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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene III.

Julius Cæsar

The Same.A Street.

Thunder and lightning.Enter, from opposite sides, CASCA, with his sword drawn, and CICERO.

Cic.Good even, Casca: brought you Cæsar home?

Why are you breathless? and why stare you so?

Casca.Are not you mov’d, when all the sway of earth

Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero!

I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds

Have riv’d the knotty oaks; and I have seen

The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,

To be exalted with the threat’ning clouds:

But never till to-night, never till now,

Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.

Either there is a civil strife in heaven,

Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,

Incenses them to send destruction.

Cic.Why, saw you any thing more wonderful?

Casca.A common slave—you know him well by sight—

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 have not since put up my sword,—

Against the Capitol I met a lion,

Who glar’d 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.

And yesterday the bird of night did sit,

Even at noon-day, upon the market-place,

Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies

Do so conjointly meet, let not men say

‘These are their reasons, they are natural;’

For, I believe, they are portentous things

Unto the climate that they point upon.

Cic.Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time:

But men may construe things after their fashion,

Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.

Comes Cæsar to the Capitol to-morrow?

Casca.He doth; for he did bid Antonius

Send word to you he would be there to-morrow.

Cic.Good-night then, Casca: this disturbed sky

Is not to walk in.

Casca.Farewell, Cicero.[Exit CICERO.


Cas.Who’s there?

Casca.A Roman.

Cas.Casca, by your voice.

Casca.Your ear is good. Cassius, what night is this!

Cas.A very pleasing night to honest men.

Casca.Who ever knew the heavens menace so?

Cas.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,

Have bar’d 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?

It is the part of men to fear and tremble

When the most mighty gods by tokens send

Such dreadful heralds to astonish us.

Cas.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,

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;

Why old men, fools, and children calculate;

Why all these things change from their ordinance,

Their natures, and pre-formed faculties,

To monstrous quality, why, you shall find

That heaven hath infus’d them with these spirits

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

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 Cæsar that you mean; is it not, Cassius?

Cas.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.

Casca.Indeed, they say the senators to-morrow

Mean to establish Cæsar as a king;

And he shall wear his crown by sea and land,

In every place, save here in Italy.

Cas.I know where I will wear this dagger then;

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,

Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;

But life, being weary of those 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

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.

Cas.And why should Cæsar be a tyrant then?

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,

What rubbish, and what offal, when it serves

For the base matter to illuminate

So vile a thing as Cæsar! But, O grief!

Where hast thou led me? I, perhaps, speak this

Before a willing bondman; then I know

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,

And I will set this foot of mine as far

As who goes furthest.

Cas.There’s a bargain made.

Now know you, Casca, I have mov’d already

Some certain of the noblest-minded Romans

To undergo with me an enterprise

Of honourable-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;

And the complexion of the element

In favour’s like the work we have in hand,

Most bloody, fiery, and most terrible.

Casca.Stand close awhile, for here comes one in haste.

Cas.’Tis Cinna; I do know him by his gait:

He is a friend.

Enter CINNA.

Cinna, where haste you so?

Cin.To find out you. Who’s that? Metellus Cimber?

Cas.No, it is Casca; one incorporate

To our attempts. Am I not stay’d for, Cinna?

Cin.I am glad on ’t. What a fearful night is this!

There’s two or three of us have seen strange sights.

Cas.Am I not stay’d for? Tell me.

Cin.Yes, you are.

O Cassius! if you could

But win the noble Brutus to our party—

Cas.Be you content. Good Cinna, take this paper,

And look you lay it in the prætor’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,

Repair to Pompey’s porch, where you shall find us.

Is Decius Brutus and Trebonius there?

Cin.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.

Cas.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.

Casca.O! he sits high in all the people’s hearts:

And that which would appear offence in us,

His countenance, like richest alchemy,

Will change to virtue and to worthiness.

Cas.Him and his worth and our great need of him

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.