Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Act 2 Scene 1 - Brutus decides to kill Caesar
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Julius Caesar

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ACT II SCENE I Rome. BRUTUS's orchard. 
 Enter BRUTUS. 
BRUTUS What, Lucius, ho! 
 I cannot, by the progress of the stars, 
 Give guess how near to day. Lucius, I say! 
 I would it were my fault to sleep so soundly.
 When, Lucius, when? awake, I say! what, Lucius! 5 
 Enter LUCIUS. 
LUCIUS Call'd you, my lord? 
BRUTUS Get me a taper in my study, Lucius: 
 When it is lighted, come and call me here. 
LUCIUS I will, my lord.
BRUTUS It must be by his death: and for my part, 10 
 I know no personal cause to spurn at him, 
 But for the general. He would be crown'd: 
 How that might change his nature, there's the question. 
 It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;
 And that craves wary walking. Crown him?--that;-- 15 
 And then, I grant, we put a sting in him, 
 That at his will he may do danger with. 
 The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins 
 Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
 I have not known when his affections sway'd 20 
 More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof, 
 That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, 
 Whereto the climber-upward turns his face; 
 But when he once attains the upmost round.

 He then unto the ladder turns his back, 25 
 Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees 
 By which he did ascend. So Caesar may. 
 Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel 
 Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
 Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented, 30 
 Would run to these and these extremities: 
 And therefore think him as a serpent's egg 
 Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous, 
 And kill him in the shell.
 Re-enter LUCIUS. 
LUCIUS The taper burneth in your closet, sir. 35 
 Searching the window for a flint, I found 
 This paper, thus seal'd up; and, I am sure, 
 It did not lie there when I went to bed. 
 Gives him the letter. 
BRUTUS Get you to bed again; it is not day.
 Is not to-morrow, boy, the ides of March? 40 
LUCIUS I know not, sir. 
BRUTUS Look in the calendar, and bring me word. 
LUCIUS I will, sir. 
BRUTUS The exhalations whizzing in the air
 Give so much light that I may read by them. 45 
 Opens the letter and reads 
 'Brutus, thou sleep'st: awake, and see thyself. 
 Shall Rome, &c. Speak, strike, redress! 
 Brutus, thou sleep'st: awake!' 
 Such instigations have been often dropp'd
 Where I have took them up. 50 
 'Shall Rome, &c.' Thus must I piece it out: 
 Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What, Rome? 
 My ancestors did from the streets of Rome 
 The Tarquin drive, when he was call'd a king.
 'Speak, strike, redress!' Am I entreated 55 
 To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise: 
 If the redress will follow, thou receivest 
 Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus! 
 Re-enter LUCIUS. 
LUCIUS Sir, March is wasted fourteen days.
 Knocking within 
BRUTUS 'Tis good. Go to the gate; somebody knocks. 
 Exit LUCIUS. 
 Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, 61 
 I have not slept. 
 Between the acting of a dreadful thing 
 And the first motion, all the interim is
 Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream: 65 
 The Genius and the mortal instruments 
 Are then in council; and the state of man, 
 Like to a little kingdom, suffers then 
 The nature of an insurrection.
 Re-enter LUCIUS. 
LUCIUS Sir, 'tis your brother Cassius at the door, 70 
 Who doth desire to see you. 
BRUTUS Is he alone? 
LUCIUS No, sir, there are moe with him. 
BRUTUS Do you know them?
LUCIUS No, sir; their hats are pluck'd about their ears, 
 And half their faces buried in their cloaks, 
 That by no means I may discover them 75 
 By any mark of favour. 
BRUTUS Let 'em enter.
 Exit LUCIUS. 
 They are the faction. O conspiracy, 
 Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brow by night, 
 When evils are most free? O, then by day 
 Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough 80 
 To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy;
 Hide it in smiles and affability: 
 For if thou path, thy native semblance on, 
 Not Erebus itself were dim enough 
 To hide thee from prevention. 85 
CASSIUS I think we are too bold upon your rest:
 Good morrow, Brutus; do we trouble you? 
BRUTUS I have been up this hour, awake all night. 
 Know I these men that come along with you? 
CASSIUS Yes, every man of them, and no man here 90 
 But honours you; and every one doth wish
 You had but that opinion of yourself 
 Which every noble Roman bears of you. 
 This is Trebonius. 
BRUTUS He is welcome hither. 
CASSIUS This, Decius Brutus.
BRUTUS He is welcome too. 
CASSIUS This, Casca; this, Cinna; and this, Metellus Cimber. 
BRUTUS They are all welcome. 
 What watchful cares do interpose themselves 
 Betwixt your eyes and night? 99
CASSIUS Shall I entreat a word? 
 BRUTUS and CASSIUS whisper. 
DECIUS BRUTUS Here lies the east: doth not the day break here? 
CINNA O, pardon, sir, it doth; and yon gray lines 
 That fret the clouds are messengers of day.
CASCA You shall confess that you are both deceived. 105 
 Here, as I point my sword, the sun arises, 
 Which is a great way growing on the south, 
 Weighing the youthful season of the year. 
 Some two months hence up higher toward the north
 He first presents his fire; and the high east 110 
 Stands, as the Capitol, directly here. 
BRUTUS Give me your hands all over, one by one. 
CASSIUS And let us swear our resolution. 
BRUTUS No, not an oath: if not the face of men,
 The sufferance of our souls, the time's abuse,-- 115 
 If these be motives weak, break off betimes, 
 And every man hence to his idle bed; 
 So let high-sighted tyranny range on, 
 Till each man drop by lottery. But if these,
 As I am sure they do, bear fire enough 120 
 To kindle cowards and to steel with valour 
 The melting spirits of women, then, countrymen, 
 What need we any spur but our own cause, 
 To prick us to redress? what other bond
 Than secret Romans, that have spoke the word, 125 
 And will not palter? and what other oath 
 Than honesty to honesty engaged, 
 That this shall be, or we will fall for it? 
 Swear priests and cowards and men cautelous,
 Old feeble carrions and such suffering souls 130 
 That welcome wrongs; unto bad causes swear 
 Such creatures as men doubt; but do not stain 
 The even virtue of our enterprise, 
 Nor the insuppressive mettle of our spirits,
 To think that or our cause or our performance 135 
 Did need an oath; when every drop of blood 
 That every Roman bears, and nobly bears, 
 Is guilty of a several bastardy, 
 If he do break the smallest particle
 Of any promise that hath pass'd from him. 140 
CASSIUS But what of Cicero? shall we sound him? 
 I think he will stand very strong with us. 
CASCA Let us not leave him out. 
CINNA No, by no means.
METELLUS CIMBER O, let us have him, for his silver hairs 
 Will purchase us a good opinion 145 
 And buy men's voices to commend our deeds: 
 It shall be said, his judgment ruled our hands; 
 Our youths and wildness shall no whit appear,
 But all be buried in his gravity. 
BRUTUS O, name him not: let us not break with him; 
 For he will never follow any thing 151 
 That other men begin. 
CASSIUS Then leave him out.
CASCA Indeed he is not fit. 
DECIUS BRUTUS Shall no man else be touch'd but only Caesar? 
CASSIUS Decius, well urged: I think it is not meet, 
 Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar, 
 Should outlive Caesar: we shall find of him
 A shrewd contriver; and, you know, his means, 
 If he improve them, may well stretch so far 
 As to annoy us all: which to prevent, 160 
 Let Antony and Caesar fall together. 
BRUTUS Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
 To cut the head off and then hack the limbs, 
 Like wrath in death and envy afterwards; 
 For Antony is but a limb of Caesar: 
 Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius. 
 We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar;
 And in the spirit of men there is no blood: 
 O, that we then could come by Caesar's spirit, 
 And not dismember Caesar! But, alas, 170 
 Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends, 
 Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
 Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods, 
 Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds: 
 And let our hearts, as subtle masters do, 175 
 Stir up their servants to an act of rage, 
 And after seem to chide 'em. This shall make
 Our purpose necessary and not envious: 
 Which so appearing to the common eyes, 
 We shall be call'd purgers, not murderers. 180 
 And for Mark Antony, think not of him; 
 For he can do no more than Caesar's arm
 When Caesar's head is off. 
CASSIUS Yet I fear him; 
 For in the ingrafted love he bears to Caesar-- 
BRUTUS Alas, good Cassius, do not think of him: 185 
 If he love Caesar, all that he can do
 Is to himself, take thought and die for Caesar: 
 And that were much he should; for he is given 
 To sports, to wildness and much company. 
TREBONIUS There is no fear in him; let him not die; 190 
 For he will live, and laugh at this hereafter.
 Clock strikes. 
BRUTUS Peace! count the clock. 
CASSIUS The clock hath stricken three. 
TREBONIUS 'Tis time to part. 
CASSIUS But it is doubtful yet, 
 Whether Caesar will come forth to-day, or no;
 For he is superstitious grown of late, 195 
 Quite from the main opinion he held once 
 Of fantasy, of dreams and ceremonies: 
 It may be, these apparent prodigies, 
 The unaccustom'd terror of this night,
 And the persuasion of his augurers, 200 
 May hold him from the Capitol to-day. 
DECIUS BRUTUS Never fear that: if he be so resolved, 
 I can o'ersway him; for he loves to hear 
 That unicorns may be betray'd with trees,
 And bears with glasses, elephants with holes, 205 
 Lions with toils and men with flatterers; 
 But when I tell him he hates flatterers, 
 He says he does, being then most flattered. 
 Let me work;
 For I can give his humour the true bent, 210 
 And I will bring him to the Capitol. 
CASSIUS Nay, we will all of us be there to fetch him. 
BRUTUS By the eighth hour: is that the uttermost? 
CINNA Be that the uttermost, and fail not then.
METELLUS CIMBER Caius Ligarius doth bear Caesar hard, 215 
 Who rated him for speaking well of Pompey: 
 I wonder none of you have thought of him. 
BRUTUS Now, good Metellus, go along by him: 
 He loves me well, and I have given him reasons;
 Send him but hither, and I'll fashion him. 220 
CASSIUS The morning comes upon's: we'll leave you, Brutus. 
 And, friends, disperse yourselves; but all remember 
 What you have said, and show yourselves true Romans. 
BRUTUS Good gentlemen, look fresh and merrily;
 Let not our looks put on our purposes, 225 
 But bear it as our Roman actors do, 
 With untired spirits and formal constancy: 
 And so good morrow to you every one. 
  Exeunt all but BRUTUS. 
 Boy! Lucius! Fast asleep? It is no matter;
 Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber: 230 
 Thou hast no figures nor no fantasies, 
 Which busy care draws in the brains of men; 
 Therefore thou sleep'st so sound. 
 Enter PORTIA. 
PORTIA Brutus, my lord!
BRUTUS Portia, what mean you? wherefore rise you now? 
 It is not for your health thus to commit 235 
 Your weak condition to the raw cold morning. 
PORTIA Nor for yours neither. You've ungently, Brutus, 
 Stole from my bed: and yesternight, at supper,
 You suddenly arose, and walk'd about, 
 Musing and sighing, with your arms across, 240 
 And when I ask'd you what the matter was, 
 You stared upon me with ungentle looks; 
 I urged you further; then you scratch'd your head,
 And too impatiently stamp'd with your foot; 
 Yet I insisted, yet you answer'd not, 245 
 But, with an angry wafture of your hand, 
 Gave sign for me to leave you: so I did; 
 Fearing to strengthen that impatience
 Which seem'd too much enkindled, and withal 
 Hoping it was but an effect of humour, 250 
 Which sometime hath his hour with every man. 
 It will not let you eat, nor talk, nor sleep, 
 And could it work so much upon your shape
 As it hath much prevail'd on your condition, 
 I should not know you, Brutus. Dear my lord, 255 
 Make me acquainted with your cause of grief. 
BRUTUS I am not well in health, and that is all. 
PORTIA Brutus is wise, and, were he not in health,
 He would embrace the means to come by it. 
BRUTUS Why, so I do. Good Portia, go to bed. 260 
PORTIA Is Brutus sick? and is it physical 
 To walk unbraced and suck up the humours 
 Of the dank morning? What, is Brutus sick,
 And will he steal out of his wholesome bed, 
 To dare the vile contagion of the night 265 
 And tempt the rheumy and unpurged air 
 To add unto his sickness? No, my Brutus; 
 You have some sick offence within your mind,
 Which, by the right and virtue of my place, 
 I ought to know of: and, upon my knees, 270 
 I charm you, by my once-commended beauty, 
 By all your vows of love and that great vow 
 Which did incorporate and make us one,
 That you unfold to me, yourself, your half, 
 Why you are heavy, and what men to-night 275 
 Have had to resort to you: for here have been 
 Some six or seven, who did hide their faces 
 Even from darkness.
BRUTUS Kneel not, gentle Portia. 
PORTIA I should not need, if you were gentle Brutus. 
 Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus, 280 
 Is it excepted I should know no secrets 
 That appertain to you? Am I yourself
 But, as it were, in sort or limitation, 
 To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed, 
 And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the suburbs 285 
 Of your good pleasure? If it be no more, 
 Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife.
BRUTUS You are my true and honourable wife, 
 As dear to me as are the ruddy drops 
 That visit my sad heart 290 
PORTIA If this were true, then should I know this secret. 
 I grant I am a woman; but withal
 A woman that Lord Brutus took to wife: 
 I grant I am a woman; but withal 
 A woman well-reputed, Cato's daughter. 295 
 Think you I am no stronger than my sex, 
 Being so father'd and so husbanded?
 Tell me your counsels, I will not disclose 'em: 
 I have made strong proof of my constancy, 
 Giving myself a voluntary wound 300 
 Here, in the thigh: can I bear that with patience. 
 And not my husband's secrets?
BRUTUS O ye gods, 
 Render me worthy of this noble wife! 
 Knocking within. 
 Hark, hark! one knocks: Portia, go in awhile; 
 And by and by thy bosom shall partake 305 
 The secrets of my heart.
 All my engagements I will construe to thee, 
 All the charactery of my sad brows: 
 Leave me with haste. 
 Exit PORTIA. 
 Lucius, who's that knocks? 309 
 Re-enter LUCIUS with LIGARIUS. 
LUCIUS He is a sick man that would speak with you.
BRUTUS Caius Ligarius, that Metellus spake of. 
 Boy, stand aside. Caius Ligarius! how? 
LIGARIUS Vouchsafe good morrow from a feeble tongue. 
BRUTUS O, what a time have you chose out, brave Caius, 
 To wear a kerchief! Would you were not sick!
LIGARIUS I am not sick, if Brutus have in hand 
 Any exploit worthy the name of honour. 
BRUTUS Such an exploit have I in hand, Ligarius, 
 Had you a healthful ear to hear of it. 
LIGARIUS By all the gods that Romans bow before, 320
 I here discard my sickness! Soul of Rome! 
 Brave son, derived from honourable loins! 
 Thou, like an exorcist, hast conjured up 
 My mortified spirit. Now bid me run, 
 And I will strive with things impossible;
 Yea, get the better of them. What's to do? 
BRUTUS A piece of work that will make sick men whole. 
LIGARIUS But are not some whole that we must make sick? 
BRUTUS That must we also. What it is, my Caius, 
 I shall unfold to thee, as we are going 330
 To whom it must be done. 
LIGARIUS Set on your foot, 
 And with a heart new-fired I follow you, 
 To do I know not what: but it sufficeth 
 That Brutus leads me on. 335
BRUTUS Follow me, then. 

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2


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



Scene 1

We must imagine that an hour or more has passed since the end of Act I, for it now is nearly daylight of the 15th of March. A little later Cassius hears a clock strike three.

Brutus' orchard. We should say "Brutus' garden." Shakespeare uses these two words as synonyms.

1. What, Lucius! "What" and "when" (line 5 below) were common words of exclamation or calling, like our colloquial "Hi, there," or "Oh." When Shylock is leaving his house he calls to his daughter inside to come out and speak to him: "What, Jessica! . . . Why, Jessica, I say!"

3. how near to day. We must supply "it is."

7. taper. A sort of wick or small candle, probably made of wax.

11. to spurn at him: to reject him, or almost "to strike at him." Later Caesar says, "I spurn thee like a cur out of my way," which is the more common use of the word.

12. the general: the public, the community.

14. It is the bright day, etc. Just as snakes come out to bask in the warm sun, so the "sunshine of royalty, -- the dazzle of being king, -- will kindle the serpent in Caesar."

15. that craves wary walking: that demands careful, watchful walking. Notice that here, and again at the end of his soliloquy (32-34), Brutus has not forgotten his comparison of Caesar and a serpent. -- that: be that so; suppose him crowned.

17. do danger with: do what is dangerous, -- like our expressions "do mischief," "do harm," "do wrong," etc.

18. when it disjoins remorse: when it separates mercy, or pity, from power.

20. his affections swayed: his emotions, or feelings, governed him more than his reason.

21. a common proof: a common experience, a thing commonly proved.

26. the base degrees: the lower steps, the lower rounds of the ladder. A degree is literally a "step down."

28. prevent: anticipate, get ahead of him.

28, 29. since the quarrel will bear no color, etc. That is, "Since our case against him cannot be justified by what he is now, let us state our argument thus," etc. Professor Hudson thus sums up Brutus' reasoning: "Since we have no apparent ground of complaint against Caesar in what he is, or in anything he has yet done, let us assume that the further addition of a crown will quite transform his nature, and make him a serpent."

33. as his kind: like the rest of its kind, or species.

34. kill him. That is, -- let us, therefore, kill him in the shell.

35. closet. This word was formerly used for any small room devoted to retirement, privacy, or study, and was not confined to a room for storing clothes or dishes. Here Lucius refers to Brutus' private study. (See line 7 above.)

36. a flint. A piece of stone used with tinder for striking a fire.

44. exhalations: meteors. The ancients believed that the sun drew vapor up from the earth and then exhaled it, or breathed it forth, in the form of meteors.

47. redress: set right that which is wrong.

48. Brutus, thou sleep'st. See note on I, 3, 146.

50. I have took. Compare this with "mistook your passion" in I, 2, 48, and see note.

53. My ancestors. This is a reference to Lucius Junius Brutus. See note to I, 3, 146.

61. whet: excite, arouse, -- literally, "sharpen," as in the expression "to whet one's appetite." (Cf. whetstone.)

64. motion: impulse, motive.

64, 65. the interim is like a phantasma: the time between is like a nightmare.

66. The genius, etc.: the soul and the bodily powers; the spiritual and physical powers; the guardian angel of man and his passions, -- but just exactly what Shakespeare meant by "genius" and "mortal instruments" in this famous line will always remain a mystery. The editors have written pages upon these words.

67. the state of man; the government of man. Man is compared to a kingdom, or state, in which civil war arises between the various elements, -- the "genius and the mortal instruments."

69. The nature of: something like.

70. your brother. Really brother-in-law, for Cassius had married Brutus' sister, Junia.

72. moe: more, -- frequent in Shakespeare.
Friends, I owe moe tears
To this dead man than you shall see me pay. (V, 3, 101.)
73. their hats, etc. Here is another good illustration of Shakespeare's disregard of the costumes actually worn in Rome. "The Roman pileus was a close fitting cap of felt without any brim, and the petasus was worn only to keep off the sun. Shakespeare dressed his Romans in the slouched hats of his own time." (Wright.) But does this make the least particle of difference in our enjoyment of the play, or injure its dramatic quality?

76. By any mark of favor: by a special distinction of features. Do you remember when Cassius said to Brutus, "I do know your outward favor"?

77. faction. A body of persons combined for a certain purpose, -- here the conspirators.

79. When evils are most free. That is, when crimes are most free from the law, -- most unrestrained.

82. affability: courteous words, gentle manners.

83. path. Here the word is a verb and means to walk, walk forth; but it may be a printer's error. Put has been suggested by many of the critics. Path as a verb, however, occurs in writers of Shakespeare's time. thy native semblance on: in thy true form.

84. Erebus. This was a place of darkness, according to Greek mythology, part way between the earth and Hades; but here, as often in literature, the term is applied vaguely to the lower world.

85. prevention: discovery, -- which would lead to prevention or inference.

86. we are too bold, etc.: we are too bold thus to break in upon your rest.

100. Shall I entreat a word: May I have a word with you?

104. fret: adorn, ornament with lines or pencillings. Hamlet speaks of "this majestical roof (the heavens) fretted with golden fire."

107, 108. a great way growing, etc. The sun rises far to the south, considering the early time of year. Casca is rather inaccurate, for on March 15th the sun would rise almost exactly in the east.

110. the high east: exact, or perfect, east, -- as we say "high noon."

112. your hands all over: all your hands once more. Brutus shook hands with the conspirators when they arrived; now after talking with Cassius he shakes hands with them all again.

114. the face of men. Probably, the look of disapproval of Caesar in the faces of men.

115. sufferance: suffering.

116. break off betimes: let's throw up the whole business at once.

117. hence to his idle bed: go to bed and remain there idle. So we often say "a sick bed," and Shakespeare in "Troilus and Cressida" has, "upon a lazy bed."

114-118. The broken grammatical structure of these lines makes them a little difficult. Summed up, the meaning is: If the unspoken words in men's looks, together with our own suffering and the abuses of the time, are not sufficient motives for our conspiracy, let us give up our scheme, go home, and allow proud tyranny to flourish.

119. drop by lottery. That is, "die at the mere whim of the tyrant, just as by the mere chance of a lottery." (Thorndike.) if these. That is, these three motives just enumerated.

123. What: Why. The figure, of course, is from horseback riding, the source of many comparisons and figures in Shakespeare. How do you account for this?

125. Than secret Romans: that of secret Romans. have spoke. Compare this with "have took" in line 50 above, and see note on I, 2, 48.

126. palter: quibble, act trickily.

129. cautelous: crafty, sly, -- a rare word even in Shakespeare.

130. carrions. Literally "carcasses." Here "men as good as dead."

133. The even virtue: The calm, firm virtue.

134. the insuppressive mettle: the nature of our spirits which cannot be suppressed.

135. or our cause or. This construction, instead of either . . . or, occurs in English poetry as late as Tennyson.

136. Did need: ever could need.

138. a several bastardy: a special treason against his noble birth.

144. his silver hairs. At this time Cicero was sixty years old. Of course Metellus remembers that he has just used "silver" when in the next line he speaks of purchasing good opinion," -- that is, a good reputation, -- and buying men's voices.

148. Our youths, etc. That is, our light, uncontrolled youth shall not be in evidence at all.

150. break with him: tell him, -- as we say "break the news."

157. of him: in him. In the previous line "of" = by. Notice other variations in the use of prepositions as you read the play.

158. A shrewd contriver: an evil plotter or schemer. According to Plutarch, all of the conspirators, except Brutus, wished to slay Antony as well as Caesar.

164. envy: hatred, malice, -- as usually in Shakespeare. So "envious" in line 178 below means "malicious," "evil."

169. come by: get hold of.

175-178. Let our hearts rouse our hands to act, and then after the deed is done they may reprove them, just as clever masters arouse their servants to an outrageous act, and then find fault with them for doing it. What do you think of this advice?

178. Our purpose necessary. That is, seem necessary and not malicious.

180. purgers: cleansers, healers. They will heal Rome of its disease of tyranny.

184. ingrafted love: love so deeply implanted that it has become a part of him.

187. take thought and die. This was an old expression for "grieve one's self to death." In Elizabethan English "thought" often meant "worry," as in the New Testament, -- "Take no thought for the morrow," which means, of course, "be not anxious or solicitous about the morrow."

188. And that were much, etc. That would be a great deal for him to do, -- as Brutus explains in the next line.

190. no fear in him: nothing to be feared in him. Clock strikes. Clocks such as Shakespeare had in mind were unknown to the Romans; thus we have here another anachronism. Can you explain it?

192. stricken. Shakespeare also uses the forms "struck" and "strucken." We still use the word in such expressions as "he was stricken with the disease," and "the words were stricken from the record."

196. Quite from the main opinion: wholly contrary to the strong opinion.

197. fantasy: imagination. ceremonies: superstitious rites.

198. apparent prodigies: manifest, clearly seen signs and omens.

200. augurers, or augurs, were interpreters of omens, especially of those seen in the entrails of animals which were sacrificed to the gods. No Roman would set about an important undertaking without consulting the augurs for favorable omens.

203. o'ersway: win him over, change his mind.

204. According to early stories, the unicorn in its fury would drive its horn into a tree behind which the hunter had dodged for safety, and before it broke free again was captured or killed. Bears were supposed to be easily shot while they remained motionless, gazing into a mirror that had been set up to attract them. Elephants were captured by means of pitfalls, covered with straw or leaves, and lions were snared with nets or toils.

208. flattered. Pronounced flat-ter-ed. Do you see why?

210. humor: state of mind, temper. The word "humor" is used by Shakespeare in many different senses, some of which are not familiar to us today.

213. the uttermost: the very latest. We probably would say "latest" or "utmost."

215. doth bear Caesar hard: bears ill-will toward Caesar, hates Caesar. Do you remember where Cassius said, "Caesar doth bear me hard"?

216. rated: reproved, berated.

218. go along by him: go home by way of his house.

219. given him reasons. That is, for caring for Brutus.

220. fashion him: mould him, win him to our cause.

225. our looks put on, etc. Let not our looks put on an expression that will betray or reveal our plans.

227. formal constancy: unbroken, unchanged dignity of outward appearance; "dignified self-possession."

230. honey-heavy dew, etc. "Slumber as refreshing as dew, and whose heaviness is sweet." (Wright.) Notice the compactness and suggested pictures in Shakespeare's one phrase.

231. no figures nor no fantasies. That is, "Thou hast no pictures or fancies created by the imagination." Double negative constructions (nor . . . no) were common in the English of Shakespeare's time.

238. Stole. Compare this form with "broke" for "broken," "wrote" for "written," which occur frequently in the plays.

246. wafture: wave. A rare word, used only here by Shakespeare.

248. impatience. Four syllables, im-pa-ti-ence like de-struc-ti-on in I, 3, 13, q.v.

250. humor. Here, "caprice" or some "whim." In line 262 below we find still another meaning of this word.

251. his: its, -- as often in Elizabethan English.

253. shape: physical appearance in contrast to "condition" in the next line.

254. prevailed on your condition: influenced or changed your state of mind.

255. Dear my lord. Shakespeare has this peculiar order in other terms of address, such as "Sweet my mother," and "Good my lord."

261. physical: good for the health, wholesome.

262. unbraced: with clothes unfastened. Dp you remember where Cassius walked "unbraced," and "bared his bosom to the thunder-storm"? humors: mists, moisture.

263. dank: damp. Which of these words is the more poetic?

266. rheumy: damp, causing catarrh or rheumatism. un-purg'd air: foul air; air that has not yet been purified by the sun's rays.

268. some sick offence. That is, some grief that makes you sick.

271. charm: conjure, entreat. Do you think Pope's alteration of this word to "charge" a necessary or wise change?

273. incorporate. The next four words almost translate this expression.

275. heavy: sad,-- as we say "a heavy heart," "a light heart."

281. Is it excepted, etc. "Is there an exception made that I should not know your secrets?"

283. in sort or limitation: only after a fashion, and in a limited way. Notice here, and often in this play, the compactness of Shakespeare's language, -- the extensive meaning pressed into a word or two.

285. the suburbs. That is, in the outskirts, not in the center of your heart.

287. harlot: mistress.

289, 290. the ruddy drops that visit, etc. Harvey's discovery of the laws governing the circulation of the blood were not published until twelve years after Shakespeare's death, though much earlier, as these words clearly show, men had begun to have notions that such a circulation prevailed.

295. well -reputed: of good name; honorable. Cato's daughter. Portia was the daughter of Marcus Cato, sometimes called "the last of the Romans," because of his struggle to bring back to Rome a republican form of government. His hatred of Caesar led him to commit suicide after that great imperial leader had defeated the followers of Pompey.

299. constancy: firmness.

300. a voluntary wound. Portia wounded herself with a knife to test, by her power to endure physical pain, her ability to keep her husband's secrets. This incident -- indeed, the whole interview between Brutus and Portia -- follows Plutarch very closely.

307. construe: explain, interpret.

308. All the charactery of my sad brows, etc.: all the marks of sadness on my countenance.

312. how? Brutus utters this as an exclamation rather than as a question. He is surprised to see Ligarius wearing a "kerchief."

313. Vouchsafe good morrow: deign^ or condescend, to accept good morning.

315. kerchief. Used here in its literal meaning, -- a covering for the head. It was evidently the custom in Shakespeare's time for sick men to wear such head-coverings.

323. an exorcist: one who raises spirits, a conjurer.

324. My mortified spirit. That is, my spirit that was dead.

331. To whom: To him to whom. Set on your foot: go ahead. In I, 2, 11, Caesar used a similar expression: "Set on; and leave no ceremony out."

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. What does Lucius add to this scene? Would you omit his part as unnecessary to the main action?

2. In what ways has Brutus changed since we saw him in Act I?

3. What opinion do you form of Brutus from his soliloquies in this scene? Do they increase your respect for him or not? Why?

4. Why do you think the poet has Brutus ask Lucius about "the ides of March"?

5. What is the purpose and effect of having Brutus and Cassius whisper aside? (101- 111.) What do you think they talk about?

6. Point out and comment upon Shakespeare's skill in managing the other actors on the stage during the whispered conference between Brutus and Cassius.

7. Have you any definite knowledge, before Brutus speaks in line 112, of his decision as to the conspiracy?

8. What are the objections to including Cicero in the conspiracy?

9. What do you think of Brutus' arguments to spare Mark Antony? Do you agree with him or with Cassius?

10. How do you explain the words, "The clock hath stricken three," when clocks, as we know them, did not exist in Caesar's time?

11. What is there effective in lines 229-233? Do these words increase your admiration for Brutus or not?

12. What impression does the scene between Portia and Brutus leave with you? Would you omit it in a modern presentation of the play on the stage?

13. What is there heroic in Portia's character? Bassanio in "The Merchant of Venice" says of the heroine,
Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued
To Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia.
14. In what ways does Portia fulfil your idea of the noble Roman matron?

15. Describe the setting of the conspiracy in Brutus' orchard, and point out the elements that make this one of the finest scenes in English drama.


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 Julius Caesar Study Questions (with Detailed Answers)
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Did You Know? ... "Pope was evidently so disgusted with Shakespeare's tendency to dress his Romans like Elizabethans, that in his two editions he omits 'hats' altogether, indicating the omission by a dash!" (Henry Norman Hudson)


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