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Julius Caesar

ACT I SCENE II A public place.
Flourish. Enter CAESAR; ANTONY, for the course; CALPURNIA, PORTIA, DECIUS BRUTUS, CICERO, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, and CASCA; a great crowd following, among them a Soothsayer.
CAESAR Calpurnia!
CASCA Peace, ho! Caesar speaks.
CAESAR Calpurnia!
CALPURNIA Here, my lord.
CAESAR Stand you directly in Antonius’ way,
When he doth run his course. Antonius!
ANTONY Caesar, my lord?  5
CAESAR Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,  10
The barren, touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.
ANTONY I shall remember:
When Caesar says ‘do this,’ it is perform’d.
CAESAR Set on; and leave no ceremony out.
Soothsayer Caesar!
CAESAR Ha! who calls?
CASCA Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
CAESAR Who is it in the press that calls on me?  15
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR What man is that?
BRUTUS A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR Set him before me; let me see his face.  20
CASSIUS Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
Sennet. Exeunt all except BRUTUS and CASSIUS.
CASSIUS Will you go see the order of the course?  25
CASSIUS I pray you, do.
BRUTUS I am not gamesome: I do lack some part
Of that quick spirit that is in Antony.
Let me not hinder, Cassius, your desires;  30
I’ll leave you.
CASSIUS Brutus, I do observe you now 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  35
Over your friend that loves you.
BRUTUS Cassius,
Be not deceived: if I have veil’d my look,
I turn the trouble of my countenance
Merely upon myself. Vexed I am
Of late with passions of some difference,  40
Conceptions only proper to myself,
Which give some soil perhaps to my behaviors;
But let not therefore my good friends be grieved–
Among which number, Cassius, be you one–
Nor construe any further my neglect,  45
Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
Forgets the shows of love to other men.
CASSIUS Then, Brutus, I have much mistook your passion;
By means whereof this breast of mine hath buried
Thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations.  50
Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?
BRUTUS No, Cassius; for the eye sees not itself,
But by reflection, by some other things.
CASSIUS ‘Tis just:
And it is very much lamented, Brutus,  55
That you have no such mirrors as will turn
Your hidden worthiness into your eye,
That you might see your shadow. I have heard,
Where many of the best respect in Rome,
Except immortal Caesar, speaking of Brutus  60
And groaning underneath this age’s yoke,
Have wish’d that noble Brutus had his eyes.
BRUTUS Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius,
That you would have me seek into myself
For that which is not in me?  65
CASSIUS Therefore, good Brutus, be prepared to hear:
And since you know you cannot see yourself
So well as by reflection, I, your glass,
Will modestly discover to yourself
That of yourself which you yet know not of.  70
And be not jealous on me, gentle Brutus:
Were I a common laugher, or did use
To stale with ordinary oaths my love
To every new protester; if you know
That I do fawn on men and hug them hard  75
And after scandal them, or if you know
That I profess myself in banqueting
To all the rout, then hold me dangerous.
Flourish, and shout.
BRUTUS What means this shouting? I do fear, the people
Choose Caesar for their king.
CASSIUS Ay, do you fear it?  80
Then must I think you would not have it so.
BRUTUS 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,  85
Set honour in one eye and death i’ the other,
And I will look on both indifferently,
For let the gods so speed me as I love
The name of honour more than I fear death.
CASSIUS I know that virtue to be in you, Brutus,  90
As well as I do know your outward favour.
Well, honour is the subject of my story.
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be  95
In awe of such a thing as I 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,  100
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me ‘Darest thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood,
And swim to yonder point?’ Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plunged in  105
And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
The torrent roar’d, and 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,  110
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 tired Caesar. And this man  115
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature and must bend his body,
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him.
He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him, I did mark  120
How he did shake: ’tis true, this god did shake;
His coward lips did from their colour fly,
And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world
Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan:
Ay, and that tongue of his that bade the Romans  125
Mark him and write his speeches in their books,
Alas, it cried ‘Give me some drink, Titinius,’
As a sick girl. Ye gods, it doth amaze me
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world  130
And bear the palm alone.
Shout. Flourish.
BRUTUS Another general shout!
I do believe that these applauses are
For some new honours that are heap’d on Caesar.
CASSIUS Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men  136
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,  140
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar: what should 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;  145
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ’em,
Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar.
Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed!  150
Rome, thou hast lost the breed 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 say till now, that talk’d of Rome,
That her wide walls encompass’d but one man?  155
Now is it Rome indeed and room enough,
When there is in it but one only man.
O, you and I have heard our fathers say,
There was a Brutus once that would have brook’d
The eternal devil to keep his state in Rome  160
As easily as a king.
BRUTUS That you do love me, I am nothing jealous;
What you would work me to, I have some aim:
How I have thought of this and of these times,
I shall recount hereafter; for this present,  165
I would not, so with love I might entreat you,
Be any further moved. What you have said
I will consider; what you have to say
I will with patience hear, and find a time
Both meet to hear and answer such high things.  170
Till then, my noble friend, chew upon this:
Brutus had rather be a villager
Than to repute himself a son of Rome
Under these hard conditions as this time
Is like to lay upon us.  175
CASSIUS I am glad that my weak words
Have struck but thus much show of fire from Brutus.
BRUTUS The games are done and Caesar is returning.
CASSIUS As they pass by, pluck Casca by the sleeve;
And he will, after his sour fashion, tell you  180
What hath proceeded worthy note to-day.
Re-enter CAESAR and his Train.
BRUTUS I will do so. But, look you, Cassius,
The angry spot doth glow on Caesar’s brow,
And all the rest look like a chidden train:
Calpurnia’s cheek is pale; and Cicero  185
Looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes
As we have seen him in the Capitol,
Being cross’d in conference by some senators.
CASSIUS Casca will tell us what the matter is.
CAESAR Antonius!  190
ANTONY Caesar?
CAESAR Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.  195
ANTONY Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous;
He is a noble Roman and well given.
CAESAR Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid  200
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music;
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort  205
As if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit
That could be moved to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart’s ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.  210
I rather tell thee what is to be fear’d
Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.
Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,
And tell me truly what thou think’st of him.
Sennet. Exeunt CAESAR and all his Train, but CASCA.
CASCA You pull’d me by the cloak; would you speak with me?
BRUTUS Ay, Casca; tell us what hath chanced to-day,
That Caesar looks so sad.
CASCA Why, you were with him, were you not?
BRUTUS I should not then ask Casca what had chanced.
CASCA Why, there was a crown offered him: and being
offered him, he put it by with the back of his hand,
thus; and then the people fell a-shouting.  222
BRUTUS What was the second noise for?
CASCA Why, for that too.
CASSIUS They shouted thrice: what was the last cry for?
CASCA Why, for that too.
BRUTUS Was the crown offered him thrice?
CASCA Ay, marry, was’t, and he put it by thrice, every
time gentler than other, and at every putting-by
mine honest neighbours shouted.  230
CASSIUS Who offered him the crown?
CASCA Why, Antony.
BRUTUS Tell us the manner of it, gentle Casca.
CASCA I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it:
it was mere foolery; I did not mark it. 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 had it. Then he
offered it to him again; then he put it by again:
but, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his
fingers off it. And then he offered it the third
time; he put it the third time by: and still as he
refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their
chapped hands and threw up their sweaty night-caps
and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because
Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked
Caesar; for he swounded and fell down at it: and
for mine own part, I durst not laugh, for fear of
opening my lips and receiving the bad air.  248
CASSIUS But, soft, I pray you: what, did Caesar swound?
CASCA He fell down in the market-place, and foamed at
mouth, and was speechless.
BRUTUS ‘Tis very like: he hath the failing sickness.
CASSIUS No, Caesar hath it not; but you and I,
And honest Casca, we have the falling sickness.
CASCA I know not what you mean by that; but, I am sure,
Caesar fell down. 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 What said he when he came unto himself?  260
CASCA Marry, before he fell down, when he perceived the
common herd was glad he refused the crown, he
plucked me ope his doublet and offered them his
throat to cut. An I had been a man of any
occupation, if I would not have taken him at a 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 any thing amiss, he desired
their worships to think it was his infirmity. Three
or four wenches, where I stood, cried ‘Alas, good
soul!’ and forgave him with all their hearts: but
there’s no heed to be taken of them; if Caesar had
stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less.  272
BRUTUS And after that, he came, thus sad, away?
CASSIUS Did Cicero say any thing?  275
CASCA Ay, he spoke Greek.
CASSIUS To what effect?
CASCA Nay, an I tell you that, Ill ne’er look you i’ the
face again: but those that understood him smiled at
one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own  280
part, it was Greek to me. I could tell you more
news too: Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarfs
off Caesar’s images, are put to silence. Fare you
well. There was more foolery yet, if I could
remember it.
CASSIUS Will you sup with me to-night, Casca?  285
CASCA No, I am promised forth.
CASSIUS Will you dine with me to-morrow?
CASCA Ay, if I be alive and your mind hold and your dinner
worth the eating.
CASSIUS Good: I will expect you.
CASCA Do so. Farewell, both.
BRUTUS What a blunt fellow is this grown to be!
He was quick mettle when he went to school.
CASSIUS So is he now in execution
Of any bold or noble enterprise,  295
However he puts on this tardy form.
This rudeness is a sauce to his good wit,
Which gives men stomach to digest his words
With better appetite.
BRUTUS And so it is. For this time I will leave you:  300
To-morrow, 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.
CASSIUS I will do so: till then, think of the world.
Well, Brutus, thou art noble; yet, I see,  305
Thy honourable metal may be wrought
From that it is disposed: therefore it is meet
That noble minds keep ever with their likes;
For who so firm that cannot be seduced?
Caesar doth bear me hard; but he loves Brutus:
If I were Brutus now and he were Cassius,
He should not humour me. I will this night,
In several hands, in at his windows throw,
As if they came from several citizens,
Writings all tending to the great opinion  315
That Rome holds of his name; wherein obscurely
Caesar’s ambition shall be glanced at:
And after this let Caesar seat him sure;
For we will shake him, or worse days endure.

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2

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

3. Antonius’: The ‘Antonio’s’ of the Folios is the Italian form with which both actors and audience would be more familiar. So in IV, iii, 102, the Folios read “dearer than Pluto’s (i.e. Plutus’) mine.” Antonius was at this time Consul, as Cæsar himself also was. Each Roman gens had its own priesthood, and also its peculiar religious rites. The priests of the Julian gens (so named from Iulus the son of Æneas) had lately been advanced to the same rank with those of the god Lupercus; and Antony was at this time at their head. It was probably as chief of the Julian Luperci that he officiated on this occasion, stripped, as the old stage direction has it, “for the course.”

8-9. It was an old custom at these festivals for the priests, naked except for a girdle about the loins, to run through the streets of the city, waving in the hand a thong of goat’s hide, and striking with it such women as offered themselves for the blow, in the belief that this would prevent or avert “the sterile curse.” Cæsar was at this time childless; his only daughter, Julia, married to Pompey the Great, having died some years before, upon the birth of her first child, who also died soon after.

19. Coleridge has a remark on this line, which, whether true to the subject or not, is very characteristic of the writer: “If my ear does not deceive me, the metre of this line was meant to express that sort of mild philosophic contempt, characterizing Brutus even in his first casual speech.”–soothsayer. By derivation, ‘truth teller.’

24. Sennet: This is an expression occurring repeatedly in old stage directions. It is of uncertain origin (but cf. ‘signature’ in musical notation) and denotes a peculiar succession of notes on a trumpet, used, as here, to signal the march of a procession.

35. You hold me too hard on the bit, like a strange rider who is doubtful of his steed, and not like one who confides in his faithful horse, and so rides him with an easy rein. See note on l. 310.

36. Caius Cassius Longinus had married Junia, a sister of Brutus. Both had lately stood for the chief prætorship of the city, and Brutus, through Cæsar’s favor, had won it; though Cassius was at the same time elected one of the sixteen prætors or judges of the city. This is said to have produced a coldness between Brutus and Cassius, so that they did not speak to each other, till this extraordinary flight of patriotism brought them together.

40. passions of some difference: conflicting emotions.

41. only proper to myself: belonging exclusively to myself.

42. give some soil to: to a certain extent tarnish.–behaviours. Shakespeare often uses abstract nouns in the plural. This usage is common in Carlyle. Here, however, and elsewhere in Shakespeare, as in Much Ado about Nothing, II, iii, 100, the plural ‘behaviours’ may be regarded as denoting the particular acts which make up what we call ‘behavior.’ See Clar.

48. mistook: The en of the termination of the past participle of strong verbs is often dropped, and when the resulting word might be mistaken for the infinitive, the form of the past tense is frequently substituted.–passion. Shakespeare uses ‘passion’ for any feeling, sentiment, or emotion, whether painful or pleasant. So in Henry V, II, ii. 132: “Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger.”

49. By means whereof: and because of my mistaking it. ‘Means’ was sometimes used in the sense of ’cause.’

53. Except by an image or ‘shadow’ (l. 68; cf. Venus and Adonis, 162) reflected from a mirror, or from water, or some polished surface. Cf. Troilus and Cressida, III, iii, 105-111.

53. Except by an image or ‘shadow’ (l. 68; cf. Venus and Adonis, 162) reflected from a mirror, or from water, or some polished surface. Cf. Troilus and Cressida, III, iii, 105-111.

59. Where: The adverb is here used of occasion, not of place.–of the best respect: held in the highest estimation.

60.Except immortal Cæsar. Keen, double-edged irony.

71. jealous on: suspicious of. In Shakespeare we find ‘on’ and ‘of’ used indifferently, even in the same sentence, as in Hamlet, IV, v, 200. Cf. Macbeth, I, iii, 84; Sonnets, LXXXIV, 14. See Abbott, § 181.

72. laughter: laughing-stock. Although most modern editors have adopted Rowe’s emendation, ‘laugher,’ the reading of the Folios is perfectly intelligible and thoroughly Shakespearian. Cf. IV, iii, 114.

73. To stale: to make common by frequent repetition, to cheapen. So again in IV, i, 38. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, 240.

74. ‘To protest’ is used by Shakespeare in the sense of ‘to profess,’ ‘to declare,’ ‘to vow,’ as in All’s Well that Ends Well, IV, ii, 28, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I, i, 89. The best commentary on ll. 72-74 is Hamlet, I, iii, 64-65: “But do not dull thy palm with entertainment Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade.”

87. “Warburton would read ‘death’ for ‘both’; but I prefer the old text. There are here three things, the public good, the individual Brutus’ honour, and his death. The latter two so balanced each other, that he could decide for the first by equipoise; nay–the thought growing–that honour had more weight than death.”–Coleridge.–indifferently: without emotion. ‘Impartially.’–Clar.

88. speed: prosper, bless. So in II, iv, 41. “The notion of ‘haste’ which now belongs to the word is apparently a derived sense. It is thus curiously parallel to the Latinexpedio, with which some would connect it etymologically…. The proverb ‘more haste, worse speed’ shows that haste and speed are not the same.”–Clar.

91. favour: appearance. The word has often this meaning in Shakespeare. Cf. ‘well-favored,’ ‘ill-favored,’ and such a provincial expression as ‘the child favors his father.’

95. lief: readily. The pronunciation of the f as v brings out the quibble. From the Anglo-Saxon léof, ‘dear.’ See Murray.

101. chafing: See Skeat for the interesting development of the meanings of the verb ‘chafe (Fr. chauffer),’ which Shakespeare uses twenty times, sometimes transitively, sometimes intransitively.

109. hearts of controversy: controversial hearts, emulation. In Shakespeare are many similar constructions and expressions. Cf. ‘passions of some difference,’ l. 40, and ‘mind of love’ for ‘loving mind,’ The Merchant of Venice, II, viii, 42.

110. arrive the point: In sixteenth and early seventeenth century literature the omission of the preposition with verbs of motion is common. Cf. ‘pass the streets’ in I, i, 44.

119. In Elizabethan literature ‘fever’ is often used for sickness in general as well as for what is now specifically called a fever. Cæsar had three several campaigns in Spain at different periods of his life, and the text does not show which of these Shakespeare had in mind. One passage in Plutarch indicates that Cæsar was first taken with the ‘falling-sickness’ during his third campaign, which closed with the great battle of Munda, March 17, B.C. 45. See note, p. 25, l. 252, and quotation from Plutarch, p. 26, l. 268.

122. The image, very bold, somewhat forced, and not altogether happy, is of a cowardly soldier running away from his flag.

123. bend: look. So in Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii, 213: “tended her i’ the eyes, And made their bends adornings.” In Shakespeare the verb ‘bend,’ when used of the eyes, has usually the sense of ‘direct,’ as in Hamlet, II, i, 100: “bended their light on me”; III, iv, 117: “That you do bend your eye on vacancy.”

124. his: its. ‘Its’ was just creeping into use at the close of the sixteenth century. It does not occur once in the King James version of the Bible as originally printed; it occurs ten times in the First Folio, generally in the form ‘it’s’; it occurs only three times in Milton’s poetry. See Masson’s Essay on Milton’s English; Abbott, § 228; Sweet’sNew English Grammar, § 1101.

129. temper: temperament, constitution. “The lean and wrinkled Cassius” venting his spite at Cæsar, by ridiculing his liability to sickness and death, is charmingly characteristic. The mighty Cæsar, with all his electric energy of mind and will, was of a rather fragile and delicate make; and his countenance, as we have it in authentic busts, is of almost feminine beauty. Cicero, who did not love him at all, in one of hisLetters applies to him the Greek word that is used for ‘miracle’ or ‘wonder’ in the New Testament; the English of the passage being, “This miracle (monster?) is a thing of terrible energy, swiftness, diligence.”

135. Observe the force of ‘narrow’ here; as if Cæsar were grown so enormously big that even the world seemed a little thing under him. Some while before this, the Senate had erected a bronze statue of Cæsar, standing on a globe, and inscribed to “Cæsar the Demigod,” but this inscription Cæsar erased.

136. It is only a legend that the bronze Colossus of Rhodes bestrode the entrance to the famous harbor. The story probably arose from the statement that the figure, which represented Helios, the national deity of the Rhodians, was so high that a ship might sail between its legs.

140. In Shakespeare are many such allusions to the tenets of the old astrology and the belief in planetary influence upon the fortunes and characters of men which Scott describes in the Introduction to Guy Mannering and makes the atmosphere of the story.

142. should be: can be. So in The Tempest, I, ii, 387: “Where should this music be? i’ the air or the earth?”

146-147. The allusion is to the old custom of muttering certain names, supposed to have in them “the might of magic spells,” in raising or conjuring up spirits.

152. the great flood: By this an ancient Roman would understand the universal deluge of classical mythology, from which only Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha escaped alive. The story is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I. Shakespeare mentions Deucalion twice.

155. walks: The reasons why Rowe’s emendation, ‘walls,’ is almost universally accepted, are that ‘walls’ would be easily corrupted into ‘walks’ from the nearness of ‘talk’d,’ and that there is a disagreeable assonance in ‘talk’d’ and ‘walks’ in successive lines. But ‘walks’ is picturesque and poetical; compared with it, ‘walls’ is commonplace and obvious. Cf. Paradise Lost, IV, 586.

156. A play upon ‘Rome’ and ‘room,’ which appear to have been sounded more alike in Shakespeare’s time than they are now. So again in III, i, 289-290: “A dangerous Rome, No Rome of safety for Octavius yet.” Cf. also King John, III, i, 180.

159. The allusion is to Lucius Junius Brutus, who bore a leading part in driving out the Tarquins and in turning the kingdom into a republic. Afterwards, as consul, he condemned his own sons to death for attempting to restore the kingdom. The Marcus Junius Brutus of the play, according to Plutarch, supposed himself to be descended from him. His mother, Servilia, also derived her lineage from Servilius Ahala, who slew Spurius Mælius for aspiring to royalty. Merivale remarks that “the name of Brutus forced its possessor into prominence as soon as royalty began to be discussed.”–brook’d: endured, tolerated. See Murray for the history of this word.

160. eternal: Johnson suggested ‘infernal.’ Dr. Wright (Clar.) points out that in three plays printed in 1600 Shakespeare uses ‘infernal,’ but substitutes ‘eternal’ in Julius CæsarHamlet, and Othello, in obedience probably to the popular Puritan agitation against profanity on the stage. This has been used as evidence to determine dates of composition. See Introduction, page xx. Cf. with this use of ‘eternal’ the old Yankee term ‘tarnal’ in such expressions as ‘tarnal scamp,’ ‘tarnal shame,’ etc.

162. am nothing jealous: do not doubt. Cf. l. 71. ‘Jealous’ and ‘zealous’ are etymologically the same word. See Skeat.

163. work me to: prevail upon me to do. Cf. _Hamlet_, IV, vii, 64.–/aim:/ guess. Cf.The Two Gentlemen of Verona, III, i, 28. Similarly with the verb in Romeo and Juliet, I, i, 211; Othello, III, iii, 223.

171. ‘To chew’ is, literally, in the Latin equivalent, ‘to ruminate.’ Cf. As You Like It, IV, iii, 102: “Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy.” In Bacon’s Essays, Of Studies, we have, with reference to books: “Some few are to be chewed and digested.” So in Lyly’s Euphues: “Philantus went into the fields to walk there, either to digest his choler, or chew upon his melancholy.”

174. these … as: See note, l. 34; Abbott, §§ 112, 280.

177. In Troilus and Cressida, III, iii, 256, Thersites says of the wit of Ajax: “It lies as coldly in him as fire in a flint, which will not show without knocking.” The same figure is found in the description which Brutus gives of his unimpassioned nature, IV, iii, 112-114.

181. proceeded: happened, come to pass. So in All’s Well that Ends Well, IV, ii, 62.–worthy note. Cf. All’s Well that Ends Well, III, v, 104. For the ellipsis of the preposition, see Abbott, § 198 a.

186. One of the marked physical characteristics of the albinotic ferret is the red or pink eye. Shakespeare turns the noun ‘ferret’ into an adjective. The description of Cicero is purely imaginary; but the angry spot on Cæsar’s brow, Calpurnia’s pale cheek, and Cicero with fire in his eyes when kindled by opposition in the Senate, make an exceedingly vivid picture.

192-195. “Another time when Cæsar’s friends complained unto him of Antonius and Dolabella, that they pretended some mischief towards him, he answered them again, As for those fat men, and smooth-combed heads, quoth he, I never reckon of them; but these pale visaged and carrion lean people, I fear them most; meaning Brutus and Cassius.”–Plutarch, Julius Cæsar. There are similar passages in Plutarch’s Life of Brutus and in the Life of Marcus Antonius. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, III, xi, 37. Falstaff’s famous cry was for ‘spare men.’ See 2 Henry IV, III, ii, 288. ‘Sleek-headed’ recalls Lamb’s wish that the baby son of the tempestuous Hazlitt should be “like his father, with something of a better temper and a smoother head of hair.”

197. well given: well disposed. So in 2 Henry VI, III, i, 72.

203. he loves no plays: “In his house they did nothing but feast, dance, and masque; and himself passed away the time in hearing of foolish plays, and in marrying these players, tumblers, jesters, and such sort of people.”–Plutarch, Marcus Antonius.

204. The power of music is repeatedly celebrated by Shakespeare, and sometimes in strains that approximate the classical hyperboles about Orpheus, Amphion, and Arion. What is here said of Cassius has an apt commentary in The Merchant of Venice, V, 1, 83-85:

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.

213. This is one of the little touches of invention that so often impart a fact-like vividness to Shakespeare’s scenes.

217. sad: The word is used here probably in its early sense of ‘weary’ (as in Middle English) or ‘resolute’ (as in Chaucer and old Ballads). In 2 Henry IV, V, i, 92, is the expression “a jest with a sad brow,” where ‘sad’ evidently means ‘wise,’ ‘sage.’

249. soft! This is an elliptical use of the adverb ‘soft’ and was much used as an exclamation for arresting or retarding the speed of a person or thing; meaning about the same as ‘hold!’ ‘stay!’ or ‘not too fast!’ So in Othello, V, ii, 338: “Soft you; a word or two before you go”; and The Merchant of Venice, IV, i, 320: “Soft! The Jew shall have all justice; soft! no haste.”

252. falling-sickness: An old English name for epilepsy (Lat. morbus caducus, German fallende Sucht) used by North in translating Plutarch. Another form of the word is ‘falling-evil,’ also used by North (see quotation, p. 26, l. 268). It is an interesting fact that the best authorities allow that Napoleon suffered from epileptic seizures towards the close of his life.

256. tag-rag people: Cf. ‘the tag’ in Coriolanus, III, i, 248.

259. true: honest. Shakespeare frequently uses ‘true’ in this sense, especially as opposed to ‘thief.’ Cf. Cymbeline, II, iii, 76; Venus and Adonis, 724: “Rich preys make true men thieves.”

261. Marry: The common Elizabethan exclamation of surprise, or asseveration, corrupted from the name of the Virgin Mary.

263. me: The ethical dative. Cf. III, iii, 18; The Merchant of Venice, I, iii, 85; Romeo and Juliet, III, i, 6. See Abbott, § 220.–doublet. This was the common English name of a man’s outer body-garment. Shakespeare dresses his Romans like Elizabethan Englishmen (cf. II, i, 73-74), but the expression ‘doublet-collar’ occurs in North’s Plutarch (see quotation in note on ll. 268-270).–And: if. For ‘and’ in this sense, see Murray, and Abbott, § 101.

264. a man of any occupation: This probably means not only a mechanic or user of cutting-tools, but also a man of business and of action, as distinguished from a gentleman of leisure, or an idler.

265-266. to hell among the rogues: The early English drama abounds in examples of such historical confusion. For example, in the Towneley Miracle Plays Noah’s wife swears by the Virgin Mary.

268-270. “Thereupon Cæsar rising departed home to his house; and, tearing open his doublet-collar, making his neck bare, he cried out aloud to his friends, that his throat was ready to offer to any man that would come and cut it…. Afterwards, to excuse his folly, he imputed it to his disease, saying that their wits are not perfect which have this disease of the falling-evil.”–Plutarch, Julius Cæsar.

275-281. A charming invention, though in his Life of Cicero Plutarch refers to the orator’s nicknames, ‘Grecian’ and ‘scholer,’ due to his ability to “declaim in Greek.” Cicero had a sharp, agile tongue, and was fond of using it; and nothing was more natural than that he should snap off some keen, sententious sayings, prudently veiling them, however, in a foreign language from all but those who might safely understand them.–Greek to me. ‘Greek,’ often ‘heathen Greek,’ was a common Elizabethan expression for unintelligible speech. In Dekker’s Grissil (1600) occurs “It’s Greek to him.” So in Dickens’s Barnaby Rudge: “this is Greek to me.”

286. I am promis’d forth: I have promised to go out. ‘Forth’ is often used in this way in Elizabethan literature without any verb of motion. Cf. The Merchant of Venice, II, v, 11. See Abbott, § 41.

292. blunt: dull, slow. Or there may be a quibble involved in connection with ‘mettle’ in the next line. Brutus alludes to the ‘tardy form’ (l. 296) Casca has just ‘put on’ in winding so long about the matter before coming to the point.

293. quick mettle: lively spirit. Collier conjectured ‘quick-mettl’d.’ ‘Mettlesome’ is still used of spirited horses. Cf. I, i, 63.

296. However: notwithstanding. Cf. Troilus and Cressida, I, iii, 322.–tardy form:appearance of tardiness. The construction in this expression is common in Shakespeare, as ‘shady stealth’ for ‘stealing shadow,’ in Sonnets, LXXVII, 7; ‘negligent danger’ for ‘danger from negligence,’ in Antony and Cleopatra, III, v, 81.

307. that it is dispos’d: that which it is disposed to. For the omission of prepositions in Shakespeare, see Abbott, §§ 198-202. Cassius in this speech is chuckling over the effect his talk has had upon Brutus.

310. bear me hard: has a grudge against me. This remarkable expression occurs three times in this play, but nowhere else in Shakespeare. Professor Hales quotes an example of it from Ben Jonson’s Catiline, IV, v. It seems to have been borrowed from horsemanship, and to mean ‘carries tight rein,’ or ‘reins hard,’ like one who distrusts his horse. So before, ll. 35, 36:

You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
Over your friend that loves you.

312. humour: To ‘humor’ a man, as the word is here used, is to turn and wind and manage him by watching his moods and crotchets, and to touch him accordingly. It is somewhat in doubt whether the ‘he’ in the preceding line refers to Brutus or to Cæsar. If to Brutus, the meaning of course is: he should not play upon my humors and fancies as I do upon his. And this sense is fairly required by the context, for the whole speech is occupied with the speaker’s success in cajoling Brutus, and with plans for cajoling and shaping him still further. Johnson refers ‘he’ to Cæsar.

313. hands: handwritings. So the word is used colloquially to-day.

319. We will either shake him, or endure worse days in suffering the consequences of our attempt.–Shakespeare makes Cassius overflow with intense personal spite against Cæsar. This is in accordance with what he read in North’s Plutarch.


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