Julius Caesar Act 2 Scene 2 - Calpurnia begs Caesar not to go to the Senate
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Julius Caesar

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 Thunder and lightning. Enter CAESAR, in his night-gown. 
CAESAR Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace to-night: 
 Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out, 
 'Help, ho! they murder Caesar!' Who's within? 
 Enter a Servant. 
Servant My lord?
CAESAR Go bid the priests do present sacrifice 5 
 And bring me their opinions of success. 
Servant I will, my lord. 
CALPURNIA What mean you, Caesar? think you to walk forth? 
 You shall not stir out of your house to-day. 9
CAESAR Caesar shall forth: the things that threaten'd me 
 Ne'er look'd but on my back; when they shall see 
 The face of Caesar, they are vanished. 
CALPURNIA Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies, 
 Yet now they fright me. There is one within,
 Besides the things that we have heard and seen, 15 
 Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch. 
 A lioness hath whelped in the streets;

 And graves have yawn'd, and yielded up their dead; 
 Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,
 In ranks and squadrons and right form of war, 20 
 Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol; 
 The noise of battle hurtled in the air, 
 Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan, 
 And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.
 O Caesar! these things are beyond all use, 25 
 And I do fear them. 
CAESAR What can be avoided 
 Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods? 
 Yet Caesar shall go forth; for these predictions
 Are to the world in general as to Caesar. 
CALPURNIA When beggars die, there are no comets seen; 30 
 The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes. 
CAESAR Cowards die many times before their deaths; 
 The valiant never taste of death but once.
 Of all the wonders that I yet have heard. 
 It seems to me most strange that men should fear; 35 
 Seeing that death, a necessary end, 
 Will come when it will come. 
 Re-enter Servant. 
 What say the augurers?
Servant They would not have you to stir forth to-day. 
 Plucking the entrails of an offering forth, 
 They could not find a heart within the beast. 40 
CAESAR The gods do this in shame of cowardice: 
 Caesar should be a beast without a heart,
 If he should stay at home to-day for fear. 
 No, Caesar shall not: danger knows full well 
 That Caesar is more dangerous than he: 45 
 We are two lions litter'd in one day, 
 And I the elder and more terrible:
 And Caesar shall go forth. 
CALPURNIA Alas, my lord, 
 Your wisdom is consumed in confidence. 
 Do not go forth to-day: call it my fear 50 
 That keeps you in the house, and not your own.
 We'll send Mark Antony to the senate-house: 
 And he shall say you are not well to-day: 
 Let me, upon my knee, prevail in this. 
CAESAR Mark Antony shall say I am not well, 55 
 And, for thy humour, I will stay at home.
 Here's Decius Brutus, he shall tell them so. 
DECIUS BRUTUS Caesar, all hail! good morrow, worthy Caesar: 
 I come to fetch you to the senate-house. 
CAESAR And you are come in very happy time, 60 
 To bear my greeting to the senators
 And tell them that I will not come to-day: 
 Cannot, is false, and that I dare not, falser: 
 I will not come to-day: tell them so, Decius. 
CALPURNIA Say he is sick. 
CAESAR Shall Caesar send a lie? 65
 Have I in conquest stretch'd mine arm so far, 
 To be afraid to tell graybeards the truth? 
 Decius, go tell them Caesar will not come. 
DECIUS BRUTUS Most mighty Caesar, let me know some cause, 
 Lest I be laugh'd at when I tell them so. 70
CAESAR The cause is in my will: I will not come; 
 That is enough to satisfy the senate. 
 But for your private satisfaction, 
 Because I love you, I will let you know: 
 Calpurnia here, my wife, stays me at home: 75
 She dreamt to-night she saw my statua, 
 Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts, 
 Did run pure blood: and many lusty Romans 
 Came smiling, and did bathe their hands in it: 
 And these does she apply for warnings, and portents,
 And evils imminent; and on her knee 
 Hath begg'd that I will stay at home to-day. 
DECIUS BRUTUS This dream is all amiss interpreted; 
 It was a vision fair and fortunate: 
 Your statue spouting blood in many pipes, 85
 In which so many smiling Romans bathed, 
 Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck 
 Reviving blood, and that great men shall press 
 For tinctures, stains, relics and cognizance. 
 This by Calpurnia's dream is signified. 90
CAESAR And this way have you well expounded it. 
DECIUS BRUTUS I have, when you have heard what I can say: 
 And know it now: the senate have concluded 
 To give this day a crown to mighty Caesar. 
 If you shall send them word you will not come, 95
 Their minds may change. Besides, it were a mock 
 Apt to be render'd, for some one to say 
 'Break up the senate till another time, 
 When Caesar's wife shall meet with better dreams.' 
 If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper 100
 'Lo, Caesar is afraid'? 
 Pardon me, Caesar; for my dear dear love 
 To our proceeding bids me tell you this; 
 And reason to my love is liable. 104 
CAESAR How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
 I am ashamed I did yield to them. 
 Give me my robe, for I will go. 
 And look where Publius is come to fetch me. 
PUBLIUS Good morrow, Caesar. 
CAESAR Welcome, Publius.
 What, Brutus, are you stirr'd so early too? 110 
 Good morrow, Casca. Caius Ligarius, 
 Caesar was ne'er so much your enemy 
 As that same ague which hath made you lean. 
 What is 't o'clock?
BRUTUS Caesar, 'tis strucken eight. 
CAESAR I thank you for your pains and courtesy. 
 Enter ANTONY. 
 See! Antony, that revels long o' nights, 
 Is notwithstanding up. Good morrow, Antony. 
ANTONY So to most noble Caesar.
CAESAR Bid them prepare within: 
 I am to blame to be thus waited for. 
 Now, Cinna: now, Metellus: what, Trebonius! 120 
 I have an hour's talk in store for you; 
 Remember that you call on me to-day:
 Be near me, that I may remember you. 
TREBONIUS Caesar, I will: 
 and so near will I be, 
 That your best friends shall wish I had been further. 125 
CAESAR Good friends, go in, and taste some wine with me;
 And we, like friends, will straightway go together. 
BRUTUS Aside. That every like is not the same, O Caesar,  
 The heart of Brutus yearns to think upon! 

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 3


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



Scene 2

The story of Calpurnia's crying out in her sleep, of the ill omens announced by the augurs, and of Caesar's irresolution, is all in Plutarch, and is not exaggerated by the poet. This scene between Calpurnia and Caesar and the similar one between Portia and Brutus should be compared with reference to differences of character in the actors which the dialogue brings to light.

It is now nearly eight o'clock, and the ides of March has come.

night-gown: Not in its modern sense, but "dressing-gown," as usually in Shakespeare.

1. Nor heaven nor earth: neither heaven, etc., -- like "or our cause or our performance" in the previous scene (II, i, 135 and note).

5. do present sacrifice: perform the sacrifices at once.

6. their opinions of success: That is, their opinions as to the outcome, -- as to what will succeed or happen, -- if Caesar goes forth.

10. Caesar shall forth: Shakespeare often omits the verb "go" in this and similar expressions. Later we find "We'll along ourselves"; "We must out and talk"; "I will myself into the pulpit"; etc.

13. stood on ceremonies: regarded omens or prophecies.

16. the watch: the watchman, -- a familiar figure in Shakespeare's London, though not in Caesar's Rome.

20. right form of war: regular battle array.

22. hurtled: crashed, clashed.

24. ghosts did shriek, etc. Ghosts were believed to have the power of speech, as we see later in this play. In connection with these lines, it is interesting to read the words of Horatio in "Hamlet," a tragedy written about the same time as "Julius Caesar."

25. all use: all custom, all we are used to.

27. Whose end is purposed: the completion of which is planned by the gods.

29. Are to the world, etc. That is, these prophecies apply just as much to the world in general as they do to Caesar.

37. augurers: augurs, priests who read the omens, especially the entrails of animals. See line 200 of the last scene, and note.

42. should. In modern usage this would be " would," but it was the regular form for the simple future in EUzabethan English.

46. We. That is. Danger (personified) and I.

56. humor: caprice, whim, -- as in II, i, 150.

73. satisfaction. Pronounced sat-is-fac-ti-on. Do you see why?

76. to-night: last night, as in III, 3, i. "I dreamt to-night that I did feast with Caesar"; and Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" says,
For I did dream of money-bags to-night.
More often the poet uses the word in its present meaning.

76. statue. Pronounced here, and again in act III, as a three syllable word, -- sta-tu-a. How should it be treated in line 85 below ?

78. lusty: vigorous, robust. Where did Cassius speak of "lusty sinews"?

80, 81. portents, and evils imminent: signs and approaching dangers.

83. all amiss interpreted. That is, the meaning of your dream has been explained entirely incorrectly.

89. tinctures: stains. This is an allusion to the old custom of dipping handkerchiefs in the blood of great men, especially of saints and martyrs, and then preserving them as relics. cognizance: memorial, badge.

96, 97. a mock apt to be rendered: a sneering reply likely to be made.

103. To your proceeding. That is, my love for, or interest in, your advancement, -- your career.

104. reason to my love, etc. Reason (which would have kept me from speaking so frankly) is subject to, subordinate to, my love. Or, as Rolfe puts it, "My love leads me to indulge in a freedom of speech that my reason would restrain." (Notice here again how much the poet puts into a phrase of six words.)

113. ague (a'gue): fever.

114. 'tis strucken eight. Five hours earlier, Cassius said, "The clock hath stricken three." (See II, i, 192 and note.) Notice throughout this part of the play the exact time of each important event that develops the plot is stated exactly. See II, 4, 22.

116. long o' nights. Where did Caesar speak of men who "sleep o' nights"?

118. So to, etc. Much as we familiarly say, "The same to you!"

120. what, Trebonius! Like the exclamatory, impatient "what" at the opening of Act II,
What, Lucius, ho!
128. That every like, etc. That is, to be like a friend is not to be a friend. Brutus, of course, is referring to the words Caesar has just spoken.

129. yearns: grieves, pains, -- as always in Shakespeare. Brutus here, just for a moment, seems to have a pang of remorse.

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. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_2_2.html >.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Compare Caesar's superstitions here with those of I, 2. Why do you think Shakespeare makes so much of them in the play?

2. Is it Calpurnia or the report from the augurers that determines Caesar to remain at home? Give reasons for your decision.

3. What opinion do you form of Calpurnia? Do you like her as well as Portia? Contrast the two.

4. What are the arguments of Decius Brutus to induce Caesar to "come forth"?

5. What do you think of Caesar's sudden change of mind as to the augurers' warning? Is it flattery alone that wins him?

6. How do you account for Calpurnia's silence while Decius is persuading Caesar to come to the Senate?

7. How would you have Calpurnia look and act when Caesar decides to go forth?

8. Does Decius Brutus impress you as a heroic, noble-spirited man in this scene? Can you defend him for his deception?

9. Do Caesar's words and actions in this scene raise him or lower him in your estimation?

10. Are your sympathies at this point with Caesar or the conspirators? Give your reasons in detail.


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Shakespeare's Source ... In Plutarch we find: "Then going to bed the same night, as his manner was, and lying with his wife Calpurnia, all the windows and doors of his chamber flying open, the noise awoke him, and made him afraid when he saw such light; but more, when he heard his wife Calpurnia, being fast asleep, weep and sigh, and put forth many fumbling lamentable speeches: for she dreamed that Caesar was slain.... Caesar rising in the morning, she prayed him, if it were possible, not to go out of the doors that day, but to adjourn the session of the Senate until another day. And if that he made no reckoning of her dream, yet that he would search further of the soothsayers by their sacrifices, to know what should happen him that day. Thereby it seemed that Caesar did likewise fear or suspect somewhat, because his wife Calpurnia until that time was never given to any fear and superstition; and that then he saw her so troubled in mind with this dream she had. But much more afterwards, when the soothsayers having sacrificed many beasts one after another, told him that none did like them: then he determined to send Antonius to adjourn the session of the Senate."


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Did You Know? ... "The Roman people were specially yearning to avenge the slaughter of Marcus Crassus and his army by the Parthians, and Cæsar was at this time preparing an expedition against them. But a Sibylline oracle was alleged, that Parthia could only be conquered by a king; and it was proposed to invest Cæsar with the royal title and authority over the foreign subjects of the state. It is agreed on all hands that, if his enemies did not originate this proposal, they at least craftily urged it on, in order to make him odious, and exasperate the people against him. To the same end, they had for some time been plying the arts of extreme sycophancy, heaping upon him all possible honors, human and divine, hoping thereby to kindle such a fire of envy as would consume him." (Henry Norman Hudson)