Julius Caesar Commentary provides a comprehensive
description of every act with explanations and translations
for all important quotes.
Act I. Scene I. - Rome. A Street.
Flavius: "Who else would soar above the view
of men / And keep us all in servile fearfulness."
Two Tribunes, Marullus and Flavius scold Roman citizens
for worshipping Caesar almost blindly. Their conversation
reveals deep-seated fears that Caesar is growing
too powerful, too arrogant and must be stopped. Hoping
to reduce the blind worship of Caesar by Roman
citizens, the two men remove scarves off Caesar's
images or statues despite the obvious danger...
The date by history is 44 BC. Again by historical record
we know that Caesar has just returned from his
victory in the land we now call Spain against the sons
of Pompey the Great, an enemy Caesar has already
The play begins with two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus,
questioning why several tradesmen are not about their
work, but instead appear to be idle.
The First Commoner, a carpenter by trade, answers the
two tribunes politely as to his trade, but the Second
Commoner, a cobbler, angers Marullus with his cryptic
replies to Marullus' straightforward questioning
Flavius being more patient, eventually learns that
the tradesman are idle (not busy about their work) because
they have chosen to take a holiday "to see Caesar
and to rejoice in his triumph" (Line 34).
Marullus now sums up the fear other tribunes and officials
like himself are having of Caesar's growing
popularity. He asks why the people of Rome should be
rejoicing, asking, "What conquest brings he home? What
tributaries follow him to Rome / To grace in captive
bonds his chariot wheels?" (Lines 35-37).
Marullus now asks why the people of Rome have so quickly
forgotten Pompey, remarking on how so many a time, these
very same citizens would climb walls, their infants
in their arms, waiting to hear this great man speak.
Marullus then recalls how Roman citizens would roar
their approval so loudly of Pompey, that the "Tiber
[a river inside Rome] trembled underneath her banks,"
(Line 49) and yet these same people now come out in
their best attire or best clothes to "strew flowers"
in the way of the man who killed Pompey, Julius Caesar
Marullus says such people should be gone and that these
cruel Romans should "Run to your houses, fall upon your
knees, / Pray to the gods to intermit the plague / That
needs must light on this ingratitude" (Lines 57-59).
Flavius echoes Marullus's sentiments, telling
these same countrymen to "Assemble all the poor men
of your sort;" (Line 61) to the banks of the river Tiber
where they can weep their tears into the channel of
this river "till the lowest stream / Do kiss the most
exalted shores of all" (Lines 63-64).
Seemingly convinced, the commoners now depart, leaving
Marullus and Flavius to talk further. Flavius comments
on how the commoners have vanished "tongue-tied in their
guiltiness" (Line 66) and now he suggests that both
he and Marullus should head their separate ways where
they will both, "Disrobe the images" (remove ceremonial
decorations from Caesar statues), (Line 68) should they
find them "deck'd with ceremonies" (covered in celebration
of Caesar's triumph in Spain), (Line 69).
Marullus has his doubts. Is it a wise to take down
decorations when it is the Feast of Lupercal (an ancient
Roman day of celebration), he asks?
Flavius is certain it must be done, telling Marullus,
"let no images / Be hung with Caesar's trophies"
(Line 72). Flavius "will drive away the vulgar
from the streets:" as should his friend (Line 74).
Flavius now explains his reasons for disrobing the
Flavius: "These growing feathers pluck'd [removed]
from Caesar's wing / Will make him fly an
ordinary pitch [stop him from flying too high], / Who
else would soar above the view of men / And keep us
all in servile fearfulness" (Lines 76-End of Scene).
If men like Flavius do not clip Caesar's
ambitions quickly, he may rise so high that they may
never be able to stop him and instead of stopping Caesar,
they will instead become his servants...
Act I. Scene II. - The Same. A Public Place.
The Soothsayer: "Beware the ides of March."
Caesar leads a procession through the streets
of Rome. A Soothsayer or fortune-teller tells Caesar
to beware the "ides of March" a warning that Caesar
will die on this day. It is ignored. Cassius starts
to recruit Brutus towards a conspiracy by implying that
Caesar is becoming too powerful... Brutus is suspicious
but tells Cassius that he will think it over... Casca
reveals information to Brutus that suggests Caesar
may be getting more ambitious...
Accompanied to the sounds of music, Caesar and
his train now appear. Caesar's train is extensive,
numbering his close friend Mark Antony, his wife Calphurnia,
Brutus' wife Portia, Decius Brutus (not to be confused
with Marcus Brutus, known as Brutus), Cicero, Brutus,
Cassius and Casca.
A large crowd follows Caesar, among them a Soothsayer
Caesar now commands his wife Calphurnia to stand
in Mark Antony's way and he instructs Mark Antony
who is soon to become a holy runner for running in the
race of Lupercal, "To touch Calphurnia;" (Line 6).
Like many of his time, Caesar, believed that "The
barren [Calphurnia, his wife], touched in this holy
chase," [touched by Mark Antony who will be running
in the race of Lupercal] will be able to shake off her
"sterile curse" (Calphurnia's sterility), (Line 8).
A Soothsayer calls out Caesar's name, and
the crowd, once noisy, is made silent at Casca's
demand on Caesar's behalf (Lines 12-16).
Caesar turns to hear this voice "shriller than
all the music," (Line 16), and this same Soothsayer
tells Caesar to "Beware the ides of March [the
15th of March]" (Line 18).
These prophetic words are now immediately dismissed
by Casca as the words of a "dreamer;" and the procession
continues along its way (Line 25).
With the rest of the procession continuing along its
way, Brutus and Cassius are left alone to ponder the
When Cassius asks Brutus (full name Marcus Brutus),
"Will you go see the order of the course?" (will you
see the rest of the procession), (Line 25), we learn
that Brutus will not and we see the first hints that
all may not be well between Caesar and his good
Cassius, intrigued, urges his friend to do so, but
Brutus politely explains that he lacks in some part
"that quick spirit that is in Antony" (Line 29). He
tells Cassius that he does not want to hinder Cassius'
desires and prepares to leave Cassius (Lines 29-31).
Cassius, however is not so quickly dismissed, and wants
to know more from his good friend Brutus...
Cassius now begins to probe Brutus as to where his
loyalties truly lie. He notes that he has not seen from
Brutus' eyes,"that gentleness / And show of love as
I was wont to have:" (Line 33). Instead Cassius sees
that Brutus now bears "too stubborn and too strange
a hand / Over your friend [Cassius] that loves you"
Brutus tries to downplay his change of character to
Brutus :"Cassius, / Be not deceiv'd: if I have
veiled my look, I turn the trouble of my countenance
/ Merely upon myself" (Line 36).
Brutus tells Cassius that he has been troubled lately
"with passions of some difference," (Line 40). Cassius
however should not be overly concerned. He still loves
his friends of which he counts Cassius as one.
Cassius now concedes that he must have misinterpreted
Brutus' behavior and now Cassius asks Brutus "can
you see your face?" (Line 51).
Brutus replies no, since an eye cannot see itself.
Cassius now agrees, adding that this is a shame for
it prevents Brutus from seeing his own worthiness, this
being so great that Cassius explains that Brutus'
virtue is exceeded only by "immortal Caesar,-"
himself (Line 60).
Brutus is now very skeptical, asking Cassius, "Into
what dangers would you lead me, Cassius / That you would
have me seek into myself / For that which is not in
me?" (into what dangers or for what reasons Cassius
are you trying to make me seek out what is not in my
nature?), (Line 63).
Cassius interrupted now by shouting, returns to his
conversation with Brutus, Brutus telling Cassius that,
"I do fear the people / Choose Caesar for their
king" (Line 79).
Seizing his chance, Cassius now asks Brutus whether
he would fear this and crucially that he must think
Brutus would prefer this not to happen (Line 80).
Now Brutus in his first major speech explains to Cassius
that yes he would prefer Caesar not to be made
king and yes, he does love Caesar well, but to
what end is Cassius holding him and to tell him what
Brutus now adds in a major insight into his character
that if it is for the common good, he is supportive,
for as Brutus explains, "I love / The name of honour
more than I fear death" (Line 89).
Cassius now replies that yes, he knows this virtue
to be within Brutus and now Cassius starts to say more,
describing his subject as one dealing with honor.
Cassius explains that, "I was born free as Caesar;
so were you:", they have both been fed as well and they
both can "Endure the winter's cold as well as he:" (Lines
Cassius now explains how once both he and Caesar
crossed "The troubled Tiber [a river within Rome]
chafing [crashing / beating] with her shores" (Line
101), where Caesar himself begged for Cassius'
help in their crossing. Yet now this man, who once was
so frail and vulnerable, is now a god? (Line 116). Cassius
also adds that this "god," was sick with fever in Spain,
acting more like "a sick girl" than a so-called "god,"
Cassius continues his criticism of Caesar, adding
amidst the odd shouts of the procession, that Caesar
has become "Like a Collosus; and we petty men / Walk
under his huge legs, and peep about / To find ourselves
dishonourable graves" (Lines 135-138).
Famously Cassius finishes his Caesar attack by
famously remarking that this problem is of their own
Cassius: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings" (the
fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars or our fate
or destiny but in ourselves that we have become underlings
or subordinates to Caesar), (Line 139).
Cassius now asks how the name Caesar is any better
than Brutus and wonders aloud as to exactly when Rome
lost her breed of "noble bloods!" (Line 150) and how
suddenly a city the size of Rome could ever become so
small as to only have room enough for "one man?"
Cassius closes for the kill, adding that "There was
a Brutus once that would have brook'd [fought /
challenged] / Th' eternal devil to keep his state
in Rome / As easily as a king" (Line 157).
Brutus replies that he is touched that Cassius sees
him as an honorable man and he decides to think over
what Cassius has said and will meet Cassius again to
discuss such matters. For now, Brutus will leave Cassius
with this one thought...
Brutus: "Brutus had rather be a villager / Than to
repute [call] himself a son of Rome / Under these hard
conditions as this time / Is like to lay upon us" (Line
Cassius now is pleased that his concerns have been
so well received by Brutus and seeing Caesar and
his procession arrive again, tells Brutus to tug Casca's
sleeve to learn more of note from the days proceedings.
Caesar returns and speaks with Brutus noting that
"Cassius has a lean and hungry look; / He thinks too
much: such men are dangerous" (Line 193). This is important,
since it shows that even Caesar has reason to fear
Interestingly, Brutus assures his friend Caesar
that this is not the case and once Caesar and company
have once again departed, Brutus learns more from Casca.
Specifically, Brutus learns that Mark Antony offered
Julius Caesar what appeared to be a crown: "'twas
[it was] one of these coronets;" (Line 235). This was
offered to Caesar three times and each time Mark
Antony presented it, Caesar would refuse to wear
The first time Caesar was offered the crown, he
refused it, but in Casca's opinion "he would fain
have had it" (Line 241).
The second time Caesar was offered the crown, "he was
very loath [reluctant] to lay his fingers off it" and
the third time, Caesar refused the crown, it was
despite the obvious approval of the masses who clapped
and shouted and "uttered such a deal of stinking breath
because Caesar refused the crown, that it had almost
choked Caesar;" (Lines 232-252) for Caesar
then "swounded and fell down at it [the crown]:"
Casca reports that Caesar also appeared to be
suffering from "the falling-sickness" (Line 257). Now
Casca adds that Caesar briefly appeared to lose
coherence, such that when he thought that the crowds
were glad that he refused the crown, "he plucked me
ope his doublet and offered them his throat to cut"
a sure sign that Caesar must want power (Line 265).
Later, when Caesar regained his composure, he
told Casca to write off his actions to the people as
infirmity. Caesar also spoke Greek, from which
we derive the expression "it was Greek to me" from Casca
when he is questioned by Brutus as to what Caesar
said (Line 287).
Casca also reports that Marullus and Flavius, the two
tribunes introduced at the beginning of the play were
"put to silence [executed]" for "pulling scarfs off
Caesar's images," further proof that Caesar
could be becoming more ambitious (Line 291).
This almost vain action and Caesar's reluctance
not to be crowned, fuel Casca's and Cassius'
growing fear of Caesar...
With Brutus still in attendance, Cassius now makes
plans to meet with Casca tomorrow, which Casca agrees
to, providing, as he says, he is still alive and Brutus
also makes plans to speak tomorrow with Cassius as well
Now alone, Cassius explains his need of Brutus; Brutus
is noble and his good name will do much to legitimize
and further their cause (Lines 313-327).
Act I. Scene III. - The Same. A Street.
Cassius: "I have mov'd already / Some certain
of the noblest-minded Romans / To undergo with me an
enterprise / Of honourable-dangerous consequence;"
Cassius recruits a suspicious Casca to their cause
against Caesar by pointing out that several strange
occurrences are omens warning them against Caesar...
Cassius has Cinna place some forged letters where Brutus
will find them since these should further convince Brutus
to join their conspiracy. Cinna reveals that Brutus'
good name will be an asset to their conspiracy...
To the sounds of thunder and lightning, Cicero appears,
wondering why Casca should be so breathless and is staring
at him so much...
Casca now explains why, describing "scolding winds",
an "ambitious ocean swell " with "rage and foam,"
and "threat'ning clouds:" (Line 8) , all suggesting
in Cassius' words either "civil strife in heaven,"
(Line 11), "Or else the world, too saucy [unfavored]
with the gods, / Incenses [angers] them to send destruction"
this suggesting that Caesar's actions are
causing strife in nature, a widely held belief at the
time to be proof that something must be wrong.
Cicero now asks if Casca saw anything, a little more
convincing or "more wonderful?" (Line 14) as Cicero
tactfully but skeptically puts it.
Casca does not disappoint, and explains to Cicero how
he saw a slave well known to Cicero, light fire from
his hand without his hand being burnt, and that he saw
a lion by the "Capitol" which merely glared
at him with mild disdain and then "went surly by," (Line
21) without even bothering to attack Casca...
Casca continues but Cicero is a man of wisdom. He remarks
that "men may construe [interpret] things after their
fashion, [to their own ends] / Clean from the purpose
of the things themselves" (men can construe or
see things they way they wish which may be completely
different from the reason or purpose of the things themselves
/ people can see what it is in their interests to see),
Cicero asks whether Caesar will come by the "Capitol"
tomorrow and learning this, Cicero and Casca head their
Casca now meets Cassius and announces himself to a
suspicious Cassius patriotically as "A Roman" (Line
Casca recalls again the most unnatural things he has
Cassius not impressed that Casca cannot see the obvious
tells Casca that he is "dull, [not smart]" (Line 57).
Is it not obvious that the true cause of these most
unnatural occurrences is "That heaven hath infus'd
them with these spirits / To make them instruments of
fear and warning / Unto some monstrous state" (heaven
has infused nature with spirits to make these unnatural
events serve as a warning to us that something monstrous
might soon happen), (Lines 69-71).
Cassius now explains that he can "name to thee a man
[Caesar] / Most like this dreadful night, / That
thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars / As doth
[does] the lion in the Capitol, / A man no mightier
than thyself [you] or me" and as fearful as these unnatural
occurrences are (Lines 72-78).
Casca now asks if Cassius means Caesar and realizing
this to be the case, Casca mentions that "they say the
senators to-morrow / Mean [intend] to establish Caesar
as king; / And he shall wear his crown by sea and land,
/ In every place, save here in Italy" (Line 85).
Cassius declares that he will wear his dagger then
(Line 89) and Cassius' conviction convinces Casca
that he too must act against Caesar for "every
bondman in his own hands bears / The power to cancel
[stop] his captivity" (Line 100).
Cassius further fuels the hatred of Caesar, remarking
that Caesar would not be a wolf but for the fact
that he knows the Romans to be sheep (Line 104).
With Casca now an ally, Cassius explains to him that
"I have mov'd [moved] already / Some certain of
the noblest-minded Romans / To undergo with me an enterprise
/ Of honourable-dangerous consequence;" (Caesar's
assassination), (Lines 120-132).
Cinna now arrives and repeats the great value Brutus
would represent to their conspiracy, were he to join
them. Cassius tells Cinna not to worry, but instead
to take a paper given to him by Cassius and to "look
you lay it in the praetor's chair, / Where Brutus
may but find it; and throw this / In at his window;
set this up with wax / Upon old Brutus' statue:"
This task completed, Cinna is to meet up with Cassius
at "Pompey's porch," where Decius Brutus
(not to be confused with Marcus Brutus known as Brutus),
and Trebonius will also be present.
With Cinna now departed, Cassius brings Casca up to
speed with current events; both he and Casca will see
Brutus at his house, Cassius adding that "three parts
of him [Brutus] / Is ours already, and the man entire
/ Upon the next encounter yields [gives] him ours [to
us] " (Line 154).
Realizing that it is now past midnight, Cassius and
Casca decide to head their separate ways, tomorrow they
will awaken Brutus and be sure of his allegiance to
them in their dangerous act...