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Julius Caesar

ACT V SCENE I The plains of Philippi.
Enter OCTAVIUS, ANTONY, and their army.
OCTAVIUS Now, Antony, our hopes are answered:
You said the enemy would not come down,
But keep the hills and upper regions;
It proves not so: their battles are at hand;
They mean to warn us at Philippi here,  5
Answering before we do demand of them.
ANTONY Tut, I am in their bosoms, and I know
Wherefore they do it: they could be content
To visit other places; and come down
With fearful bravery, thinking by this face  10
To fasten in our thoughts that they have courage;
But ’tis not so.
Enter a Messenger.
Messenger Prepare you, generals:
The enemy comes on in gallant show;
Their bloody sign of battle is hung out,
And something to be done immediately.  15
ANTONY Octavius, lead your battle softly on,
Upon the left hand of the even field.
OCTAVIUS Upon the right hand I; keep thou the left.
ANTONY Why do you cross me in this exigent?  19
OCTAVIUS I do not cross you; but I will do so.
Drum. Enter BRUTUS, CASSIUS, and their Army; LUCILIUS, TITINIUS, MESSALA, and others.
BRUTUS They stand, and would have parley.
CASSIUS Stand fast, Titinius: we must out and talk.
OCTAVIUS Mark Antony, shall we give sign of battle?
ANTONY No, Caesar, we will answer on their charge.
Make forth; the generals would have some words.  25
OCTAVIUS Stir not until the signal.
BRUTUS Words before blows: is it so, countrymen?
OCTAVIUS Not that we love words better, as you do.
BRUTUS Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius.
ANTONY In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words:
Witness the hole you made in Caesar’s heart,
Crying ‘Long live! hail, Caesar!’
The posture of your blows are yet unknown;
But for your words, they rob the Hybla bees,
And leave them honeyless.
ANTONY Not stingless too.  35
BRUTUS O, yes, and soundless too;
For you have stol’n their buzzing, Antony,
And very wisely threat before you sting.
ANTONY Villains, you did not so, when your vile daggers
Hack’d one another in the sides of Caesar:  40
You show’d your teeth like apes, and fawn’d like hounds,
And bow’d like bondmen, kissing Caesar’s feet;
Whilst damned Casca, like a cur, behind
Struck Caesar on the neck. O you flatterers!
CASSIUS Flatterers! Now, Brutus, thank yourself:  45
This tongue had not offended so to-day,
If Cassius might have ruled.
OCTAVIUS Come, come, the cause: if arguing make us sweat,
The proof of it will turn to redder drops. Look;
I draw a sword against conspirators;
When think you that the sword goes up again?
Never, till Caesar’s three and thirty wounds
Be well avenged; or till another Caesar
Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors.  55
BRUTUS Caesar, thou canst not die by traitors’ hands,
Unless thou bring’st them with thee.
I was not born to die on Brutus’ sword.
BRUTUS O, if thou wert the noblest of thy strain,
Young man, thou couldst not die more honourable.  60
CASSIUS A peevish schoolboy, worthless of such honour,
Join’d with a masker and a reveller!
ANTONY Old Cassius still!
OCTAVIUS Come, Antony, away!
Defiance, traitors, hurl we in your teeth:
If you dare fight to-day, come to the field;  65
If not, when you have stomachs.
Exeunt OCTAVIUS, ANTONY, and their army.
CASSIUS Why, now, blow wind, swell billow and swim bark!
The storm is up, and all is on the hazard.
BRUTUS Ho, Lucilius! hark, a word with you.
LUCILIUS Standing forth. My lord?  70
BRUTUS and LUCILIUS converse apart.
CASSIUS Messala!
CASSIUS Messala,
This is my birth-day; as this very day
Was Cassius born. Give me thy hand, Messala:
Be thou my witness that against my will,
As Pompey was, am I compell’d to set  75
Upon one battle all our liberties.
You know that I held Epicurus strong
And his opinion: now I change my mind,
And partly credit things that do presage.
Coming from Sardis, on our former ensign  80
Two mighty eagles fell, and there they perch’d,
Gorging and feeding from our soldiers’ hands;
Who to Philippi here consorted us:
This morning are they fled away and gone;
And in their steads do ravens, crows and kites,  85
Fly o’er our heads and downward look on us,
As we were sickly prey: their shadows seem
A canopy most fatal, under which
Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost.
MESSALA Believe not so.
CASSIUS I but believe it partly;  90
For I am fresh of spirit and resolved
To meet all perils very constantly.
BRUTUS Even so, Lucilius.
CASSIUS Now, most noble Brutus,
The gods to-day stand friendly, that we may,
Lovers in peace, lead on our days to age!
But since the affairs of men rest still incertain,
Let’s reason with the worst that may befall.
If we do lose this battle, then is this
The very last time we shall speak together:
What are you then determined to do?  100
BRUTUS Even by the rule of that philosophy
By which I did blame Cato for the death
Which he did give himself, I know not how,
But I do find it cowardly and vile,
For fear of what might fall, so to prevent
The time of life: arming myself with patience
To stay the providence of some high powers
That govern us below.
CASSIUS Then, if we lose this battle,
You are contented to be led in triumph
Thorough the streets of Rome?  110
BRUTUS No, Cassius, no: think not, thou noble Roman,
That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome;
He bears too great a mind. But this same day
Must end that work the ides of March begun;
And whether we shall meet again I know not.
Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then, this parting was well made.
CASSIUS For ever, and for ever, farewell, Brutus!  120
If we do meet again, we’ll smile indeed;
If not, ’tis true this parting was well made.
BRUTUS Why, then, lead on. O, that a man might know
The end of this day’s business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,  125
And then the end is known. Come, ho! away!

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1

From Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.

4. battles: troops, battalions. ‘Battle’ was used for an ‘army,’ especially an army embattled, or ordered in battle array. The plural is here used with historical correctness, as Brutus and Cassius had each an army; the two armies of course coöperating, and acting together as one. Cf. ‘battle’ in l. 16 and ‘battles’ in V, iii, 108.

5. warn: summon to fight. Cf. King John, II, i, 201. In Richard III, I, iii, 39, we have “warn them to his royal presence.”

7. am in their bosoms: am familiar with their intention.

10. bravery: bravado, defiance. The epithet ‘fearful’ probably means that fear is behind the attempt to intimidate by display and brag. Dr. Wright interprets ‘bravery’ as ‘ostentation,’ ‘display.’

14. bloody sign: “The next morning, by break of day, the signal of battle was set out in Brutus’ and Cassius’ camp, which was an arming scarlet coat.”–Plutarch, Marcus Brutus.

17. Plutarch tells that Cassius, though the more experienced soldier, allowed Brutus to lead the right wing. “Shakespeare made use of this incident, but transferred to the opposite camp, in order to bring out the character of Octavius which made Antony yield. Octavius really commanded the left wing.”–Clar.

19. exigent: exigency. So in Antony and Cleopatra, IV, xiv, 63.

20. I will do so: I will do as I have said. Not ‘I will cross you.’ At this time Octavius was but twenty-one years old, and Antony was old enough to be his father. At the time of Cæsar’s death, when Octavius was in his nineteenth year, Antony thought he was going to manage him easily and have it all his own way with him; but he found the youngster as stiff as a crowbar, and could do nothing with him. Cæsar’s youngest sister, Julia, was married to Marcus Atius Balbus, and their daughter Atia, again, was married to Caius Octavius, a nobleman of the plebeian order. From this marriage sprang the present Octavius, who afterwards became the Emperor Augustus. He was mainly educated by his great-uncle, was advanced to the patrician order, and was adopted as his son and heir; so that his full and proper designation at this time was Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus. The text gives a right taste of the man, who always stood firm as a post against Antony, till the latter finally knocked himself to pieces against him.

33. The posture of your blows: where your blows are to fall.– are. The verb is attracted into the plural by the nearest substantive. Cf. ‘was,’ IV, iii, 5. Abbott calls this idiom ‘confusion of proximity.’

34.: Hybla, a hill in Sicily, was noted for its thyme and its honey. So Vergil, Eclogues, I, 54-55: “the hedge whose willow bloom is quaffed by Hybla’s bees.” Cf. 1 Henry IV, I, ii, 47: “As the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle.” Antony could not be so ‘honey-tongued’ unless he had quite exhausted thyme-flavored Hybla.

39-44. These graphic details are from Plutarch’s two accounts (in Julius Cæsar andMarcus Brutus) of the assassination of Cæsar.

48. Octavius has been a standing puzzle and enigma to the historians, from the seeming contradictions of his character. Merivale declares that the one principle that gave unity to his life and reconciled those contradictions, was a steadfast, inflexible purpose to avenge the murder of his illustrious uncle and adoptive father.

52. goes up: is put into its sheath. Cf. John, XVIII, 11.

53. The number of Cæsar’s wounds, according to Plutarch, was three and twenty, and to ‘three and twenty’ Theobald, craving historical accuracy, changed the ‘three and thirty’ of the text.

55. Till you, traitors as you are, have added the slaughtering of me, another Cæsar, to that of Julius. See note, p. 145, l. 20.

59. strain: stock, lineage, race. So in Henry V, II, iv, 51:

And he is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths.

61. Shakespeare often uses ‘peevish’ in the sense of ‘silly,’ ‘foolish.’ So in The Comedy of Errors, IV, i, 93. A foolish schoolboy, joined with a masker and reveler (for Antony’s reputation, see I, ii, 204; II, i, 188, 189; II, ii, 116), and unworthy even of that honor.

66. stomachs: appetite, inclination, courage. So in Henry V, IV, iii, 35: “He which hath no stomach to this fight.”

72. ‘As’ is often used redundantly with definitions of time. This is still a provincialism. See Abbott, § 114. “Messala writeth, that Cassius having spoken these last words unto him, he bade him farewell, and willed him to come to supper to him the next night following, because it was his birthday.”–Plutarch, Marcus Brutus.

75. Alluding to the battle of Pharsalia, which took place in the year B.C. 48. Pompey was forced into that battle, against his better judgment, by the inexperienced and impatient men about him, who, inasmuch as they had more than twice Cæsar’s number of troops, fancied they could easily defeat him if they could but meet him. So they tried it, and he quickly defeated them.

77. I was strongly attached to the doctrines of Epicurus. “Cassius being in opinion an Epicurean, and reasoning thereon with Brutus, spake to him touching the vision thus: ‘In our sect, Brutus, we have an opinion, that we do not always feel or see that which we suppose we do both see and feel, but that our senses, being credulous and therefore easily abused … imagine they see and conjecture that which in truth they do not.'”–Plutarch, Marcus Brutus.

80. former: first. Cf. “former things passed away.” “When they raised their camp there came two eagles, that, flying with a marvellous force, lighted upon two of the foremost ensigns, and always followed the soldiers, which gave them meat and fed them, until they came near to the city of Philippes; and there, one day only before the battle, they both flew away.”–Plutarch, Marcus Brutus.

111. Two lines in Ff.

105-106. prevent the time: anticipate the full, natural period. To the understanding of this speech, it must be observed that the sense of the words, ‘arming myself,’ etc., follows next after the words, ‘which he did give himself.’ In this passage, as Dr. Wright (Clar.) has pointed out, Shakespeare was misled by an error in North’s version of Amyot’s Plutarch, where we have feis (= fis) translated as if it were from fier: “Brutus answered him, being yet but a young man, and not over greatly experienced in the world; ‘I trust (I know not how) a certain rule of philosophy, by the which I did greatly blame … Cato for killing himself, as being no lawful nor godly act, touching the gods; nor, concerning men, valiant: but, being now in the midst of the danger, I am of a contrary mind.'”–Plutarch, Marcus Brutus. Wright, in his note on this passage, shows how the true meaning is obscured by bad printing and punctuation. Brutus’s answer begins really with, ‘Being yet but a young man’; and ‘I trust’ is evidently a past tense (Old English ‘truste’) which must have been read by Shakespeare as the present.



How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.