 320. let Caesar seat him sure, etc. Let Caesar establish himself firmly in power, for we will either overthrow him, or suffer the consequences of the attempt to unseat him. Notice the rhyme (sure . . . endure) in these two last lines, similar to the ending of II, 3, V, 3, and the close of the play. Such a rhyming couplet often marked the close of a scene, or even the exit of an actor, in old plays before the days of curtains and elaborate changes of scenery.

How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2013. < >.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Imagine and describe the setting of the scene. How does it make a splendid pageant on the stage today?

2. What is the first impression you get of Caesar? Favorable or unfavorable?

3. Why do you think Shakespeare introduced the soothsayer at this point? What effect do his words have on the audience?

4. Does the soothsayer seem to have any effect upon Caesar? Upon Cassius or Brutus?

5. How does Cassius skilfully lead up to his subject? What is his evident motive from the first?

6. How would you have Brutus appear and act during the long speeches of Cassius, 90-131 and 135-161?

7. Does Cassius seem to you to speak from personal enmity toward Caesar, or solely from interest in the public welfare? Support your reasons by quoting various lines.

8. What is the effect of the distant shout and Brutus' comment? (131-133)

9. What reasons does Cassius give for wanting Brutus to join the conspiracy?

10. Why do you think Cassius recalls to Brutus the deeds of his ancestors?

11. Compare the appearance of Caesar's train as it returns with the spectacle at the opening of the scene.

12. How does Shakespeare give us an impression of what has taken place while Cassius has been talking to Brutus?

13. Why have Caesar comment upon Antony, Brutus, and especially upon Cassius, as he does? Do his words here have an important effect upon the audience?

14. Why does the poet have Casca speak entirely in prose?

15. What opinion do you form of Casca from his manner and his words?

16. Comment upon the words of Brutus in lines 293-294. How does Cassius turn these words to his own use?

17. What opinion do you form of Cassius from his last speech in this scene?

18. Can you explain why this last speech is often omitted on the stage today?

19. What contrast has Shakespeare already clearly made between Cassius and Brutus?

20. Quote any lines you particularly like and tell why you like them.


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Points to Ponder ... "The lean and wrinkled Cassius" venting his spite at Caesar, by ridiculing his liability to sickness and death, is charmingly characteristic. The mighty Caesar, with all his electric energy of mind and will, was of a rather fragile and delicate make; and his countenance, as we have it in authentic busts, is of almost feminine beauty. Cicero, who did not love him at all, in one of his Letters applies to him the Greek word that is used for 'miracle' or 'wonder' in the New Testament; the English of the passage being, "This miracle (monster?) is a thing of terrible energy, swiftness, diligence." (Henry Norman Hudson)


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