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Julius Caesar

Thunder and lightning. Enter CAESAR, in his night-gown.
CAESARNor 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.
ServantMy lord?
CAESARGo bid the priests do present sacrifice 5
And bring me their opinions of success.
ServantI will, my lord.
CALPURNIAWhat mean you, Caesar? think you to walk forth?
You shall not stir out of your house to-day. 9
CAESARCaesar 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.
CALPURNIACaesar, 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.
CAESARWhat 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.
CALPURNIAWhen beggars die, there are no comets seen; 30
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
CAESARCowards 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?
ServantThey 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
CAESARThe 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.
CALPURNIAAlas, 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.
CAESARMark 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 BRUTUSCaesar, all hail! good morrow, worthy Caesar:
I come to fetch you to the senate-house.
CAESARAnd 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.
CALPURNIASay he is sick.
CAESARShall 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 BRUTUSMost mighty Caesar, let me know some cause,
Lest I be laugh’d at when I tell them so. 70
CAESARThe 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 BRUTUSThis 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
CAESARAnd this way have you well expounded it.
DECIUS BRUTUSI 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
CAESARHow 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.
PUBLIUSGood morrow, Caesar.
CAESARWelcome, 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?
BRUTUSCaesar, ’tis strucken eight.
CAESARI thank you for your pains and courtesy.
See! Antony, that revels long o’ nights,
Is notwithstanding up. Good morrow, Antony.
ANTONYSo to most noble Caesar.
CAESARBid 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.
TREBONIUSCaesar, I will:
and so near will I be,
That your best friends shall wish I had been further. 125
CAESARGood friends, go in, and taste some wine with me;
And we, like friends, will straightway go together.
BRUTUSAside. 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. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.

This scene, taken with the preceding, affords an interesting study in contrasts: Cæsar and Brutus; Calpurnia the yielding wife, and Portia the heroic.

Enter CÆSAR in his night-gown.’ Night-gown’ here, as in Macbeth, II, ii, 70, V, 1, 5, means ‘dressing-robe’ or ‘dressing-gown.’ This is the usual meaning of the word in English from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth. So Addison and Steele use it inThe Spectator.

2. In Plutarch the scene is thus graphically described: “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 Cæsar was slain…. Cæsar 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 Cæsar 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.”–Julius Cæsar.

6. success: the result. The root notion of the word. See note, p. 65, l. 324. But in V, iii, 65, the word is used in its modern sense.

13. ‘Ceremonies’ is here put for the ceremonial or sacerdotal interpretation of prodigies and omens, as in II, i, 197.

16-24.: Cf. Hamlet, I, i, 113-125; Vergil, Georgics, I, 465-488.

22. hurtled: clashed. The onomatopoetic ‘hurtling’ is used in As You Like It, IV, iii, 132, to describe the clashing encounter between Orlando and the lioness. Chaucer, in The Knightes Tale l. 1758, uses the verb transitively, suggesting a diminutive of ‘hurt’:

And he him hurtleth with his horse adown.

33. taste of death: This expression occurs thrice in the New Testament (King James version). Plutarch relates that, a short time before Cæsar fell, some of his friends urged him to have a guard about him, and he replied that it was better to die at once than live in the continual fear of death. He is also said to have given as his reason for refusing a guard, that he thought Rome had more need of him than he of Rome. “And the very day before, Cæsar, supping with Marcus Lepidus, sealed certain letters, as he was wont to do, at the board: so, talk falling out amongst them, reasoning what death was best, he, preventing their opinions, cried out aloud, ‘Death unlooked for.'”–Plutarch, Julius Cæsar.

76. to-night: last night. So in The Merchant of Venice, II, v, 18.–statue. In Shakespeare’s time ‘statue’ was pronounced indifferently as a word of two syllables or three. Bacon uses it repeatedly as a trisyllable, and spells it ‘statua,’ as in hisAdvancement of Learning: “It is not possible to have the true pictures or statuaes of Cyrus, Alexander, Cæsar, no, nor of the kings or great personages.”

88-89. In ancient times, when martyrs or other distinguished men were executed, their friends often pressed to stain handkerchiefs with their blood, or to get some other relic, which they might keep, either as precious memorials of them, or as having a kind of sacramental virtue. ‘Cognizance’ is here used in a heraldic sense, meaning any badge to show whose friends the wearers were.

94. 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.

96-97. it were a mock Apt to be render’d: it were a sarcastic reply likely to be made. Cf. the expression, ‘make a mock of.’

104. liable: subject. Cf. King John, II, i, 490. The thought here is that love stands as principal, reason as second or subordinate. “The deference which reason holds due from me to you is in this instance subject and amenable to the calls of personal affection.”

108. This was probably Publius Silicius, not a conspirator. See III, i, 87, where he is described as “quite confounded with this mutiny.”

113. This is a graphic and charming touch. Here, for the first time, we have Cæsar speaking fairly in character; for he was probably the most finished gentleman of his time, one of the sweetest of men, and as full of kindness as of wisdom and courage. Merivale aptly styles him “Cæsar the politic and the merciful.”

129. yearns: grieves. The Folios read ‘earnes.’ Skeat considers earn (yearn) ‘to grieve’ of distinct origin from earn (yearn) ‘to desire.’ Shakespeare uses the verb both transitively and intransitively. The winning and honest suavity of Cæsar here starts a pang of remorse in Brutus. Drinking wine together was regarded as a sacred pledge of truth and honor. Brutus knows that Cæsar is doing it in good faith; and it hurts him to think that the others seem to be doing the like, and yet are doing a very different thing.


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