Act I - Scene III

[A street.]

Thunder and lightning. Enter Casca, and Cicero.

CICERO:
Good even, Casca. Brought you Caesar home?
Why are you breathless, and why stare you so?
CASCA:
Are not you moved, when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds(5)
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds,
But never till tonight, never till now,
Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.(10)
Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
Or else the world too saucy with the gods
Incenses them to send destruction.
CICERO:
Why, saw you anything more wonderful?
CASCA:
A common slave—you know him well by sight—(15)
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches join'd, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remain'd unscorch'd.
Besides—I ha' not since put up my sword—
Against the Capitol I met a lion,(20)
Who glazed upon me and went surly by
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women
Transformed with their fear, who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.(25)
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Howling and shrieking. When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say(30)
“These are their reasons; they are natural,”
For, I believe, they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon.
CICERO:
Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time;
But men may construe things after their fashion,(35)
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
Come Caesar to the Capitol tomorrow?
CASCA:
He doth; for he did bid Antonius
Send word to you he would be there tomorrow.
CICERO:
Good then, Casca. This disturbed sky(40)
Is not to walk in.
CASCA:
Farewell, Cicero.

Exit Cicero.

Enter Cassius.

CASSIUS:
Who's there?(45)
CASCA:
A Roman.
CASSIUS:
Casca, by your voice.
CASCA:
Your ear is good. Cassius, what night is this!
CASSIUS:
A very pleasing night to honest men.(50)
CASCA:
Who ever knew the heavens menace so?
CASSIUS:
Those that have known the earth so full of faults.
For my part, I have walk'd about the streets,
Submitting me unto the perilous night,
And thus unbraced, Casca, as you see,(55)
Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone;
And when the cross blue lightning seem'd to open
The breast of heaven, I did present myself
Even in the aim and very flash of it.
CASCA:
But wherefore did you so much tempt the heavens?(60)
It is the part of men to fear and tremble
When the most mighty gods by tokens send
Such dreadful heralds to astonish us.
CASSIUS:
You are dull, Casca, and those sparks of life
That should be in a Roman you do want,
Or else you use not. You look pale and gaze(65)
And put on fear and cast yourself in wonder,
To see the strange impatience of the heavens.
But if you would consider the true cause
Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts,
Why birds and beasts from quality and kind,(70)
Why old men fool, and children calculate,
Why all these things change from their ordinance,
Their natures and preformed faculties,
To monstrous quality, why, you shall find
That heaven hath infused them with these spirits(75)
To make them instruments of fear and warning
Unto some monstrous state.
Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man
Most like this dreadful night,
That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars(80)
As doth the lion in the Capitol,
A man no mightier than thyself or me
In personal action, yet prodigious grown
And fearful, as these strange eruptions are.
CASCA:
'Tis Caesar that you mean, is it not, Cassius?(85)
CASSIUS:
Let it be who it is, for Romans now
Have thews and limbs like to their ancestors.
But, woe the while! Our fathers' minds are dead,
And we are govern'd with our mothers' spirits;
Our yoke and sufferance show us womanish.(90)
CASCA:
Indeed they say the senators tomorrow
Mean to establish Caesar as a king,
And he shall wear his crown by sea and land,
In every place save here in Italy.
CASSIUS:
I know where I will wear this dagger then:(95)
Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius.
Therein, ye gods, you make the weak most strong;
Therein, ye gods, you tyrants do defeat.
Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron,(100)
Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;
But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
If I know this, know all the world besides,
That part of tyranny that I do bear(105)
I can shake off at pleasure.

Thunder still.

CASCA:
So can I.
So every bondman in his own hand bears
The power to cancel his captivity.
CASSIUS:
And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?(110)
Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf
But that he sees the Romans are but sheep.
He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.
Those that with haste will make a mighty fire
Begin it with weak straws. What trash is Rome,(115)
What rubbish and what offal, when it serves
For the base matter to illuminate
So vile a thing as Caesar? But, O grief,
Where hast thou led me? I perhaps speak this
Before a willing bondman; then I know(120)
My answer must be made. But I am arm'd,
And dangers are to me indifferent.
CASCA:
You speak to Casca, and to such a man
That is no fleering tell-tale. Hold, my hand.
Be factious for redress of all these griefs,(125)
And I will set this foot of mine as far
As who goes farthest.
CASSIUS:
There's a bargain made.
Now know you, Casca, I have moved already
Some certain of the noblest-minded Romans(130)
To undergo with me an enterprise
Of honorable-dangerous consequence;
And I do know, by this they stay for me
In Pompey's Porch. For now, this fearful night,
There is no stir or walking in the streets,(135)
And the complexion of the element
In favor's like the work we have in hand,
Most bloody, fiery, and most terrible.

Enter Cinna.

CASCA:
Stand close awhile, for here comes one in haste.
CASSIUS:
'Tis Cinna, I do know him by his gait;(140)
He is a friend. Cinna, where haste you so?
CINNA:
To find out you. Who's that? Metellus Cimber?
CASSIUS:
No, it is Casca, one incorporate
To our attempts. Am I not stay'd for, Cinna?
CINNA:
I am glad on't. What a fearful night is this!(145)
There's two or three of us have seen strange sights.
CASSIUS:
Am I not stay'd for? Tell me.
CINNA:
Yes, you are.
O Cassius, if you could
But win the noble Brutus to our party—(150)
CASSIUS:
Be you content. Good Cinna, take this paper,
And 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. All this done,(155)
Repair to Pompey's porch, where you shall find us.
Is Decius Brutus and Trebonius there?
CINNA:
All but Metellus Cimber, and he's gone
To seek you at your house. Well, I will hie
And so bestow these papers as you bade me.(160)
CASSIUS:
That done, repair to Pompey's theatre.

Exit Cinna.

Come, Casca, you and I will yet ere day
See Brutus at his house. Three parts of him
Is ours already, and the man entire
Upon the next encounter yields him ours.(165)
CASCA:
O, he sits high in all the people's hearts,
And that which would appear offense in us,
His countenance, like richest alchemy,
Will change to virtue and to worthiness.
CASSIUS:
Him and his worth and our great need of him(170)
You have right well conceited. Let us go,
For it is after midnight, and ere day
We will awake him and be sure of him.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. As Casca explains in this speech, why do they need Brutus to join them in killing Caesar?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. What does Cassius plan to do when he sees Brutus?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. What has Cassius accomplished through his conversation with Casca?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. In the context of his conversation with Cassius, why is Casca's response significant?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. What does Cassius threaten to do if the Roman senate makes Caesar a king?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. What is the most likely reason Cassius doesn't answer Casca's question directly?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. How does Cassius interpret the violent storm and the unnatural events in Rome?  

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. What is created in the scene through Cicero and Casca's discussion of the storm and the strange events in Rome?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. In replying to Cicero's question, how many other supernatural events has Casca seen in Rome?

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Casca uses alchemy–the antiquated practice of turning lead to gold–as a metaphor for the power of political rhetoric. Throughout Julius Caesar, nothing is truly lead or gold, but the right words can make it seem so.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Cassius’s understanding of the world centers around a belief in free will and agency. He seeks to assign responsibility to himself and his fellow Romans for the current state of political affairs. Not content to buy into a narrative that renders Caesar’s rise inevitable, he blames the citizens of Rome for allowing it to happen. Cassius in turn takes on the responsibility to shape events to come.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Shakespeare makes dramatic use of the Roman tradition of augury: reading the future in the patterns of nature. Shakespeare has begun to toy with the play’s sense of realism. Casca claims to have seen supernatural figures around Rome: lions, “ghastly women,” “men all in fire.” The audience cannot tell whether these things exist in the world of the play or in Casca’s mind. The question of realism reaches a peak in Act IV, when both Brutus and the audience confront the ghost of Caesar.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The terrible storm, raining fire, and the catalog of other frightening supernatural events illustrate a Shakespearean convention found in several of his dramas in which a ruler is betrayed and brought down. They create a sense of foreboding and suggest that nature itself rebels at the violent destruction of the social order through the killing of a head of state. The description of supernatural events occurring the night before Caesar's assassination is similar to the description of the horrible, unnatural events that take place the night when King Duncan is murdered by Macbeth. 

    — Susan Hurn
  14. The conspirators, led by Cassius, intend to go to Brutus's house in the middle of the night, wake him up, and convince him to commit to assassinating Caesar. Their haste in getting Brutus's commitment is explained by several facts established in the scene. The scene takes place the night before Caesar plans to go to the senate, where he may be offered a crown, making him the undisputed ruler of Rome. The conspirators are running out of time; they must act, and without Brutus, they risk being seen as traitors rather than liberators. The setting of the scene is the night before the Ides of March, which imbues it with strong dramatic irony. 

     

    — Susan Hurn
  15. That is, different men may interpret things in different ways, each in accordance with his own peculiar perspective, intelligence, disposition, education, personal experience, religious beliefs, and so on. Cicero seems to have been introduced here mainly because he was such a famous figure in Roman history and the audience would be intrigued to seem to be getting a glimpse of him. Shakespeare could not produce the phenomena Casca is describing with light- and sound-effects; he needed to have someone for Casca to talk to, so he brought in an actor portraying Cicero and then the one portraying Cassius. Casca is less intelligent and more superstitious than both these men. 

    — William Delaney
  16. Casca shows by this statement that he is ever a follower and never a leader. He is probably not an innovator because he is portrayed by Shakespeare as lacking in intelligence and imagination.

    — William Delaney