A group of plebeians (commoners) are celebrating the Feast of Lupercal and the return of Julius Caesar to Rome after his victory over Pompey’s sons. The plebeians are rowdy and excited, singing and dancing in the streets.
However, their celebrations are interrupted by two tribunes, Marullus and Flavius, who are angry that the commoners are celebrating Caesar’s victory instead of mourning Pompey’s defeat. Marullus and Flavius chastise the plebeians for their fickle loyalty and remind them that Caesar is not a true hero, but rather a power-hungry politician.
The plebeians feel guilty and begin to disperse, realizing that they have been caught up in the excitement of the moment. Marullus and Flavius depart to vandalize Caesar’s statues as a symbolic act of rebellion against his growing power.
This scene sets the tone for the play and introduces the theme of political power and loyalty. The tribunes represent the political establishment, while the plebeians represent the masses who are easily swayed by charismatic leaders like Caesar. The scene also foreshadows the conflict to come, as Marullus and Flavius’s opposition to Caesar’s rise to power will eventually lead to their participation in the conspiracy to assassinate him.
Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 1
|Original Text |
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 to walk Upon a labouring 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 10 am but, as 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 conscience, which is indeed, sir, a mender of 15 bad soles.
Flavius: What trade, thou knave? Thou naughty knave, what trade?
Cobbler: Nay, I beseech you sir, be not out with me, yet if thou be out, sir, I can mend you. 20
Marullus : What mean’st thou by that? Mend me, thou saucy fellow?
Cobbler: Why, sir, cobble you.
Flavius: Thou art a cobbler, art thou?
Cobbler: Truly sir, all that I live by is with the awl. 25 I meddle with no tradesman’s matters nor women’s matters, but withal — I am indeed, sir, a surgeon to old shoes. When they are in great danger, I recover them. As proper men as ever trod upon neat’s leather have gone upon my handiwork. 30
Flavius: But wherefore art not in thy shop to-day? Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?
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. 35
Marullus: Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome? 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! 40 Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft Have you climbed up to walls and battlements, To towers and windows, yea, to chimney tops, Your infants in your arms, and there have sat The livelong day, with patient expectation, 45 To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome. And when you saw his chariot but appear, Have you not made an universal shout, That Tiber trembled underneath her banks To hear the replication of your sounds 50 Made in her concave shores? And do you now put-on your best attire? 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? 55 Be gone! Run to your houses, fall upon your knees, Pray to the gods to intermit the plague That needs must light on this ingratitude.
Flavius: Go, go, good countrymen, and for this fault 60 Assemble all the poor men of your sort; Draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears Into the channel, till the lowest stream Do kiss the most exalted shores of all. [Exeunt the commoners.] See, whe’r their basest mettle be not moved. 65 They vanish tongue-tied in their guiltiness. Go you down that way towards the Capitol; This way will I. Disrobe the images If you do find them decked with ceremonies.
Marullus: May we do so? 70 You know it is the feast of Lupercal.
Flavius: It is no matter. Let no images 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. 75 These growing feathers, plucked from Caesar’s wing will make him fly an ordinary pitch, Who else would soar above the view of men And keep us all in servile fearfulness. [Exeunt.]
|Modern Text |
Rome, a street.
(Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS, and some commoners.)
Flavius: Hey, you lazy people! Go home! Is this a holiday? Don’t you know that as laborers, you shouldn’t be walking around on a workday without your work clothes on? Tell me, what’s your trade?
Carpenter: I’m a carpenter, sir.
Marullus: Where’s your leather apron and measuring stick? And what about you, sir? What do you do?
Cobbler: Well, to be honest, I’m just a cobbler.
Marullus: And what kind of work is that?
Cobbler: I hope it’s a job I can do with a clear conscience. I mend bad shoe soles.
Flavius: What’s your trade, you fool? What do you do?
Cobbler: Please don’t be angry with me, sir. If you need your shoes fixed, I can do it for you.
Marullus: What do you mean by that? Do you think you can fix me, you impudent fellow?
Cobbler: Well, yes, sir. I can cobble your shoes.
Flavius: So, you’re a cobbler, huh?
Cobbler: That’s right, sir. All I do is work with my awl. I don’t mess with any other trades or women’s matters. But I am, indeed, a surgeon for old shoes. When they’re in bad shape, I fix them up. The best men with the finest shoes have walked on my work.
Flavius: Then why aren’t you in your shop today? Why are you leading these men around the streets?
Cobbler: Well, sir, they need to wear out their shoes so they can come to me for more work. But we’re also making a holiday of it to see Caesar and celebrate his triumph.
Marullus: Why celebrate? What victory is he bringing home? What conquered people are following him to Rome, their hands tied in chains, to adorn his chariot wheels? You people are like blocks of stone, worse than senseless things! You have hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome! Didn’t you know Pompey? How many times have you climbed walls and battlements, towers and windows, even the tops of chimneys, holding your babies in your arms, just to catch a glimpse of Pompey as he passed through the streets of Rome? And when you saw his chariot, didn’t you let out a shout so loud that the Tiber river shook and echoed your sounds? And now you put on your best clothes and declare a holiday? And you even scatter flowers in the path of the man who triumphs over the blood of Pompey? Be gone! Go back to your homes, fall on your knees, and pray to the gods to spare you from the punishment you deserve for this ingratitude.
Flavius: Go, go, good citizens, and because of your wrongdoing, gather all the poor people like you. Bring them to the banks of the Tiber river, and cry until the water reaches the highest shores. [The citizens exit.] Look at how their shame is making them silent. I will go this way towards the Capitol. If you see any statues with Caesar’s decorations, remove them.
Marullus: Can we do that? You know today is the Lupercal festival.
Flavius: It doesn’t matter. Do not let any statues have Caesar’s trophies on them. I will drive the common people away from the streets. You should do the same where they are gathered. By removing these symbols of Caesar’s power, we will reduce his influence over the people, who might otherwise remain servile and afraid. [They exit.]