Act I - Scene I

[Rome. A Street.]

Enter Flavius, Marullus, and certain Commoners over the stage.

FLAVIUS:
Hence! home, you idle creatures, get you home.
Is this a holiday? What, know you not,
Being mechanical, you ought not walk
Upon a laboring day without the sign
Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?(5)
CARPENTER:
Why, sir, a carpenter.
MARULLUS:
Where is thy leather apron and thy rule?
What dost thou with thy best apparel on?
You, sir, what trade are you?
COBBLER:
Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as(10)
you would say, a cobbler.
MARULLUS:
But what trade art thou? Answer me directly.
COBBLER:
A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe con-
science, which is indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles.
MARULLUS:
What trade, thou knave? Thou naughty knave, what(15)
trade?
COBBLER:
Nay, I beseech you, sir, be not out with me; yet, if you
be out, sir, I can mend you.
MARULLUS:
What mean'st thou by that? Mend me, thou saucy-
fellow!(20)
COBBLER:
Why, sir, cobble you.
FLAVIUS:
Thou art a cobbler, art thou?
COBBLER:
Truly, Sir, all that I live by is with the awl; I meddle
with no tradesman's matters, nor women's matters, but with
awl. I am indeed, sir, a surgeon to old shoes; when they are(25)
in great danger, I recover them. As proper men as ever
trod upon neats-leather have gone upon my handiwork.
FLAVIUS:
But wherefore art not in thy shop today?
Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?(30)
COBBLER:
Truly, sir, to wear out their shoes, to get myself into
more work. But indeed, sir, we make holiday, to see Caesar
and to rejoice in his triumph.
MARULLUS:
Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?
What tributaries follow him to Rome,(35)
To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?
You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,(40)
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The live-long day with patient expectation
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome.
And when you saw his chariot but appear,(45)
Have you not made an universal shout,
That Tiber trembled underneath her banks
To hear the replication of your sounds
Made in her concave shores?
And do you now put on your best attire?(50)
And do you now cull out a holiday?
And do you now strew flowers in his way
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood?
Be gone!
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,(55)
Pray to the gods to intermit the plague
That needs must light on this ingratitude.
FLAVIUS:
Go, go, good countrymen, and, for this fault,
Assemble all the poor men of your sort,
Draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears(60)
Into the channel, till the lowest stream
Do kiss the most exalted shores of all.

Exeunt all the Commoners.

See, whether their basest metal be not moved;
They vanish tongue-tied in their guiltiness.
Go you down that way towards the Capitol;(65)
This way will I. Disrobe the images,
If you do find them deck'd with ceremonies.
MARULLUS:
May we do so?
You know it is the feast of Lupercal.
FLAVIUS:
It is no matter; let no images(70)
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.
These growing feathers pluck'd from Caesar's wing
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch,(75)
Who else would soar above the view of men
And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Flavius’s metaphor here of Caesar as a bird is likely a reference to the “Aquila,” the eagle the Romans used to symbolize their military might. If Caesar is the eagle, the people in support of him are his feathers. According to Flavius, the key to toppling Caesar lies in drawing the public away from him. We see again the importance of the public’s approval in the complex political landscape of the play.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Marullus’s opinions about Caesar clue us into the play’s intense interest in political rhetoric. Indeed, Julius Caesar is more a character spoken about than a character who speaks. Caesar’s standing as a ruler, first introduced in this moment, remains a central topic of debate throughout the play. Class distinction is a key element here. In this scene, we see Marullus the tribune swaying the common cobbler. The play contains many more instances of politicians convincing the public of their views.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival held in mid-February to celebrate the beginning of Spring. The festival honors Rome’s foundation story as well. The Lupercal is the mythical cave in which the she-wolf Lupa raised Romulus and Remus. There is a thematic analogy at play here. Shakespeare draws attention to the founding of Rome at the play’s beginning before showing us the fall of the Roman Republic and the dawn of the Roman Empire.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. The date: February 15th, 44 BCE. Julius Caesar takes place at the end of the Roman Republic and the dawn of the Roman Empire. In the decade before the events of the play, a trio of men referred to as the “Triumvirate” came to power: Julius Caesar, Pompey the Great and Marcus Linius Crassus. In 53 BCE, Crassus died and tensions arose between Caesar and Pompey. In 49 BCE, while Caesar was campaigning abroad, Pompey attempted to strip Caesar of power. This sparked a civil war. By 44 BCE, Pompey and his generals had been killed, leaving Caesar as Rome’s sole ruler. Caesar’s enemies feared he might override the Republican system and become a dictator. So begins Shakespeare’s play.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The exchange between Marullus, Flavius, and the Cobbler is meant to be comical and ironic. Shakespeare uses the puns "cobbler," "awl" and "soles" to make fun of Marullus and Flavius' characters. 

    They interrogate the cobbler on the street and treat him as a simpleton because they believe the cobbler (a shoemaker) is calling himself a "bungler" or idiot. But the cobbler has a joke at their expense claiming to be a "mender of soles" which Flavius and Marullus interpret to mean he mends "souls." The cobbler goes on to say that he lives by "with the awl," which is a reference to his cobbler's tools, but once again Flavius and Marullus misinterpret his statement to mean that the cobbler is with the "all." 

    This is a prime example of verbal irony because the cobbler uses sarcasm, saying one thing and meaning another, and as a result, Marullus and Flavius look like the fools rather than the cobbler and other common people. 

    This exchange has an impact on Marullus and Flavius' purpose in the Act. Their intent is to shame the public because of their fickleness and willingness to celebrate Caesar when they once were loyal to Pompey. As a result, the crowd (and audience) do not heed them and are not afraid of them when they question the crowds' loyalty and character.

    — Olivia Connelly
  6. The immediate, unflattering reference to the commoners as "idle creatures" is significant because it introduces a motif that will be developed throughout the play--that commoners, especially when assembled in large numbers, are not worthy of respect. The contempt Flavius and Marullus feel for the commoners will be expressed again, in different situations and in different ways, by several other characters in the play.

    — Susan Hurn
  7. How does the Cobbler's tone change at this point in his conversation with Flavius?

    — Susan Hurn
  8. By the end of the scene, what has not been established through the characters of Flavius and Marullus?

    — Susan Hurn
  9. How does Marullus seem to feel as he addresses the commoners?

    — Susan Hurn
  10. Which figures of speech are found in this passage?

    — Susan Hurn