Julius Caesar Act 2 Scene 4 - Portia is frantic
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Julius Caesar

Please see the bottom of the page for full explanatory notes and helpful resources.

ACT II SCENE IV Another part of the same street, before the house of BRUTUS. 
 Enter PORTIA and LUCIUS. 
PORTIA I prithee, boy, run to the senate-house; 
 Stay not to answer me, but get thee gone: 
 Why dost thou stay? 
LUCIUS To know my errand, madam.
PORTIA I would have had thee there, and here again, 
 Ere I can tell thee what thou shouldst do there. 5 
 O constancy, be strong upon my side, 
 Set a huge mountain 'tween my heart and tongue! 
 I have a man's mind, but a woman's might.
 How hard it is for women to keep counsel! 
 Art thou here yet? 
LUCIUS Madam, what should I do? 10
 Run to the Capitol, and nothing else? 
 And so return to you, and nothing else?
PORTIA Yes, bring me word, boy, if thy lord look well, 
 For he went sickly forth: and take good note 
 What Caesar doth, what suitors press to him. 15
 Hark, boy! what noise is that? 
LUCIUS I hear none, madam.
PORTIA Prithee, listen well; 
 I heard a bustling rumour, like a fray, 
 And the wind brings it from the Capitol. 
LUCIUS Sooth, madam, I hear nothing. 
 Enter the Soothsayer. 
PORTIA Come hither, fellow: which way hast thou been? 20
Soothsayer At mine own house, good lady. 
PORTIA What is't o'clock? 
Soothsayer About the ninth hour, lady. 
PORTIA Is Caesar yet gone to the Capitol? 
Soothsayer Madam, not yet: I go to take my stand,
 To see him pass on to the Capitol. 25
PORTIA Thou hast some suit to Caesar, hast thou not? 
Soothsayer That I have, lady: if it will please Caesar 
 To be so good to Caesar as to hear me, 
 I shall beseech him to befriend himself.
PORTIA Why, know'st thou any harm's intended towards him? 30
Soothsayer None that I know will be, much that I fear may chance. 
 Good morrow to you. Here the street is narrow: 
 The throng that follows Caesar at the heels, 
 Of senators, of praetors, common suitors,
 Will crowd a feeble man almost to death: 35
 I'll get me to a place more void, and there 
 Speak to great Caesar as he comes along. 
PORTIA I must go in. Ay me, how weak a thing 
 The heart of woman is! O Brutus,
 The heavens speed thee in thine enterprise! 
 Sure, the boy heard me: Brutus hath a suit 
 That Caesar will not grant. O, I grow faint. 
 Run, Lucius, and commend me to my lord; 
 Say I am merry: come to me again,
 And bring me word what he doth say to thee. 45
 Exeunt severally. 

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 4
From Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



Scene 4

Nearly an hour has passed since the conspirators entered Caesar's house to "taste some wine" with him; and the time draws on when they are to escort him to the senate-house.

1. prithee. A contraction of "pray thee."

6. constancy: resolution, firmness. Do you remember where Portia said, "I have made strong proof of my constancy?"

9. to keep counsel: to keep a secret.

14. went sickly forth: went out looking sick.

18. rumor: murmur, noise. I hear a noise of some excitement, like a struggle.

20. sooth: truly, indeed. Remember the opening line of "The Merchant of Venice": "In sooth I know not why I am so sad."

Enter the Soothsayer. This is the same man that interrupted Caesar's procession at the beginning of the play with the cry, "Beware the ides of March!" There is no reason for believing him to be Artemidorus, as some of the editors wish to make him. Why is it better to have two distinct persons try to warn Caesar?

34. praetors: city magistrates.

36. I'll get me to a place more void. That is, I'll move along to a more open place, -- in contrast to the "narrower street" where he now stands talking with Portia.

38. Ay me: alas.

41. Brutus hath a suit, etc. These words are evidently spoken to Lucius to allay any suspicion that may arise from her exclamation: "The heavens speed thee in thy enterprise!" For a moment she had forgotten the boy's presence.

How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 26 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_2_4.html >.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Comment upon the great change that has come over Portia since we last saw her. How do you account for it?

2. What contrast is there between her feelings and those of Lucius? How does the dramatist make this contrast striking?

3. From her conversation with the soothsayer, what do you think is in Portia's mind? Has Brutus told her the plans of the conspirators, or is she merely suspicious?

4. How do you explain Portia's words, --
Brutus hath a suit
That Caesar will not grant?
Is this said aside or to Lucius?

5. Why do you suppose Shakespeare wrote this scene? Does it add anything to the plot of the tragedy? Would you omit it on the stage today?


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Thoughts on Portia ... "Portia, Brutus's wife, is also his counterpart. As he, actuated by the principles of honor and love of country, forces himself to perform deeds against his nature, so Portia, exercising the self-restraint and noble dignity suited to a woman "so fathered and so husbanded," holds rigidly in check all the deep feeling, tenderness, and anxiety that are aroused in her by her husband's and her country's plight. (Act II, Sc. i, and II, 4.) When finally her suppressed grief and suspense can no longer be endured, her mind gives way and in a fit of madness she takes her own life." Helen M. Roth. Read on...


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