Scene 1.2 - A public place in Rome
Caesar, gathered among a large group of nobles and plebeians, tells his wife who hasn't borne them any children to stand in a position to receive a tap on her head by his best friend Mark Antony with a goatskin thong (as part of an ancient fertility rite called the feast of Lupercalia). A soothsayer (fortune-teller) interrupts Caesar and tells him to "beware the ides of March" (the fifteenth of March). Caesar promptly disregards the warning, and exits with the crowd following. Brutus and Cassius, both extremely important statesmen of Rome, remain behind to discuss the rise of Caesar and its implications.
Cassius tries to convince Brutus to join up with a group of conspirators against Caesar. Cassius begins by asking Brutus why he isn't as friendly as he used to be. Brutus explains that he is so wrapped up in his own worries that he forgets to show his friends his love. Cassius understands, and he tries to flatter Brutus by saying that all the respectable men of Rome look up to him. Brutus sees through Cassius' flattery and says that he is not ready to do anything. Cassius claims that what he says is not flattery but rather truth. They hear cheers and shouting in the background. Brutus is afraid the cheering means that the people want to choose Caesar as their king. Cassius says that if Brutus is afraid of that, it means that he does not want Caesar to be king. Brutus admits that is true, even though Caesar is his friend. But Brutus says that he would rather die than do anything dishonorable to prevent Caesar from becoming king.
Cassius agrees that honor is the most important thing in life, but he says that there would be no honor in a life of servitude under Caesar's rule. Cassius says that they were all born as free as Caesar and as capable, if not more so. Cassius recounts the story of the time Caesar challenged Cassius to swim to the other side of the Tiber River in the freezing winter. Cassius was dressed in armor, but he nevertheless undertook the challenge and made it to the other side. Caesar, on the other hand, couldn't make it across and he cried to Cassius for help. Cassius saved his life that day, and now Cassius must swallow his pride and bow to Caesar. Cassius tells of another time when Caesar was feverish and cried like a little girl. He is outraged that such a feeble man has come to rule the world.
There is another shout in the background, which makes Brutus even more nervous. Cassius continues to bait Brutus by saying that if Caesar becomes king, the blame must fall on them for their inaction. Cassius argues that Brutus would be as capable a king as Caesar would be, but Brutus would never desire to be king of Rome because ever since his ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, founded the Roman Republic many centuries ago, Rome has been ruled by a group of senators - never since by a single man. Brutus agrees that the concerns voiced by Cassius are legitimate, but he will need time to think over a course of action.
Caesar and his train enter after the Lupercalia has ended, and Brutus whispers to Cassius that Caesar looks very angry. Caesar whispers to Mark Antony that Cassius is dangerous and should be monitored. Caesar wishes that Cassius were fat, listened to music, and watched plays - that Cassius enjoyed the pleasures in life more. Instead, Caesar notices that Cassius is thin, reads a lot, and scorns himself for smiling - that Cassius will not be content as long as someone is more powerful than he. Caesar and Antony depart to discuss the matter in private.
Brutus and Cassius are left alone with the scatter-brained Casca to ask him why Caesar looked so angry and sad. Casca describes, in a very roundabout way, the events that happened. Mark Antony offered Caesar a crown three times, and each time Caesar refused it, to which the plebeians cheered loudly. Casca explains that Caesar was using this contrived coronation ceremony and his refusal of the crown, to trick the plebeians into demanding that he accept the crown. When it became clear to Caesar that the plebeians were cheering not because they wanted him to be king of Rome but rather that they were actually pleased at his refusal of the crown, Caesar made a desperate attempt to win their admiration. He offered Casca his throat to cut. Casca, who didn't understand that Caesar was showboating, went after his throat, and Caesar, shocked that his ploy had backfired, pretended to fall into an epileptic seizure to save himself. That, Casca says, is why Caesar looked angry and sad. Casca also mentions that the two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, have been stripped of their positions for removing Caesar's banners from the statues in the streets. As Casca prepares to depart, Cassius asks him to join him for dinner tomorrow.
Brutus remarks how much Casca has changed from their school days. Cassius points out that Casca is still quick to act for a noble cause. They agree to meet for dinner tomorrow, and Brutus departs. Cassius, now alone, reveals that he is using Brutus as a pawn in his scheme against Caesar. Caesar thinks the worst of Cassius, but he would never suspect any wrongdoing from someone so honorable as Brutus, and his friend besides. To trick Brutus into helping him, Cassius plans to toss through Brutus' window notes seemingly written by various people praising Brutus and hinting at Caesar's ambition.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Scenes 2.2, 2.3, and 2.4
Scenes 3.2 and 3.3
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scenes 5.4 and 5.5