Scene 3. A street near the Capitol, close to Brutus’s house.
 
Enter ARTEMIDORUS reading a paper.

 
Artemidorus. “Caesar, beware of Brutus; take heed of
Cassius; come not near Casca; have an eye to Cinna;
trust not Trebonius; mark well Metellus Cimber; Decius
Brutus loves thee not; thou hast wronged Caius Ligar-
5 ius. There is but one mind in all these men, and it is
 
bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look
about you: security gives way to conspiracy.
The mighty
gods defend thee!
                                   Thy lover, Artemidorus.”
10 Here will I stand till Caesar pass along,
  And as a suitor will I give him this.
My heart laments that virtue cannot live
Out of the teeth of emulation.

If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayest live;
15 If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive.         [Exit.]

 

Scene 4. Another part of the street.
 
Enter PORTIA and LUCIUS.

 
Portia.
I prithee, boy, run to the Senate House;
Stay not to answer me, but get thee gone.
Why dost thou stay?
Lucius.                      To know my errand, madam.
Portia.
I would have had thee there and here again
5 Ere I can tell thee what thou shouldst do there.
  O constancy, be strong upon my side;
Set a huge mountain ’tween my heart and tongue!
I have a man’s mind, but a woman’s might.
  How hard it is for women to keep counsel!
Art thou here yet?
10 Lucius.                   Madam, what should I do?
 
Run to the Capitol, and nothing else?
And so return to you, and nothing else?
Portia.
Yes, bring me word, boy, if thy lord look well,
For he went sickly forth; and take good note
15 What Caesar doth, what suitors press to him.
  Hark, boy, what noise is that?

 

 
Lucius.
I hear none, madam.
Portia.                       Prithee, listen well.
I hear a bustling rumor like a fray,
And the wind brings it from the Capitol.
Lucius.
20 Sooth, madam, I hear nothing.
 

[Enter the SOOTHSAYER.]

 
Portia.
Come hither, fellow. Which way hast thou been?
Soothsayer.
At mine own house, good lady.
Portia.
What is’t o’clock?
Soothsayer.          About the ninth hour, lady.
Portia.
Is Caesar yet gone to the Capitol?
Soothsayer.
25 Madam, not yet; I go to take my stand,
 
To see him pass on to the Capitol.
Portia.
Thou hast some suit to Caesar, hast thou not?

 

Soothsayer.
That I have, lady; if it will please Caesar
To be so good to Caesar as to hear me,
30 I shall beseech him to befriend himself.
 
Portia.
Why, know’st thou any harm’s intended towards him?
Soothsayer.
None that I know will be, much that I fear may chance.
Good morrow to you. Here the street is narrow;
The throng that follows Caesar at the heels,
35 Of senators, of praetors, common suitors,
  Will crowd a feeble man almost to death.
I’ll get me to a place more void,
and there
Speak to great Caesar as he comes along.         [Exit.]
 
Portia.
I must go in. Ay me, how weak a thing
40 The heart of woman is! O Brutus,
  The heavens speed thee in thine enterprise!
Sure, the boy heard me—Brutus hath a suit
That Caesar will not grant—O, I grow faint.
Run, Lucius, and commend me to my lord;
45 Say I am merry; come to me again,
  And bring me word what he doth say to thee.
                                                    [Exeunt severally.]

Making Meanings 
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act II 

 

 


Reading Check 

a. A soliloquy is a speech given by a character alone onstage. Look at Brutus’s soliloquy at the beginning of Act II. What reasons does he give for killing Caesar? 
b. Who proposes the murder of Antony? Why does Brutus oppose it? 
c. What does Portia demand of her husband in Scene 1? 
d. In Scene 2, what does Calphurnia try to persuade Caesar to do? Why? 
e. How does Decius persuade Caesar to attend the Senate? 
f. What is Portia’s concern at the end of Scene 4? 


First Thoughts 

1. We all look for principles to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. What principles govern the choices Cassius and Brutus make? Do you think their choices are wise; are they “right”? 

Shaping Interpretations 

2. When you read rather than watch a play, you have to stage it in your imagination, to visualize the movements of characters and the sounds of voices. As you imagine Act II, tell how it compares with Act I—is the pace faster or slower? Are the characters calmer or more agitated? Which scenes make you think so? 

3. Why won’t Brutus swear an oath (Scene I, lines 114–140)? What character traits does this speech reveal? 

4. Describe the complexities of Caesar’s character. How do you feel about him—is he a monstrous tyrant or a sympathetic man? Explain. 

5. Where does Shakespeare use thunder and other storm sounds in the setting to suggest cosmic disorder? How does this weather make you feel? 

6. Describe how Shakespeare creates and builds suspense during Scenes 3 and 4. What questions are you left with as the act ends? 

7. Is Caesar’s assassination necessary? Reread Brutus’s argument in Scene 1, lines 10–34—how would you respond to it? 

8. How do you feel about Portia’s lament in her last speech: “. . . how weak a thing / The heart of woman is!”? 

Challenging the Text 

9. In Scene 4, Portia appears to know that Brutus is involved in a plot to kill Caesar, although the play does not include a scene in which Brutus gives her this information. Is this omission a weakness in the play? If you were writing such a scene, how would you have Portia react to her husband’s news?


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