Julius Caesar: A Verse Translation
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In Scene One, Shakespeare used both prose and and blank verse (iambic pentameter). Scene Two is almost entirely blank verse. After Caesar's second exit, Casca uses prose to answer Brutus' and Cassius' questions. When Casca exits, Brutus and Cassius use blank verse to close the scene.
The Enjoy Shakespeare translations respect Shakespeare's choices and retain the basic line structure.
from Act One, Scenes 1-2
Scene One. Rome. A Street
[Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS, and a throng of PLEBEIANS (including a CARPENTER and a COBBLER), meeting on a street]
FLAVIUS (a tribune of the plebeians)
Go home, you idle creatures, get on home!
Is this a holiday? What? Don’t you know
That tradesmen aren’t allowed to walk around
On working days without the tools and clothes
Of their profession? Speak, what is your trade?
Why, sir, a carpenter.
MARULLUS (a tribune of the plebeians)
Where is your leather apron? And your ruler?
Why do you have your best apparel on?
You, sir, what is your trade?
Truly, sir, compared with these fine workmen, I merely cobble at my trade.
But at what trade? Just give me a straight answer.
A trade, sir, that I hope I can practice with good conscience, for indeed, sir, I mend bad soles.
What trade, you knave? You no-good knave, what trade?
Please, I beg you, don’t be sore, but if you’re sore, sir, I can fix you.
What do you mean by that, you nasty fellow? Fix me?
Fix your shoes, sir.
So you’re a cobbler, are you?
Truly, sir, I make my living punching holes in leather. I never meddle in another tradesman’s affairs, nor those of women, except with my punch. I truly am, sir, a surgeon to old pieces of hide. When they are in great danger, I make them feel like new. The finest men that have ever trod upon the skin of a cow have slipped into my handiwork.
But why are you not in your shop today?
Why do you lead these people through the streets?
I’m hoping, sir, to wear out their shoes to get myself more work. Actually, sir, we’ve declared a holiday to see Caesar’s victory parade and rejoice in his triumph.
But why rejoice? What conquest could you mean?
What tribute-paying hostages chained to
His chariot wheels has he brought back to Rome?
You blocks, you stones—worse than oblivious!
O such hard hearts. Don’t you cruel men of Rome
Remember Pompey? Think how many times
You’ve climbed high up the walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, even chimney tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there you’ve sat
The whole day long in patient expectation
To see great Pompey drive the streets of Rome.
And when you saw his chariot appear,
Did you not shout in unison so loud
That underneath her banks the Tiber trembled,
Reverberating when she heard your sounds
Ring out across her sloping shores?
And now you dress up in your best attire?
And now arrange to have a holiday?
And now you toss some flowers in the path
Of one who triumphed over Pompey’s sons?
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
And pray the gods delay whatever plague
Will no doubt punish this ingratitude.
Go, go, good countrymen. For this offense,
Assemble all the poor men of your rank,
Lead them to Tiber’s banks, and let your tears
Flow down it’s channel, till the lowest stream
Can rise to kiss the highest shores of all.
Note how the lowest specimen is touched.
They vanish from us tongue-tied in their guilt.
You take that route down towards the Capitol.
I’ll go this way. Strip all the statues clean
Of any decorations that you find.
Is that allowed?
They’re for the festival—the Lupercalia.
That’s no concern. Make sure no statue’s hung
With Caesar’s plunder. I will roam about
And get the common people off the streets.
You do that too, wherever they have massed.
These growing feathers plucked from Caesar’s wings
Will keep him at an ordinary height,
Within the sight of men, so we won’t live
In servile fear that he’ll swoop down on us.
Scene Two. Rome. A Public Place
[Trumpets sound. Enter in a procession JULIUS CAESAR, MARK ANTONY (dressed for the race) CALPURNIA, PORTIA, DECIUS Brutus, CICERO, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, CASCA, a SOOTHSAYER, and a large crowd of SENATORS, and PLEBEIANS]
CASCA (a patrician)
Silence! Caesar speaks.
CALPURNIA (Caesar’s wife)
Here, my lord.
Go stand and block Antonius’ path
When he is in the race.—Antonius.
MARK ANTONY (a friend of Caesar)
Caesar, my lord?
Don’t go so fast, Antonius, that you
Forget to touch Calpurnia. Wise men say,
Touching the barren in this holy race
Shakes off the curse of childlessness.
I’ll do it.
When Caesar says “Do this,” it will be done.
Proceed. Observe all rites. Leave nothing out.
SOOTHSAYER (a fortune-teller)
Ha! Who said that?
All noise must cease. Be silent once again!
Who is it in the crowd who’s calling me?
I hear a voice, shriller than all the music,
Crying out “Caesar!” Speak. Caesar will listen.
Beware the ides of March.
Which man said that?
BRUTUS (praetor of Rome)
A soothsayer says beware the ides of March.
Bring him before me. Let me see his face.
CASSIUS (a patrician)
You, come out from the crowd. Look up at Caesar.
What was it you just said? Speak once again.
Beware the ides of March.
He is a dreamer. Let’s ignore him. Go.
[Exit all except BRUTUS and CASSIUS]
You wish to see what happens in the race?
Please come and watch.
I’m not the sporting type. I lack the dose
Of playfulness that Antony must have.
Don’t let me, Cassius, hinder your desires.
I’ll leave now.
Brutus, I’ve noticed something recently.
I don’t see in your eyes the gentleness
Or show of love that I’m accustomed to.
Your hands are placing reins too harsh and cold
Over a loving friend.
Don’t be deceived. If my regard for you
Is veiled, it’s that I want my troubles kept
Entirely to myself. For I am vexed
These days with feelings quite ambivalent,
With thoughts not easily shared with someone else,
Which leave a stain perhaps on my behavior.
My good friends, thus—and, Cassius, you rank first
Among their number—have no cause to fret
And should assume no more from my neglect
Than that poor Brutus, warring with himself,
Forgets to show his love to other men.
Then, Brutus, I was wrong about your feelings,
And due to this have buried in my breast
Important thoughts and serious contemplation.
Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?
No, Cassius, for the eye can’t see itself
Unless reflected by some other thing.
And it is very much lamented, Brutus,
That you have no such mirrors by which to send
Your hidden excellence back toward your eye
So you can see how you appear. I hear
When many of the highest ranked in Rome
(Except “immortal” Caesar) speak of Brutus
And groan beneath the yoke we now must wear,
They wish that noble Brutus had their eyes.
What dangers would you lead me into, Cassius,
That would require that I find in myself
These things that are not in me?
Good Brutus, be prepared for what you’ll hear.
And since you know that you can see yourself
The best through your reflection, I, your mirror,
Wish to reveal, without exaggeration,
A part of you which you do not yet know.
And do not be suspicious, noble Brutus.
Were I your common clown, or one who’s known
To spread his friendship thin by pledging it
To every glad-hander, or if you think
That I will flatter men, and hug them hard
And later slander them, or if you think
I’ll throw a banquet so the masses know
That I’m their friend, then deem me dangerous.
[Trumpets sound. Shouting is heard]
What’s all this shouting? I’m afraid the people
Are making Caesar king.
Well, if you fear it,
Then I must think it’s something you don’t want.
I do not, Cassius, though I love him well.
But tell me why you’re keeping me so long?
What is it that you wish for me to know?
If any of this talk concerns the public,
Show one eye honor and the other death
And I will look on both impartially.
I trust the gods will see to my success
As I love honor more than I fear death.
I know that this ideal is there inside you
As fully as I know your outward features.
Well, honor is the subject of my story.
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life, but if it is up to me,
I’d just as soon not live than live to stand
In awe of anyone no better than myself.
I was born free like Caesar; so were you.
We’ve eaten what he eats, and we can both
Endure the winter’s cold as well as he.
One time when on a raw and gusty day
The troubled Tiber raged against her shores,
Caesar said, “Right now, Cassius, do you dare
Leap in with me, into this angry flood,
And swim there to that cove?” On hearing this,
Though fully dressed, I plunged right in and called
For him to follow, which indeed he did.
The torrent roared, and then we beat it back
With vigorous muscles, thrusting it aside
And parting it, our hearts in competition.
But then before we reached the calmer cove,
Caesar cried, “Help me, Cassius, or I’ll sink!”
Then like Aeneas, Rome’s great forefather,
Whose shoulder saved Anchises from the flames
Of Troy, I took the tired Caesar from
The Tiber’s waves. And now I see this man’s
Become a god, while Cassius has become
A wretched creature bending at the waist
Whenever Caesar throws a glance his way.
He had a fever when he was in Spain;
And when he had a fit, I could observe
How hard he shook. It’s true! This god was shaking.
His lips, like cowards, fled from their own colors,
And those same eyes whose glance has awed the world
Had lost their luster. I could hear him groan.
Yes, and that tongue of his, which held the Romans
Spellbound, whose speeches filled their books,
“Oh, please,” it cried, “Give me a drink, Titinius,”
Like some sick girl.—By god, I am amazed
A man of such a feeble constitution
Could grab the lead in this majestic field
And cross the line alone.
[Shouting. Trumpets sound]
Is that more cheering?
I have no doubt that this applause must be
For some new honors being heaped on Caesar.
Why, man, he straddles our thin stretch of world
Like some Colossus, and we puny men
Walk under his huge legs and scratch about
To dig ourselves an undistinguished grave.
A man at times is master of his fate.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars,
But in ourselves—that’s why we’re underlings.
“Brutus” and “Caesar”—what is it that’s in “Caesar”?
Why should that name be spoken more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fine a name;
Say them, it flows as easily from the mouth;
Weigh them, it’s just as heavy; cast a spell,
“Brutus” will raise a spirit as fast as “Caesar.”
Now, in the name of every single god,
Upon what food has Caesar fed that’s made
Him grow so huge? This age we're in’s been shamed!
Rome, you have lost your lines of noble blood!
And name a time, at least since the great flood,
That’s ever been renowned for just one man.
And when, till now, could those who talked of Rome
Claim her wide walks had space for just one man?
Can this be Rome, with all its room to roam,
When in it there is but a single man?
O, you and I have heard our fathers say
There was another Brutus long ago
Who would have let the devil govern Rome
Before he’d let a king.
I see no reason to mistrust your friendship.
And where you’re pushing me, that I can guess.
The thoughts I’ve had on this and on these times,
I’ll cover in the future. For the moment,
I wish that you—and as a friend I’m begging—
Would urge me on no further. What you’ve said,
I will consider. What you have to say,
I’ll calmly listen to and find a time
For both a hearing on these weighty things
And my response. Till then, friend, chew on this:
Brutus would rather be some villager
Than list himself among the sons of Rome
And bear the hard conditions that these times
Will likely load on us.
I’m glad that my weak words
Strike even this much spark of fire from Brutus.
The games are done, and Caesar is returning.
[Re-enter JULIUS CAESAR and his entourage, with MARK ANTONY and CASCA]
I’ll do so.—But look at this, Cassius.
A mark of anger glows on Caesar’s brow,
And all the rest look like they got a scolding.
Calpurnia’s cheeks are pale, and Cicero
Glares with a ferret’s pointed, fiery eyes
The way he does inside the Capitol
When in debate with rival senators.
Casca will tell us what the trouble is.
Let me have men around me that are fat,
Men with combed hair and such who sleep at night.
Cassius there has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.
Fear him not, Caesar. He’s not dangerous.
He is a sympathetic, noble Roman.
He could be fatter! But I fear him not.
If Caesar’s name were given to such fear,
There’s no man I’d be sooner to avoid
Than scrawny Cassius there. He reads a lot,
He is a great observer, and he sees
Right through men’s motives. He does not love plays,
As you do, Antony, cares not for music
And seldom smiles, or smiles in such a way
As if to mock himself and scorn his spirit
For being moved to smile at anything.
Men with such hearts can never be at ease
Once they behold one greater than themselves,
And, therefore, they are very dangerous.
I am more apt to state what should be feared
Than what I fear, for I am always Caesar.
Come to my right side, for this ear is deaf,
And tell me truly what you think of him.
[Exit CAESAR and his entourage, with MARK ANTONY. CASCA stays]
You tugged me by my robe. Do you wish to speak with me?
Yes, Casca. Tell us what occurred today
That’s making Caesar look so grim?
Why, you were with him, weren’t you?
If so, I would not ask you what occurred.
Why, a crown was offered to him, and when offered it, he pushed it away with the back of his hand, like this, and then the people started cheering.
What was the second noise for?
Why, for that too.
They cheered him three times. What was the last for?
Why, for that too.
Was the crown offered three times?
Indeed it was, and he pushed it away three times, each time gentler than the other, and with each push, the common folk around me cheered.
Who offered him the crown?
Tell us how this was handled, noble Casca.
Hang me if I can tell you how it was handled. It was complete nonsense. I ignored it. I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown—not a crown, really. Smaller—one of those coronets. And as I told you, he pushed it away, though for all I could tell, he’d have been happy to take it. Then he offered it to him again. Then he pushed it away again. But to me he seemed very averse to taking his fingers off of it. And then he offered it a third time. He pushed it away a third time, and each time he refused it, the rabble cheered and clapped their calloused hands, and threw their sweaty caps in the air, and uttered such a great amount of stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown that Caesar almost suffocated, for he fainted and fell over when it hit him. And as for me, I dared not laugh for fear of opening my lips and breathing the bad air.
Hold on a minute. You saw Caesar faint?
He fell down in the market place and foamed at the mouth and was speechless.
It’s possible. We know he’s prone to seizures.
Not Caesar. You and I and honest Casca—
We are the ones who now may suffer seizure.
I don’t know what you mean by that, but I am sure that Caesar fell. If the rabble did not clap when he pleased them or hiss when he displeased them, as they’re used to doing for players in the theatre, then I am not an honest man.
When he recovered, what did he say then?
Indeed, before he fell down, when he realized that the common herd was glad he refused the crown, he popped open his robe and offered them his throat to cut. If I were a man of just any occupation and hadn’t taken him at his word, I’d have wanted myself in hell with all the other rogues. And so he fell. When he came to, he said if he had done or said anything improper, he hoped their worships would realize it was his illness. Three or four wenches where I stood cried, “Alas, a good soul!” and forgave him with all their hearts. But they can’t be taken seriously. If Caesar had used his sword on their mothers, they would have done no less.
And looking so upset, he then came back?
Did Cicero say anything?
Yes, in Greek.
For what purpose?
Well, if I pretended to know that, I could never look you in the face again. But those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads. I wish I could offer more, but it was Greek to me. I have other news too. Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarves off Caesar’s statues, have been removed. Farewell. There was even more nonsense, if I could remember it.
Will you dine with me tonight, Casca?
No, I have other plans.
Will you lunch with me tomorrow?
Yes, if I am alive, and your mind doesn’t change, and your meal’s worth eating.
Good. I will expect you.
Do that. Farewell to you both.
What a gruff fellow he has grown to be!
He had a lively spirit back in school.
As he still has today when taking on
All kinds of bold or noble enterprises
Though it’s well hid behind this sluggish manner.
This coarseness spices up his intellect,
Which makes men able to digest his words
And keep their appetites.
Indeed it does. At this time, I must leave you.
Tomorrow, if you wish to speak with me,
I’ll meet you at your house, or if you want,
We’ll meet at mine, and I will wait for you.
That’s fine. Till then, think of this world we’re in.
Well, Brutus, you are noble, yet I see
Your honorable metal can be wrenched
From what it tends to be. It’s fitting then
That noble minds stay with those most alike,
For who’s so strong he cannot be seduced?
Caesar puts up with me, but he loves Brutus.
If I were Brutus now and he were Cassius,
He would not sway me.I will toss tonight,
In different styles of writing, through his windows
As if they came from several citizens,
Letters, all speaking of the great opinion
That Rome has of his name, and indirectly
Caesar’s ambition will be hinted at.
And after when he thinks his throne’s secure,
We’ll shake him up, or worse days we’ll endure.