Presented by Paul W. Collins All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this work nay be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, audio or video recording, or other, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Note: Spoken lines from Shakespeare’s drama are in the public domain, as is the Globe (1864) edition of his plays, which provided the basic text of the speeches in this new version of Julius Caesar. But Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare: Presented by Paul W. Collins, is a copyrighted work, and is made available for your personal use only, in reading and study. Student, beware: This is a presentation of Julius Caesar, not a scholarly work, so you should be sure your teacher, instructor or professor considers it acceptable as a reference before quoting characters’ comments or thoughts from it in your report or term paper.
Ceremony and Dissent A crowd of jubilating common folk gathers in celebration along a thoroughfare near the Capitol in ancient Rome—smiling artisans, tradesmen clerks and laborers, and mothers laughing happily with their young children. Everyday chores have been left to wait, as the people come forth to hail their popular leader.
They are welcoming him in ceremonial triumph as he returns from battle in Spain, where he has defeated a rebellion led by sons of the late ruler Pompey and several generals supported by hidebound Senate factions—in a conflict of Roman against Roman.
Two stern old noblemen watch, grim-faced; fine togas and headpieces assert their status among the wealthy and privileged, long accustomed to governing.
They scowl at the celebrants. “Hence!Home, you idle creatures, get you home!” shouts Flavius angrily. “Is this a holiday?
“What? Know you not?—being workers you ought not walk upon a labouring day without the sign of your occupation!” He stops a man just joining the crowd. “Speak: what trade art thou?”
“Why, sir, a carpenter.”
Murellus asks him, “Where is thy leather apron—and thy rule? What dost thou with thy best apparel on?” He challenges another man: “You, sir—what trade are you?”
The man replies stolidly. “Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.”
Murellus, expecting sarcasm, hears it: cobbler—a slapdash bungler. “But what trade art thou? Answer me directly!”
“A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe conscience. Which is, indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles.”
Bad souls! “What trade, thou knave? Thou wayward knave, what trade?” demands Murellus angrily.
The workman’s chin juts forward; chided for flippancy, summons it: “Nay, I beseech you, sir, be not out with me. Yet, if you be out, sir, I can mend you!”
The noblemen are two of five called tribunesof the people; among their duties is preserving the Roman Republic’s long traditions, many of which are being changed by its highly successful ruler, who has recently been named dictator—and for a lifetime term.
Flavius, less irascible, intervenes. “Thou art a cobbler, art thou?” he asks, calmly.
“Truly, sir, all that I live by is with the awl: I meddle with no tradesman’s matters—nor women’s matters but withawl!” He sees that, despite the rudely ribald jest playing on withal, Flavius is listening politely. “I am, indeed, sir, a surgeon to old shoes; when they are in great danger, I recover them. As proper men as ever trod upon neat’s leather have gone upon my handiwork,” the stooped and grizzled man says proudly.
“But wherefore art not in thy shop today?” asks Flavius. “Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?”
The cobbler grins. “Truly, sir, towear out their shoes, to get myself into more work!” he says with a wink. “But, indeed, sir, we make holiday,” he adds earnestly, “to see Caesar, and to rejoice in his triumph!”
“Wherefore rejoice?” demands Murellus, red-faced. “What conquests brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome to grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?” He shouts at the people on the street: “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!” The younger men laugh at the graybeard: stones is a term for testicles, thing for penis. “O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome, knew you not Pompey?
“Many a time aloft have you climbed!—up the walls and battlements to towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops, your infants in your arms—and there have sat the livelong day, in patient expectation of seeing great Pompey pass in the streets of Rome!
“And when you saw but his chariot appear, have you not made an universal shout?—so loud that Tiber trembled underneath her banks, hearing the replication of your sounds made on her concave shores!
“And do you now put on your best attire—and do you now cull out a holiday—and do you now strew flowers in his way that comes in triumph over Pompey’sblood?
“Begone!” he shouts. “Run to your houses, fall upon your knees; pray to the gods to intermit the plague that needs must light on this ingratitude!”
Some citizens have paused; they are annoyed by the harangue, but intimidated by the powerful officials. Most drift away, muttering, to find another place to wait.
“Go, go, good countrymen!” cries Flavius. He too urges penitence: “And, for this fault, assemble all the poor men of your sort; draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears into the channel, till the lowest stream do kiss the most exalted shores of all!”—heaven’s.
Flavius watches as the commoners disperse. He has faith in reproving rhetoric: “See whether their basest mettle be not moved!—they vanish, tongue-tied in their guiltiness!
“Go you down that way towards the Capitol; this way will I,” he tells Murellus. “Disrobe the images, if you do find them decked with ceremonies,” he says. The two will confiscate the wreaths of laurel leaves—symbolic crowns—placed on the city’s statuary of Julius Caesar by his admirers, who want to elevate him to emperor.
Even the militant Murellus wavers “May we do so? You know it is the feast of Lupercal….” The festival and its ancient fertility rites hold great religious significance for Romans.
Flavius is adamant. “It is no matter!—let no images be hung with Caesar’s trophies! I’ll about, and drive away the vulgar from the streets. So do you too, where you perceive them thick.
“Those growing feathers when plucked from Caesar’s wing will make him fly an ordinary pitch, who else would soar above the view of men—and keep us all in servilefearfulness!”
Near Palatine Hill, where the traditional run is about to begin, trumpets sound a regal flourish, alerting the throng that Julius Caesar, fifty-six, is arriving, on his way to a session in the Forum. With him at the head of the large procession of nobles and attendants is his closest friend, Mark Antony.
Marcus Antonius, thirty-eight, is a general and a politician, but today his loins are girded in the goatskin worn by ceremonial participants in Lupercalia. He joins the others who are preparing for the dash, as musicians play dulcet melodies.
Caesar looks for his wife. “Calphurnia!”
Caska, a large nobleman, patrician senator and tribune, shouts to the onlookers: “Peace, ho!Caesar speaks!”
“Calphurnia!” calls Caesar.
She hurries to him. “Here, my lord.”
“Stand you directly in Antonius’ way, when he doth run his course,” he tells her. “Antonius…”
Antony turns to him. “Caesar, my lord?”
“Forget not, in your speed, Antonius, to touch Calphurnia,” urges the general, “for our elders say the barren, touchèd in this holy chase, shake off their sterile curse.” The ruler has so far been without an heir.
Antony smiles. “I shall remember. When Caesar says ‘Do this,’ it is performed!”
“Set on, and leave no ceremony out.”
As the onlookers move away in the sunshine toward the festive annual event’s starting point, two noblemen in Caesar’s train are quietly taken into custody by soldiers of the Praetorian Guard. Murellus and Flavius, angry and indignant, are arrested and led away.
A blare of brass horns announces that Caesar is now proceeding to his regimen of meetings with Roman officials.
Over the sounds of the crowd comes an audacious cry. “Caesar!”
The ruler pauses. “Who calls?”
Caska waves for silence. “Bid every noise be still!Peace yet again!”
Caesar looks around. “Who is it in the push that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak. Caesar is turnèd to hear.”
“Beware the ides of March!”
“What man is that?”
Marcus Brutus tells Caesar quietly, “A soothsayer bids you beware the ides”—the 15th—“of March.” At forty, Brutus is renowned as Rome’s chief praetor—magistrate.
“Set him before me; let me see his face.”
A senator, Caius Cassius, motions the man forward: “Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.”
Caesar watches as a centurion pulls back the hood that has kept the old man’s features in shadow. “What say’st thou to me, now? Speak once again.”
The soothsayer is staring intently. “Beware!—the ides of March!” he utters feverishly.
Caesar turns away, dismissing the man. “He is a dreamer; let us leave him.” He waves his procession forward. “Pass.” A sennet sounds, and the nobles follow Caesar to Capitoline Hill, the highest of Rome’s seven. The area soon clears—except for two noblemen.
Nodding toward the Lupercalian run, Cassius asks his friend Brutus, “Will you go see the order of the course?”
“I pray you, do.”
Brutus demurs. “I am not gamesome; I do lack some part of that quick spirit that is in Antony,” he says—with a tone of resentment. “But let me not hinder, Cassius, your desires. I’ll leave you.”
The older lord wants to talk. “Brutus, know I do observe you: 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 over your friend that loves you,” he complains mildly.
Brutus reassures him. “Cassius, be not deceived. If I have veiled my look, I turn the trouble of my countenance merely upon myself. Vexèd I am of late with passion over some differences, conceptions only proper to myself, which give some soil, perhaps, to my behaviors.
“But let not therefore my good friends be grievèd—among which number, Cassius, be you one—nor construe any further my neglect than that poor Brutus, with himself at war, forgets the shows of love to other men.”
Cassius regards his companion—with himself at war, he is encouraged to note. “Then, Brutus, I have much mistook your passion—by means whereof this breast of mine hath buried thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations….
“Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face, now?”
“No, Cassius; for the eye sees not itself but by reflection in some other thing.”
“’Tis just so—and it is very much lamented, Brutus, that you have no such mirrors as will turn your hidden worthiness unto your eye, so that you might see your image! I have heard, when many of the best respect in Rome—except immortal Caesar—speaking of Brutus, and groaning underneath this age’s yoke, have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes!”—shared his esteem.
Brutus gives a slight smile, accepting the flattery—but guardedly. “Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius, that you would have me seek into myself for that which is not in me?” He means politicalambition.
Cassius is ready to answer: “Therefore, good Brutus, be prepared to hear!
“And since you know you cannot see yourself so well as by reflection, I, as your glass, will modestly reveal to yourself that in yourself which you yet know not of.
“And be not suspicious of me, gentle Brutus,” he adds. “Were I a commonlaugher, or did use to stale my love with ordinary oaths to every new protester—if you’d found that I did fawn on men and hug them hard, then after scandal them; or if you’d found that I professed myself by banqueting all the rout—then hold me dangerous.”
Sounds drift up from the valley nearby, at the Forum: a muffled flourish, and echoes of cheering.
“What means this shouting?” wonders Brutus aloud, frowning. “I do fear that the people choose Caesar for their king.”
“Aye. Do you fear it? Then must I think you would not have it so….”
“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, set honour in one eye and death i’ the other, and I will look on both impartially; for let the gods so speed me as I love the name of honour more than I fear death.”
Cassius nods. “I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus, as well as I do know your outward favour.” He knows that Brutus is dedicated to Rome’s timocracy—and to sharing in it. “Well, honour is the subject of my story.
“I cannot tell what you and other men think of this life; but as for my single self, I had as lief not be as to live to be in awe of such a thing as 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, the troubled Tiber chafing with her shores, Caesar said to me, ‘Darest thou, Cassius, now leap with me into this angry flood, and swim to yonder point?’ Upon the word, accoutered as I was, I plungèd in, and bade him follow! So indeed he did!
“The torrent roared, but 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, 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 tirèd Caesar!
“And that man is now become a god!—and Cassius a wretched creature who must bend his body if Caesar but nod at him carelessly!”
Cassius offers another tale, from Caesar’s recent military victory over the two sons of Pompey—once a triumvir who had shared power with Caesar—and their forces, aligned with seditious senators. “He had a fever when he was in Spain; and when the fit was on him, I did mark how he did shake—’tis true!—this god did shake!
“His coward lips did from their colours fly, and that same eye whose bend doth awe theworld did lose its lustre! I did hear him groan—aye! And that tongue of his, that bade the Romans mark him, and write his speeches in their books—‘Alas,’ it cried ‘give me some drink, Titinius!’—as would a sick girl’s!
“Yegods, it doth amaze me that a man of such a feeble temper should so get the leading of the majestic world!—and bear the palm alone!”—as sole sovereign.
They hear, from down at the Forum, a regal flourish, followed by more cheering.
“Another general shout,” notes Brutus. “I do believe that these applauses are for some new honours that are heaped on Caesar.”
“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus!—and we petty men walk under his huge legs, and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves!”
He moves closer. “Men at some time are masters of their fates: the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings!”
Cassius proceeds quickly—before the proud praetor can voice objection to that term. “Brutus and Caesar—what could 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; weigh them, it is as heavy—conjure with ’em,” he says, pointedly, “Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar!
“Now, in the names of all the gods at once, upon what meat doth this Caesar feed, that he is grown so great?
“Our age, thou art shamed!Rome, thou hast lost the breeding 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 who talked of Rome say—till now—that her wide walls encompassed butone man? Now is it Rome indeed, and with room enough, when there is in it butonlyone man!
“Oh, you and I have heard our fathers say there wasa Brutus, once, who would as easily have brooked the eternal Devil to keep his state in Rome as a king!” Tradition holds that, five centuries before, Brutus’s own ancestor had founded Rome—as a republic.
“That you do love me I do not doubt,” Brutus assures the senator. “What you would work me to Ihave in some aim,” he admits. “How I have thought of this, and of these times, I shall recount hereafter; at present I would not. So, with my love I might entreat you to be further moved; what you have said I will consider. What you have to say I will with patience hear—and find a time meet both to hear and to answer such high things.
“Till then, my noble friend, mull over this: Brutus had rather be a villager than to repute himself a son of Rome under the hard conditions as this time is likely to lay upon us!”
Cassius nods and smiles. “I am but glad that my weak words have struck thus much show of fire from Brutus!”
The praetor looks toward the dispersing Lupercal celebrants, then down the hill. “The games are done,” Brutus sees, “and Caesar is returning.”
“As they pass by, pluck Caska by the sleeve and he will—in his sour fashion—tell you what hath proceeded worthy of note today.”
“I will do so.” Brutus watches the dictator and his procession approach. “But look you, Cassius—a livid spot doth glow on Caesar’s brow!—and all the rest look like a chidden train! Calphurnia’s cheek is pale; and Cicero looks with such feral, fiery eyes as we have seen in him at the Capitol when being crossed in conference by some senators!”
Cassius, too, wonders what has happened. “Caska will tell us what the matter is.” As the majestic train moves along, Caesar beckons Mark Antony nearer, into private conversation. “Antonio...”
The sovereign gives a polite nod, past Antony, to the two senators watching from the side; but he says, quietly, “Let me have men about me that are fatted—sleek-haired men, and such as sleep o’ nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much—such men are dangerous!”
Antony, a fierce warrior, is mellow in peacetime. “Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous. He is a noble Roman, and well given out”—spoken of.
Caesar looks again. “I fear him not. But I would he were fatter….” Antony merely chuckles. “Yet, if my name were liable to fear,” says Caesar—wryly; he is well aware of how he’s regarded, “I do not know the man I should avoid so soon as that spare Cassius.
“He reads much; he is a great observer, but he looks quite through the deeds of men. He loves no plays, as thou dost, Antony, and he hears no music. Seldom he smiles—then smiles in such a sort as if he mocked himself, and scorned that his spirit could be moved to smile at anything.
“Such men as he are never at heart’s ease whiles they behold a greater than themselves; and therefore are they verydangerous!”—because they always will.
The war’s fighting may be done, but strife will continue, he knows. “I tell thee what is to be feared, rather than what I fear; for always I am Caesar. Come on my right hand, and tell me truly what thou think’st of him; for this ear is deaf,” he says, nodding and smiling to onlookers at the left. Increasingly insulated in his civilian role as a public icon, he values only a few frank assessments. The last of the noble contingent passes—flanked by sharp-eyed soldiers guarding Caesar and his wife as they return to their home.
“You pulled me by the cloak,” the tribune says to Brutus. “Would you speak with me?”
“Aye, Caska. Tell us what hath chanced today, that Caesar looks so solemn.”
“Why? You were with him, were you not?” asks Caska—in his usual arch and challenging manner.
The accused truant only smiles. “I should not then ask Caska what had chancèd.”
“Why, there was a crown offered him! And, it being offered him, he put it aside!—with the back of his hand, thus,”—he makes a slow gesture of humility. “And then the people fell a-shouting!”
“What was the second noise for?”
“Why, for that too!”
“They shouted thrice,” Cassius notes. “What was the last cry for?”
“Why, for that too!”
Brutus is surprised. “Was the crown offered him thrice?”
“Aye, marry, was’t!—and he put itby thrice, each time gentler than other! And at every putting-by, mine honest neighbours shouted!” says Caska, clearly disdainful of the plebian crowd.
“Who offered him the crown?”
“Why Antony!” Of course, his tone implies.
“Tell us the manner of it, gentle Caska,” says Brutus.
“I can as well be hanged as tell the manners of it!—it was mere foolery! I did not mark it,” claims Caska haughtily.
But of course he did—and he does tell: “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 held it!
“Then he offered it to him again; then he put it by again. But, to my thinking, he was very loath to keep his fingers off it!
“And then he offered it the third time; he put it the third time by. And even as he refused it, the rabblement shouted, and clapped their chappèd hands, and threw up their sweaty night-caps, and uttered such a deal of stinkingbreath because Caesar refused the crown that it almost choked Caesar—for he swooned and fell down at it!
“And as for mine own part,” he says, disgusted, “I durst not laugh for fear of opening my lips and receiving the bad air.”
“But, soft, I pray you!” says Cassius. “What?—did Caesarswoon?”
Caska nods. “He fell down in the market-place, and foamed at mouth, and was speechless!”
Brutus has heard that Caesar is afflicted with epilepsy. “’Tis very likely; he hath the falling sickness.”
“No, Caesar hath it not!” says Cassius angrily. “But you and I, and honest Caska, we have the falling sickness!”
“I know not what you mean by that,” says Caska cautiously, “but I am sure Caesar fell down.” His annoyance grows. “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 wants facts. “What said he when he came unto himself?”
But Caska has a tale to tell. “Marry, before he fell down, when he pretended to the common herd he was glad he refused the crown, he plucked ope his doublet and offered them his throat to cut!
“If I had been a man of any occupation”—a common laborer, “if I would not have taken him at his 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 anything amiss, he desired theirworships to think it was his infirmity!
“Three or four wenches where I stood cried, ‘Alas, goodsoul!’—and forgave him with all their hearts! But there’s no heed to be taken of them!—if Caesar had stabbedtheirmothers they would have done no less!”
“And after that he came thus gravely away?” says Brutus.
Cassius asks, “Did Cicero say anything?” That intellectual senator, long opposed to Caesar, is a renowned orator.
“Aye—he spoke Greek!”
“To what effect?”
Caska laughs. “Nay, if I tell you that I’ll ne’er look you i’ the face again! Those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads—but as for mine own part, it was Greek to me”—a common jest, here with a literal twist.
His eyebrows rise. “I could tell you more news, too! Murellus and Flavius, for pulling scarves off Caesar’s images, are put to silence!” The cloths and laurel headbands they were confiscating suggested crowns.
“Fare you well,” he says, making as if to go. “There was yet more foolery, if I could remember it…” he says coyly.
“Will you sup with me tonight, Caska?” asks Cassius.
“No, I am promised forth.”
Cassius is not dissuaded: “Will you dine with me tomorrow?”
Caska sighs. “Aye, if I be alive, and your mind hold—and your dinner worth the eating!”
“Good. I will expect you.”
“Do so. Farewell, both.” And he goes on his way, to confer with other senators.
Brutus smiles at Caska’s harsh candor. “What a blunt fellow is this grown to be! He was quick-metal”—like mercury, heavy but fluid—“when he went to school!”
“So is he now, in execution of any bold or noble enterprise, however he puts on this sluggish form,” says Cassius. “This rudeness is, to his good wit, a sauce which gives men stomach to digest his words with better appetite.”
Brutus nods slowly. “And so it does.” He has a good idea what else the two may have been discussing. “For this time I will leave you. Tomorrow, 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.”
“I will do so,” says Cassius. “Till then, think of the world!”
Brutus heads for his mansion, pondering what he has just heard.
Cassius watches, calculating. Well, Brutus, thou art noble—yet I see that thy honourable metal may be wrought away from how it is disposèd! Therefore it is meet that noble minds keep ever with their like—for who is so firm as cannot be seduced?
Caesar doth bear me hardly, but he loves Brutus.
Cassius envies the other nobleman’s high standing; his own efforts to find favor have met with frustration. If Iwere Brutus now and he were Cassius, Caesar would honor me!
He intends to proceed with his scheme against Caesar by drawing Brutus into the growing opposition, and by making use of the praetor’s influence and stature.
I will this night in at his windows throw writings in several hands, as if they came from several citizens, all tending to the great opinion that Rome holds of his name—wherein obscurely Caesar’s ambition shall be glancèd at.
And after this, let Caesar seat himself securely—for we will shake him, or worse days endure!