ACT I SCENE 3
Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 3 Summary
Casca, a Roman nobleman, encounters two other nobleman, Cicero and Cassius, on a street in Rome during a tumultuous night of storm and unrest. Casca tells them of strange and ominous happenings in the city, including a lion wandering the streets, men on fire, and a slave with a burning hand, which he interprets as ominous signs portending disaster. Cassius, who is plotting against Caesar, sees an opportunity to recruit Casca to their cause and begins to subtly criticize Caesar and question his fitness to rule. Cicero, on the other hand, is skeptical and warns Casca to be cautious. As they part ways, Cassius continues to scheme and plot, hoping to win over Casca and others to their conspiracy to overthrow Caesar.
Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 3 translation
[Thunder and lightning. Enter, from opposite sides,
Casca, with his sword drawn, 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
Have rived the knotty oaks; and I have seen
Th’ 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.
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’d 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 ha’ not since put up my sword,—
Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared 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 noonday upon the marketplace,
Howling 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.
Cicero: Indeed, it is a strange-disposed time.
But men may construe things after their fashion,
Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.
Comes Caesar to the Capitol tomorrow?
Casca: He doth, for he did bid Antonius
Send word to you he would be there to-morrow.
Cicero: Good then, Casca: this disturbed sky
Is not to walk in.
Casca: Farewell, Cicero.
[Exit Cicero.] [Enter Cassius.]
Cassius: Who’s there?
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.
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,
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?
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,
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 preformed faculties
To monstrous quality;—why, you shall find
That Heaven hath infused 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 Caesar that you mean; is it not, Cassius?
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.
Casca: Indeed they say the senators to-morrow
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;
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 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
I can shake off at pleasure.
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?
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 Caesar! 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 farthest.
Cassius: There’s a bargain made.
Now know you, Casca, I have moved already
Some certain of the noblest-minded Romans
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;
And the complexion of the element
Is favor’d like the work we have in hand,
Most bloody, fiery, and most terrible.
Casca: Stand close awhile, for here comes one in haste.
Cassius: ‘Tis Cinna; I do know him by his gait;
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!
There’s two or three of us have seen strange sights.
Cassius: Am I not stay’d for? tell me.
You are. O Cassius, if you could but win
The noble Brutus to our party,—
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,
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.
Cassius: That done, repair to Pompey’s theatre.—
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 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,
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.
In a street, during a stormy night with thunder and lightning, Casca enters with his sword drawn, followed by Cicero.
Cicero: Good evening, Casca. Did you bring Caesar home? Why are you out of breath and why do you look so scared?
Casca: Don’t you feel alarmed when the entire Earth shakes like it’s about to collapse? Oh Cicero, I’ve seen storms before when the angry winds tore apart sturdy oak trees, and I’ve seen the sea swell and rage and foam, eager to be lifted up by the threatening clouds. But never before, not until tonight, have I witnessed a storm that rains fire. Either there is a war going on in heaven, or the world has become too arrogant in front of the gods, and they’re sending destruction our way.
Cicero: Did you see anything else unusual?
Casca: I saw a common slave – you would recognize him if you saw him – holding up his left hand, which was on fire like twenty torches joined together. And yet, his hand wasn’t affected by the fire, and it didn’t burn. Also, I haven’t put away my sword since then, but when I was walking towards the Capitol, I encountered a lion that glared at me and then walked away without attacking me. And on a pile of rubble, I saw a hundred women who looked horrified, claiming they saw men walking on the streets, completely on fire. And yesterday, a night bird sat on the marketplace in broad daylight, howling and shrieking. When all these strange events happen at the same time, people cannot say that they are natural occurrences, as they are portentous things that point to a bigger issue.
Cicero: Indeed, it’s a strange time we’re living in. But people often interpret things in their own way, separate from the true purpose of the things themselves. Is Caesar coming to the Capitol tomorrow?
Casca: He is. He sent word through Antony that he’ll be there tomorrow.
Cicero: Good, then. Casca, this unsettled sky is not fit for walking.
Casca: Goodbye, Cicero. (Cicero exits. Cassius enters.)
Cassius: Who’s there?
Casca: A Roman.
Cassius: Casca, I recognize your voice.
Casca: Your hearing is good. Cassius, what a night this is!
Cassius: A very good night for honest men.
Casca: Who would have thought the heavens could be so threatening?
Cassius: Those who know the earth is full of flaws. As for me, I’ve walked around the streets, exposing myself to the dangers of the night. As you see, Casca, I’ve even unbuttoned my clothes, baring my chest to the thunderbolts. When the lightning seemed to split open the sky, I stood there directly in its path.
Casca: But why would you tempt fate like that? It’s natural for men to be afraid and tremble when the most powerful gods send such frightening signs to shock us.
Cassius: You’re not very quick-witted, Casca. You lack the sparks of life that should be in a Roman, or you don’t use them. You look pale and stare, and you’re filled with fear and wonder at the strange impatience of the heavens. But if you would consider the true reason why all these fires, all these gliding ghosts, all these strange animals and people, from every class and age, are changing from their normal behavior and faculties to monstrous qualities, you’d see that heaven has infused them with these spirits to make them instruments of fear and warning for some monstrous state. Now, Casca, I could name to you a man who’s most like this dreadful night; a man who thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars like the lion in the Capitol. He’s no more powerful than you or me in personal action, yet he’s become prodigious and terrifying, like these strange occurrences.
Casca: You mean Caesar, don’t you, Cassius?
Cassius: Let it be whoever it is. Romans now have the same physical strength as their ancestors, but unfortunately, our fathers’ minds are dead, and we are governed by the spirits of our mothers. Our submission and endurance make us look weak like women.
Casca: They say that the senators plan to make Caesar a king tomorrow, and he will wear his crown everywhere except Italy.
Cassius: I know where I will wear this dagger then. Cassius will deliver himself from bondage. This is where, gods, you make the weak strong and defeat tyrants. Neither stone towers, nor walls of beaten brass, nor airless dungeons, nor strong iron chains can hold back the strength of the human spirit. When life is tired of these worldly restraints, it has the power to dismiss itself. If I know this, the whole world should know that I can shake off the part of tyranny that I bear at my pleasure.
Casca: So can I. Every slave holds in his own hand the power to cancel his captivity.
Cassius: Then why should Caesar be a tyrant? Poor man! I know he wouldn’t be a wolf if he didn’t see the Romans as sheep. He wouldn’t be a lion if the Romans weren’t hinds. Those who want to make a big fire quickly start with weak straws. What trash is Rome, what rubbish and offal, when it serves as the base material to illuminate such a vile thing as Caesar! But, oh, where has my grief led me? I may have spoken this before a willing slave. Then I know I must answer, but I am armed, and danger is indifferent to me.
Casca: You’re talking to Casca, a man who won’t reveal your secrets. Here, hold my hand. Let’s work together to find redress for all these grievances, and I will go as far as anyone.
Cassius: It’s a deal. Now, Casca, I have already persuaded some of the most noble-minded Romans to undertake a dangerous and honorable enterprise with me. They are waiting for me in Pompey’s Porch. Tonight, there is no one in the streets, and the weather is favorable for the bloody, fiery, and terrible work we have planned.
Casca: Let’s stand here quietly. Someone is coming in a hurry.
Cassius: It’s Cinna. I recognize his walk. He’s a friend.
Cinna, where are you hurrying to?
Cinna: I’ve been looking for you. Who’s that? Metellus Cimber?
Cassius: No, it’s Casca, who is on our side. Am I not waiting for you, Cinna?
Cinna: Yes, you are. Oh Cassius, this is a fearful night. Two or three of us have seen strange things.
Cassius: Am I not waiting for you? Tell me.
Cinna: Yes, you are. Cassius, if only we could get the noble Brutus on our side…
Cassius: Don’t worry. Cinna, take this paper and put it in the praetor’s chair, where Brutus will find it. Throw this one in his window, and set this one up with wax on old Brutus’ statue. When you’re done, go to Pompey’s Porch, where you will find us. Is Decius Brutus and Trebonius there?
Cinna: Yes, except for Metellus Cimber, who has gone to your house to find you. I’ll go now and do as you said.
Cassius: With that settled, let’s head to Pompey‘s theater. [Cinna exits.] Come on, Casca, before dawn we’ll visit Brutus at his home. We already have three parts of him on our side, and when we meet him again, he will be entirely on our side.
Casca: Oh, he’s well-loved by the people. Even if we offend him, his good reputation will turn our offense into praise.
Cassius: You’re right, we need him and his good character. Let’s go, it’s already past midnight. We’ll wake him up before dawn and make sure he’s with us.