Plain text: Original text of the play.
Purple text: Modern translation of the play.
Bold text: Notes and commentary. (All unattributed definitions of words and terms are taken from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913).)
SCENE III. Brutus's tent.
Coleridge: "I know no part of Shakespeare that more impresses on me the belief of his genius being superhuman than this scene between Brutus and Cassius. In the Gnostic heresy it might have been credited with less absurdity than most of their dogmas that the Supreme had employed him to create, previously to his function of representing, character."
Knight: "The matchless art of Shakespeare [in this scene] consists as much in what he holds back as in what he puts forward. Brutus subdues Cassius by the force of his moral strength, without the slightest attempt to command the feelings of a sensitive man. When Cassius is subdued, he owns that he has been hasty. They are friends again, hand and heart."
A.C. Bradley: "One purpose of this scene, as also of the appearance of Caesar's Ghost just afterwards, is to indicate the inward changes. Otherwise the introduction of this famous and wonderful scene can hardly be defended on strictly dramatic grounds. No one would consent to part with it, and it is invaluable in sustaining interest during the progress of the reaction, but it is an episode, the removal of which would not affect the actual sequence of events (unless we may hold that, but for the emotion caused by the quarrel and reconciliation, Cassius would not have allowed Brutus to overcome his objection to the fatal policy of offering battle at Philippi). The quarrel-scene illustrates yet another favourite expedient. In this section of a tragedy Shakespeare often appeals to an emotion different from any of those excited in the first half of the play, and so provides novelty and generally also relief. As a rule this new emotion is pathetic; and the pathos is not terrible or lacerating, but, even if painful, is accompanied by the sense of beauty and by an outflow of admiration or affection, which come with an inexpressible sweetness after the tension of the crisis and first counterstroke. So it is with the reconciliation of Brutus and Cassius and the arrival of the news of Portia's death."
Enter BRUTUS and CASSIUS
That you have wrong'd me doth appear in this:
[You have wronged me by doing these things:]
You have condemn'd and noted Lucius Pella
[You condemned Lucius Pella and accused him]
For taking bribes here of the Sardians;
[of taking bribes from the Sardians;]
Wherein my letters, praying on his side,
[My letter, in which I asked for him to be pardoned,]
Because I knew the man, were slighted off.
[because I was friends with him, was ignored.]
note: To charge, as with crime
pray: To ask earnestly for; to seek to obtain by supplication
slight: To throw heedlessly.
You wronged yourself to write in such a case.
[You disgraced yourself by writing on Lucius Pella’s behalf.]
Cassius is now personally feeling the downside of having such a morally upright man as Brutus in charge – Brutus is unbending in matters such as corruption, and the bribery that many of the senators no doubt engaged in when Caesar was ruler is now no longer being tolerated. Brutus’s irritation, however, seems warranted – he killed Caesar believing that he was “sacrificing” the man for justice. He believed he would restore the glory of Rome, but some of the conspirators don’t seem to be as committed, if at all committed, to the cause of justice. He perhaps get the feeling that they simply killed him out of envy (and many of them, including Cassius, probably did) rather than the just reasons for which he participated in the plot.
In such a time as this it is not meet
[At a time like this, it isn’t appropriate]
That every nice offence should bear his comment.
[for every small offense [the small offense being Lucius Pella's
bribery] to be noticed.]
nice: Of trifling moment; nimportant; trivial.
Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself
[Let me tell you, Cassius, that you yourself]
Are much condemn'd to have an itching palm;
[have been criticized for taking bribes and]
To sell and mart your offices for gold
[for selling political positions]
[to people who don’t deserve them.]
itching palm: A hand longing for money. (C.M. Yonge)
mart: To buy or sell in, or as in, a market.
office: A special duty, trust, charge, or position, conferred by authority and for a public purpose
undeservers: Undeserving people. Cassius himself was accused of selling appointments. (C.M. Yonge)
I an itching palm!
[Are you seriously suggesting that I accept bribes?]
You know that you are Brutus that speak this,
[You say this knowing that you are Brutus [that you are Brutus, a
good friend of mine]]
Or, by the gods, this speech were else your last.
[or, I swear, you would never say another word again. [because I
would kill you]]
honour: to bestow honor upon; to elevate in rank or station; to ennoble;
chastisement: Discipline; punishment.
Mark Hunter: "The reply is feeble save as an additional insult, for Brutus has no authority to punish Cassius for a public offence, and if he had, by refraining from doing so from personal motives, his conduct is not a whit more upright than Cassius's has been in the case of Lucius Pella."
Remember March, the ides of March remember:
[Remember the day that Caesar was assassinated.]
Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?
[Didn’t Julius die for the sake of justice?]
What villain touch'd his body, that did stab,
[What scoundrel stabbed him]
And not for justice? What, shall one of us
[for a reason other than justice? What, will one of us,]
That struck the foremost man of all this world
[who killed the most powerful man in the world]
But for supporting robbers, shall we now
[for supporting corruption [Caesar tolerated bribery in his army
as well], will we now]
Contaminate our fingers with base bribes,
And sell the mighty space of our large honours
[and give up our honorable reputation]
For so much trash as may be grasped thus?
[for something so unworthy as money?]
I had rather be a dog, and bay the moon,
[I’d rather be a dog and bark at the moon]
Than such a Roman.
[than be that sort of Roman.]
ides: The fifteenth day of March, May, July, and October, and the thirteenth day of the other months.
touch: To harm.
foremost: Chief in rank or dignity.
base: Morally low. Hence: Low-minded; unworthy; without dignity of sentiment.
bay: To bark, as a dog with a deep voice does, at his game.
Brutus firmly believes that “great Julius [bled] for justice’ sake,” though many of the conspirators seemed to have helped with the assassination solely to satisfy their own private grudges. The fact that the conspirators have turned out to be not as committed to the concept of justice as Brutus, seems almost surprising to Brutus. This illustrates not only his nobleness, but also his inability to accurately perceive the motivations of others (a fatal flaw for a political leader).
Coleridge: "This seemingly strange assertion of Brutus is unhappily verified in the present day. What is an immense army, in which the lust of plunder has quenched all the duties of the citizen, other than a horde of robbers, or differenced only as fiends from ordinarily reprobate men? Caesar supported, and was supported by, such as these; and even so Buonaparte in our days."
MacCallum: "This [speech of Brutus], one feels, is merely an argumentum ad hominem, brought forward very much in afterthought for a particular purpose. At the time, neither in Brutus's speeches to himself or others, nor in the discussions of the conspirators, is Caesar accused of countenancing peculation, or is this made a handle against him. And if it were, it would not be incompatible with acquiescence in a royal government. … On Coleridge's interpretation Brutus's charge would come to nothing more than this, that Caesar had employed large armies. I believe there is a more definite reference to a passage in the Life of Antony: 'Now it grieved men much, to see that Cscsar should be out of Italy following of his enemies, to end this great warre, with such great perill and daunger: and that others in the meantime abusing his name and authoritie, should commit such insolent and outragious parts unto their citizens. This me thinkes was the cause that made the conspiracie against Caesar increase more and more, and layd the reynes of the brydle uppon the souldiers neckes, whereby they durst boldlier commit many extorsions, cruelties, and robberies.'"
MacCallum: "Surely there are few more pathetic passages even in Shakespeare than the confession of disillusionment wrung from Brutus by the force of events, a confession none the less significant that he admits disillusion only as to the results and still clings to his estimate of the deed itself. … In anticipating the effects of Caesar's rule, he had said he 'had rather be a villager than to repute himself a son of Rome' in the probable conditions. But his attempt at remedy has resulted in a situation even more intolerable. He would rather be a dog than such Romans as the confederates, whom he sought to put in Caesar's place, are disclosing themselves to be."
Brutus, bay not me;
[Brutus, don’t bark at me;]
I'll not endure it: you forget yourself,
[I won’t tolerate it; you forget your position]
To hedge me in; I am a soldier, I,
[by limiting my power; I am a soldier, and I’ve been]
Older in practise, abler than yourself
[a soldier longer than you have, and am more capable than you]
To make conditions.
[of properly managing an army.]
hedge: To obstruct with a hedge, or to obstruct in any manner.
Go to; you are not, Cassius.
[Come on; you are not more capable than I am, Cassius.]
[I am better than you [at managing an army].]
I say you are not.
[I say you aren’t.]
Urge me no more, I shall forget myself;
[Don’t continue provoking me, or I will lose my temper,]
Have mind upon your health, tempt me no further.
[think of your health [because I might hurt you], and do not
provoke me any further.]
urge: To provoke; to exasperate.
tempt: To provoke.
Away, slight man!
[Get out of here, you insignificant man.]
slight: Trifling; of no great importance.
[Is it possible that you could say something like that to me?]
Hear me, for I will speak.
[Hear me, for I will speak.]
Must I give way and room to your rash choler?
[Am I supposed to put up with your fits of anger?]
Shall I be frighted when a madman stares?
[Should I be frightened by a madman staring at me crazily?]
choler: Irritation of the passions; anger; wrath.
stare: To look with fixed eyes wide open, as through fear, wonder, surprise, impudence, etc.
Brutus says that Cassius is acting like a madman and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Cassius is, of course, very offended — especially because a major reason why he plotted the assassination of Caesar was that Caesar being dictator made him feel insignifcant.
O ye gods, ye gods! must I endure all this?
[Oh you gods, you gods, do I have to endure all this?]
All this! ay, more: fret till your proud heart break;
[All this? Yes, and you'll have to get even angry: get angry until
your proud heart breaks;]
Go show your slaves how choleric you are,
[Go show your slaves how angry you are,]
And make your bondmen tremble. Must I budge?
[and make your bondmen tremble. Do I have to be afraid of your
Must I observe you? must I stand and crouch
[Do I have to watch you be angry? Do I have to]
Under your testy humour? By the gods
[act according to your bad temper? I swear,]
You shall digest the venom of your spleen,
[you will digest all of your anger]
Though it do split you; for, from this day forth,
[even if it kills you [you will act according to your temper, even if
it harms you]; since, from now on]
I'll use you for my mirth, yea, for my laughter,
[I will bring you to me when I need something to laugh at; yes, I
will use you when I need something to laugh at,]
When you are waspish.
[when you are angry.]
fret: To be vexed; to be chafed or irritated; to be angry
choleric: Easily irritated; irascible; inclined to anger.
bondman: A man slave, or one bound to service without wages.
testy: Fretful; peevish; petulant; easily irritated.
spleen: soft part of the viscera of animals, whose use is not well understood. The ancients supposed this to be the seat of melancholy, anger or vexation.
split: To burst; to rupture; to rend; to tear asunder.
waspish: Quick to resent a trifling affront; characterized by snappishness; irritable; irascible.
Is it come to this?
[Have things gotten this bad?]
You say you are a better soldier:
[You say you are a better soldier than I am]
Let it appear so; make your vaunting true,
[Make it seem like you are; make your bragging true]
And it shall please me well: for mine own part,
[and I will be happy: as for me,]
I shall be glad to learn of noble men.
[I will be glad to meet these noble men you talk about [because
you are certainly not one of them].
vaunt: To boast; to brag.
While Brutus is losing his patience with Cassius partly because he’s mourning the death of his wife, his words do have some truth to them: while Cassius throughout the play vaunts about how Caesar and those who obey him aren’t masculine, when he finally gets into a confrontation, in this scene, he seems emotionally vulnerable and almost pathetic.
You wrong me every way; you wrong me, Brutus;
[You're insulting me in every way possible; you insult me,
I said, an elder soldier, not a better:
[I said you were an older soldier, not a better soldier:]
Did I say 'better'?
[Did I say you were a better soldier?]
Hudson: "Cassius was much the abler soldier, and Brutus knew it; and the mistake grew from his consciousness of what he thought he heard. Long before this time Cassius had served as Quaestor under Marcus Crassus in his expedition against the Parthians; and when the army was all torn to pieces, both Crassus and his son being killed, Cassius displayed great ability in bringing off a remnant; as he also did for some time after that, in the military administration of Syria."
If you did, I care not.
[I don’t care what it was that you said.]
When Caesar lived, he durst not thus have moved me.
[When Caesar was alive, he wouldn’t have treated me this way.]
Peace, peace! you durst not so have tempted him.
[Quiet, quiet! You wouldn’t have dared to provoke him the way
you’re provoking me now.]
I durst not!
[I wouldn’t dare!]
[No, you wouldn’t.]
What, durst not tempt him!
[What! You’re saying I wouldn’t have dared to provoke Caesar!]
For your life you durst not!
[You wouldn’t have dared!]
Do not presume too much upon my love;
[Do not presume that just because I’m your friend, that I won't try
to harm you for insulting me;]
I may do that I shall be sorry for.
[I might do something I’ll later regret.]
You have done that you should be sorry for.
[You have already done something you will be sorry for.]
There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats,
[I have nothing to fear, Cassius, from your threats,]
For I am arm'd so strong in honesty
[for I am so honest]
That they pass by me as the idle wind,
[that they go past me like a light wind,]
Which I respect not. I did send to you
[I have no respect for what you have to say. I sent someone to
you to ask you]
For certain sums of gold, which you denied me:
[for a certain amount of gold, which you refused to give me:]
For I can raise no money by vile means:
[I asked you for this money since I will not raise money
unscrupulously [i.e., by taking bribes, overtaxing commoners,
By heaven, I had rather coin my heart,
[I swear, I’d rather turn my heart into money]
And drop my blood for drachmas, than to wring
[and give my blood to get money, than to
From the hard hands of peasants their vile trash
[from the rough hands of peasants their money]
By any indirection: I did send
[by immoral means: I sent you messengers]
To you for gold to pay my legions,
[asking you for gold for me to pay my army,]
Which you denied me: was that done like Cassius?
[and you refused to give me this money: was that something
Cassius would do? [it seemed strangely out of character]]
Should I have answer'd Caius Cassius so?
[Would I have answered you the same way if you needed
When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous,
[When I become so greedy]
To lock such rascal counters from his friends,
[as to keep such worthless things [such worthless things as
money] from my friends,]
Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts;
[be ready, gods, with your thunderbolts]
Dash him to pieces!
[to blow me to pieces.]
idle: Of no account; useless.
vile: Morally base or impure; sinful
coin: To make of a definite fineness, and convert into coins.
drop: To pour or let fall in drops.
drachma: A silver coin among the ancient Greeks, having a different value in different States and at different periods.
wring: To subject to extortion; to afflict, or oppress, in order to enforce compliance.
indirection: Dishonest practice.
legion: A body of foot soldiers and cavalry consisting of different numbers at different periods, — from about four thousand to about six thousand men, — the cavalry being about one tenth.
grow: To become.
covetous: Inordinately desirous; excessively eager to obtain and possess; greedy.
rascal: low; mean; base.
dash: To break, as by throwing or by collision.
Brutus’s idealism is the very trait that leads to his downfall and it’s the embrace of political realism that puts his enemies in power. Dishonesty and a betrayal of the ideals of the Republic are what put Caesar in power, and it was through Antony’s deceiving Brutus and through vast indiscriminate purgings that put into power the Triumvirate. And it was Brutus’s unwillingness to commit purges and his magnanimity towards Antony that led to the conspirators being ousted from power shortly after taking it. His idealism also, as is seen here, puts him at odds with his fellow conspirators.
There Is an element of hypocrisy in Brutus’s anger towards Cassius’s acceptance of bribes, as he has these feelings while complaining that Cassius did not give him money (money which would have probably come from bribes). He seems to want to have his cake and eat it too – he wants to complain about bribery, and at the same time wants to complain about not receiving money that may very well have been collected through bribery.
Kreyssig: "It is a two-edged virtue to desire the end and despise the means! The sentiments of Brutus are excellent. But drops of the heart's blood will not pay the legions, and the sentimental contempt of money has seldom filled a military chest. Thus the sermon against extortion ends prosaically enough—with a request for gold. Does it not almost smack of self-deception (Selbst-Ironie) when Brutus continues, 'I did send To you for gold to pay my legions'?"
E.H. Hickey: "It is curious how unconscious Brutus appears of having given any occasion of annoyance to Cassius. With strange inconsistency he blames Cassius for not sending him gold, after he had accused him of obtaining gold by wrong means,—means which he himself would scorn to use."
I denied you not.
[I did not refuse to give you money.]
I did not: he was but a fool that brought
[I didn’t: the man who brought my answer back]
My answer back. Brutus hath rived my heart:
[was an idiot. You’ve broken my heart, Brutus.]
A friend should bear his friend's infirmities,
[A friend should put up with his friend’s flaws,]
But Brutus makes mine greater than they are.
[but you instead make them seem worse than they really
rive: To rend asunder by force; to split;
infirmity: A personal frailty or failing; foible; a weakness or defect.
Dowden: "Each is naturally and inevitably aggrieved with the other; one from the practical, the other from the ideal, standpoint. Shakespeare, in his infinite pity for human error and frailty, makes us love Brutus and Cassius the better through the little wrongs which bring the great wealth of their love and true fraternity to light. . . . When their hearts are tenderest comes the confession of the sorrow which Brutus could not utter as long as a shadow lay between his soul and his friend's."
I do not, till you practise them on me.
[I do not point out your flawsexcept when I am personally
affected by them.]
practise: To make use of.
You love me not.
[You do not love me.]
I do not like your faults.
[I don’t like your flaws.]
A friendly eye could never see such faults.
[A friend could never see such flaws.]
A flatterer's would not, though they do appear
[A flatterer would not see such flaws, even though they were]
As huge as high Olympus.
[as large as the tall Mount Olympus.]
Come, Antony, and young Octavius, come,
[Come on, Antony and young Octavius,]
Revenge yourselves alone on Cassius,
[get all of your revenge for Caesar’s death by killing me,]
For Cassius is aweary of the world;
[for I am tired of this world;]
Hated by one he loves; braved by his brother;
[I am hated by someone I love;]
Cheque'd like a bondman; all his faults observed,
[I am scolded like a slave; all my flaws are noticed,]
Set in a note-book, learn'd, and conn'd by rote,
[as if they were written down in a notebook, learned, and
To cast into my teeth. O, I could weep
[and then are used to insult me. Oh, I could cry]
My spirit from mine eyes! There is my dagger,
[so much my spirit would come out of my eyes! There is my
dagger [Cassio takes out his dagger],]
And here my naked breast; within, a heart
[and here is my chest; in my chest there is a heart]
Dearer than Plutus' mine, richer than gold:
[that is more valuable than the mine of Plutus [the god of
wealth]; my heart is more valuable than gold:]
If that thou be'st a Roman, take it forth;
[if you are a true Roman, take my dagger;]
I, that denied thee gold, will give my heart:
[I, who refused to give you gold, will give you my heart [by
letting you stab me in it]:]
Strike, as thou didst at Caesar; for, I know,
[Stab me, just like you stabbed Caesar, for I know that]
When thou didst hate him worst, thou lovedst him better
[when you hated him the most, you loved him better]
Than ever thou lovedst Cassius.
[than you ever loved me.]
aweary: Having the strength exhausted by toil or exertion; worn out in respect to strength, endurance, etc.
brave: To defy.
cheque: To chide, rebuke, or reprove.
con: To study in order to know; to peruse; to learn; to commit to memory;
rote: A frequent repetition of forms of speech without attention to the meaning; mere repetition; as, to learn rules by rote.
cast: To throw.
dear: Bearing a high price; high-priced; costly; expensive.
Plutus : The son of Jason and Ceres, and the god of wealth. He was represented as bearing a cornucopia, and as blind, because his gifts were bestowed without discrimination of merit.
Cassius has a tendency to become overemotional and overdramatic. In earlier scenes his emotion seemed sensible, given the immense threat that Caesar posed to the integrity of the Republic, but now it seems almost silly, as he is worked up over Brutus’s rude treatment of him rather than anything truly important.
Sheathe your dagger:
[Put your dagger in its sheath:]
Be angry when you will, it shall have scope;
[be angry whenever you want, I will tolerate it;]
Do what you will, dishonour shall be humour.
[do what you want, I will tolerate your dishonorable conduct.]
O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
[Oh Cassius, it’s like you have a lamb attached to you,]
That carries anger as the flint bears fire;
[which has anger in it like a piece of flint that creates fire,]
Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark,
[and when it’s struck, it shows a brief spark,]
And straight is cold again.
[but is soon cold again. [You have a tendency to have brief
spurts of extreme emotion.]
scope: Free course or vent.
humor: A practice or habit.
yoke: To couple; to join with another.
flint: A piece of flint for striking fire; — formerly much used, esp. in the hammers of gun locks.
enforce: To put in motion or action by violence.
In other words, Cassius is emotionally unstable. Thankfully, at this point, Brutus has calmed down. It’s likely that Cassius’s dramatic display and willingness to let Brutus take his life moved Brutus to the point of forgiving Cassius for the recent wrongs done against him.
Hath Cassius lived
[Do I live]
To be but mirth and laughter to his Brutus,
[merely to be laughed at by you]
When grief, and blood ill-temper'd, vexeth him?
[when I’m grieving or have lost my temper?]
Wright: ""blood ill-temper'd" — Burton describes the four humours, blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy, corresponding to the four elements, upon the tempering or mixing of which depended the temperament of a man's body."
When I spoke that, I was ill-temper'd too.
[When I said that you were someone that I should laugh at, I had
lost my temper too.]
Do you confess so much? Give me your hand.
[Do you honestly admit that? Give me your hand.]
And my heart too.
[I will give you my heart too.]
What's the matter?
Have not you love enough to bear with me,
[Don’t you care for me enough, to love me]
When that rash humour which my mother gave me
[when the bad temper that my mother gave me [which was
passed down to me by my mother]]
Makes me forgetful?
[makes me forget [how to act appropriately]?]
forgetful: Heedless; careless; neglectful; inattentive.
Cassius earlier mocked Caesar for his “infirmities,” but he clearly has his own. Caesar’s epileptic fits seem slight next to Cassius’s emotional outbursts, during which Cassius appears almost suicidal.
Yes, Cassius; and, from henceforth,
[Yes, I do love you, and from now on,]
When you are over-earnest with your Brutus,
[when I see you lose your temper,]
He'll think your mother chides, and leave you so.
[I’ll imagine your mother scolds you, and I’ll leave it at that.]
henceforth: From this time forward.
chide: To rebuke; to reprove; to scold; to find fault with.
[Within] Let me go in to see the generals;
[Let me enter the tent to see the generals;]
There is some grudge between 'em, 'tis not meet
[they are fighting with each other, they should not]
They be alone.
[be left alone [since they might harm each other].]
[Within] You shall not come to them.
[I can’t let you see them.]
[Within] Nothing but death shall stay me.
[Nothing except my death will keep me from seeing them.]
Enter Poet, followed by LUCILIUS, TITINIUS, and LUCIUS
How now! what's the matter?
[What is this? What’s the matter?]
For shame, you generals! what do you mean?
[Shame on you, generals! Why are you acting like this?]
Love, and be friends, as two such men should be;
[Love each other and be friends, as two men such as yourselves
For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye.
[for I’m sure I am older than you [and so, I know more about
human nature and how one should behave oneself].
Ha, ha! how vilely doth this cynic rhyme!
[Ha ha! How horribly does this rude man rhyme! [Cassius refers
to the rhyme of “be” and “ye.”]
cynic: One who holds views resembling those of the Cynics; a snarler; a misanthrope; particularly, a person who believes that human conduct is directed, either consciously or unconsciously, wholly by self-interest or self-indulgence, and that appearances to the contrary are superficial and untrustworthy.
hence: From this place; away.
saucy: Impudent; bold to excess; rude.
Bear with him, Brutus; 'tis his fashion.
[Tolerate him, Brutus; he’s acting the way he always acts.]
fashion: Manner; sort; way; mode; applied to actions or behavior.
Stapfer: "When we seek the reason of Shakespeare's incontestable and uncontested preeminence among all other poets as a delineator of character, we discover in the last hiding-place of analysis that it consists in the largeness and breadth of his treatment. He alone dares to introduce into his portraits the little seeming contradictions which terrify ordinary reasoning because of their apparent inconsistency with the general outlines of the character, although in reality they enhance the resemblance by keeping closer to nature. The consistency of Shakespeare's characters is universally admired. … It is obvious and strikes the mind at once, while the contradictions here spoken of are almost imperceptible; but it is their very imperceptibility that makes it incumbent upon critics to dwell upon them with especial care; for, without destroying the inner unity of the characters, these light and delicate touches break through all superficial harmony and reveal a still greater art than what is usually the object of admiration. Who would ever have guessed beforehand . . . that at the entrance of the officious mediator, who comes and preaches peace to the two generals when they have already made peace, that it would be Brutus—the patient and gentle Brutus—that would be the most exasperated; or that it would be Cassius—the violent and choleric man—that would endeavor to protect the meddlesome intruder? But when the particular circumstances are taken into consideration, all surprise at the anomaly vanishes. The fact is given by Plutarch, the reason of it by Shakespeare."
I'll know his humour, when he knows his time:
[I’ll tolerate him, when he knows the appropriate time for such
What should the wars do with these jigging fools?
[why should these dancing fools be a part of these wars?]
[Man, get out of here!]
jig: To skip about.
companion: A fellow; — in contempt.
Away, away, be gone.
[Go, go, get out of here.]
Cassius and Brutus act as if there were no problem and treat the poet dismissively. This is indicative of their unwillingness to own up to their own faults, whether it be Cassius and his propensity to take bribes or Brutus and his habit of not taking advice from others (most notably, when Cassius told him to not let Antony speak at Caesar’s funeral).
bid: To order.
company: A subdivision of a regiment of troops under the command of a captain.
And come yourselves, and bring Messala with you
[And come back, and bring Messala with you]
Immediately to us.
[to us immediately.]
Exeunt LUCILIUS and TITINIUS
Lucius, a bowl of wine!
[Lucius, bring us a bowl of wine.]
I did not think you could have been so angry.
[I didn’t think you would get so angry.]
O Cassius, I am sick of many griefs.
[Oh Cassius, I’m dealing with many sorrows right now.]
Of your philosophy you make no use,
[You don’t use your natural calmness]
If you give place to accidental evils.
[if you let things that can’t be helped get to you.]
philosophy: Calmness of temper and judgment; equanimity; fortitude.
No man bears sorrow better. Portia is dead.
[No man deals with sorrow better than I do. Portia is dead.]
She is dead.
How 'scaped I killing when I cross'd you so?
[How were you able to keep yourself from killing me when I
irritated you just now?]
O insupportable and touching loss!
[What an unbearable and heart-breaking loss!]
Upon what sickness?
[How did she die?]
'scape: To escape.
cross: To thwart; to obstruct; to hinder.
insupportable: Incapable of being supported or borne; unendurable; insufferable; intolerable.
Impatient of my absence,
[She died because my absence distressed her]
And grief that young Octavius with Mark Antony
[and because she was saddened by the fact that young Octavius
with Mark Antony]
Have made themselves so strong:–for with her death
[have made themselves so powerful – for she died]
That tidings came;–with this she fell distract,
[when the news broke about Octavius and Mark Antony making
themselves so powerful – because of this news she went crazy]
And, her attendants absent, swallow'd fire.
[and, when her servants left her presence, she swallowed
burning coals [and died].]
distract: Insane; mad.
Cassius and Brutus will also end up committing suicide because of “young Octavius with Mark Antony [having] made themselves so strong.”
And died so?
[And that’s how she died?]
[That’s how she died.]
O ye immortal gods!
Re-enter LUCIUS, with wine and taper
[Lucius enters the room again, holding wine and a candle.]
Speak no more of her. Give me a bowl of wine.
[Don’t talk any more about Portia. Give me a bowl of wine.]
In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius.
[By drinking this wine, I end all ill feelings between us two,
Dowden: "Brutus is sustained by the spirit of Portia. To live in her spirit of Stoicism becomes now the highest act of religion to her memory. . . . The armed men talking so gravely, before the great day which is to decide the fate of the world, of the 'insupportable and touching loss' make us know what this woman was. Profound emotion, Shakespeare was aware, can express itself quietly and with reserve. The noisy demonstration of grief over the supposed dead Juliet is the extravagant abandonment to sorrow, partly real and partly formal, of hearts which were little sensitive, and which had little concerned themselves about the joy or misery of Juliet living. Laertes's rant in the grave of Ophelia is reproved by the more violent hyperbole of Hamlet. Brutus will henceforth be silent and possess his soul. The remainder of his life is a sad, sustained devotion to his cause."
My heart is thirsty for that noble pledge.
[I’m eager to end the bad feelings we had towards each other.]
Fill, Lucius, till the wine o'erswell the cup;
[Pour wine into the cup until the wine overflows, Lucius.]
I cannot drink too much of Brutus' love.
[I can’t drink too much of Brutus’s love [if the wine represents
Brutus’s love, then I can’t drink enough of it.]]
pledge: A sentiment to which assent is given by drinking one's health; a toast; a health.
overswell: To overflow.
Come in, Titinius!
Re-enter TITINIUS, with MESSALA
Welcome, good Messala.
[Hello, good Messala.]
Now sit we close about this taper here,
[Now let’s sit around the light of this candle]
And call in question our necessities.
[and go over what we need to do.]
taper: A small wax candle.
call in question our necessities: Talk over what we need. (C.M. Yonge)
Portia, art thou gone?
[Portia, are you really dead?]
Cassius, rather than Brutus, is the one who harps on Portia’s death. This is another example of Brutus’s poise and Cassius’s overly emotional temperament. Brutus knows that he must focus on the plans for battle and cannot think too much about Portia, while Cassius gives his emotions free reign and preoccupies himself with Portia’s death.
No more, I pray you.
[Don’t talk about that subject anymore, please.]
Messala, I have here received letters,
[Messala, I have received letters]
That young Octavius and Mark Antony
[that young Octavius and Mark Antony]
Come down upon us with a mighty power ,
[are coming towards us with a large army,]
Bending their expedition toward Philippi.
[directing their quick march towards Philippi.]
power: A military or naval force; an army or navy; a great host.
bend: To direct to a certain point.
expedition: A march or a voyage with martial intentions.
selfsame: Precisely the same; the very same.
tenor: Sense contained; purport; substance; general course or drift.
With what addition?
[What else did your letters say?]
That by proscription and bills of outlawry,
[They say that with declarations of proscription [death
sentences that include confiscation of property and banning of
the offspring of those sentenced from holding public office]]
Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus,
[Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus]
Have put to death an hundred senators.
[have had them [the hundred senators] executed.]
proscription: The act of proscribing; a dooming to death or exile; outlawry; specifically, among the ancient Romans, the public offer of a reward for the head of a political enemy; as, under the triumvirate, many of the best Roman citizens fell by proscription.
outlawry: The act of outlawing; the putting a man out of the protection of law, or the process by which a man (as an absconding criminal) is deprived of that protection.
Therein our letters do not well agree;
[Our letters do not say the same thing, then.]
Mine speak of seventy senators that died
[My letters said seventy senators were executed]
By their proscriptions, Cicero being one.
[because of the proscriptions, and that Cicero was one of the
[Cicero was one of the senators that were killed!]
Cicero is dead,
[Cicero is dead,]
And by that order of proscription.
[and the news about the senators being put to death you found
Had you your letters from your wife, my lord?
[through letters from your wife, my lord?]
Nor nothing in your letters writ of her?
[Did you find out anything about her in the letters that were
written to you?]
methinks: It seems to me.
Why ask you? hear you aught of her in yours?
[Why do you ask? Did you hear anything about her in your
No, my lord.
[I have not heard any news about her.]
Now, as you are a Roman, tell me true.
[Now, like a Roman, tell me the truth.]
Then like a Roman bear the truth I tell:
[Then, like a Roman [since Romans are honest and tell the truth],
I will tell you the truth.]
For certain she is dead, and by strange manner.
[It is certain that Portia is dead and that she died in a strange
Why, farewell, Portia. We must die, Messala:
[Why, goodbye, Portia. We all have to die sometime, Messala:]
With meditating that she must die once,
[by thinking [before her death] that at some point she would
I have the patience to endure it now.
[I have the patience to cope with her death now.]
meditate: To dwell on anything in thought; to think seriously.
He pretends to not know she is dead, perhaps so his reaction to her death can serve as an example of equanimity for his fellow soldiers.
Even so great men great losses should endure.
[This is the way great men should cope with great tragedies.]
I have as much of this in art as you,
[I can prevent myself from showing emotion just like you can,]
But yet my nature could not bear it so.
[but my nature would not let me (in this instance).]
art: Cunning; artifice; craft.
Well, to our work alive. What do you think
[Well, let’s focus on current matters. What do you think]
Of marching to Philippi presently?
[about marching to Philippi right now?]
I do not think it good.
[I don’t think it’s a good idea.]
[Why don’t you think it’s a good idea?]
This it is:
[This is the reason I don’t think it’s a good idea:]
'Tis better that the enemy seek us:
[It’s better that the enemy comes looking for us:]
So shall he waste his means, weary his soldiers,
[that way, they will use up their supplies, their soldiers will
Doing himself offence; whilst we, lying still,
[and overall their army will be weakened; all the while we, by
Are full of rest, defense, and nimbleness.
[are rested, and are able to move quickly and set up our
Good reasons must, of force, give place to better.
[Your good reasons, though, have to give way to better reasons.
[Your plan is good, but we should use my plan, because it’s
The people 'twixt Philippi and this ground
[The people who live between Philippi and Sardis [Sardis is
where Brutus and Cassius are currently located]]
Do stand but in a forced affection;
[aren’t really friends with us.]
For they have grudged us contribution:
[For they have made us give them money for being here:]
The enemy, marching along by them,
[if they join the enemy,]
By them shall make a fuller number up,
[the enemy will grow even stronger]
Come on refresh'd, new-added, and encouraged;
[and come to us refreshed, with more numbers, and encouraged
[more specifically, encouraged by the addition of their new
From which advantage shall we cut him off,
[we can prevent them from having this advantage;]
If at Philippi we do face him there,
[if we face them at Philippi,]
These people at our back.
[the people [between Philippi and Sardis] would then not be
able to join with Antony’s army.]
grudge: To give unwillingly.
contribution: In a military sense, impositions paid by a frontier country, to secure themselves from being plundered by the enemys army
We find out in the beginning of Act 5 that Brutus’s plan of action is exactly what Antony and Octavius want him to do, and Cassius’s plan is what they did not want them to do. This is another example of a bad decision made by Brutus after dismissing the wise advice of Cassius.
Hear me, good brother.
[Let me say something, good brother.]
Under your pardon. You must note beside,
[Pardon me. You must notice that]
That we have tried the utmost of our friends,
[we have asked the most we can of our friends,]
Our legions are brim-full , our cause is ripe:
[our armies have as many men in them as we could enlist, we are
in a very advantageous position:]
The enemy increaseth every day;
[the enemy grows in number every day;]
We, at the height, are ready to decline.
[our army is as powerful as we'll ever be and
will only get weaker.]
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
[The affairs of men have a “tide” in them;]
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
[if you take action when the tide is high, you will be succesfful;]
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
[if you don’t pay attention to this “tide,”]
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
[you are bound to fail.]
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
[We are now at full tide;]
And we must take the current when it serves,
[and we must take the tide while it’s in]
Or lose our ventures.
[or lose the war.]
note: To notice with care; to observe.
brim-full: Full to the brim; completely full.
ripe: Advanced to the state of fitness for use
at the flood: At high tide. (C.M. Yonge)
bound: Restrained by a hand, rope, chain, fetters, or the like.
shallow: A place in a body of water where the water is not deep.
venture: The thing put to hazard; particularly, something sent to sea in trade.
Brutus had a similar moment of contemplation earlier in the play, when he was considering whether to assassinate Caesar – he believed that it would be best to “kill the serpent” while it was still in the egg, rather than wait for Caesar to become king, and with the same idea, he wants to destroy the Triumvirate’s army before they grow stronger. Unfortunately, he miscalculated the position of his fortunes both times (he lost Rome to Antony, and then lost the battle of Philippi).
C.M. Yonge: These very famous lines speak of men's affairs as sometimes carrying them on prosperously, like a vessel on a full tide entering a port. But if this rush of success is not taken advantage of, difficulties follow, as a ship missing the flood tide is stranded aground, and kept back by shallows.
Then, with your will, go on;
[Let’s do that, then;]
We'll along ourselves, and meet them at Philippi.
[We’ll go ourselves and meet them at Philippi.]
Goll: "The discussion of the plan of campaign Brutus is again victorious with his unfortunate scheme, because he dictatorially closes the mouth of Cassius. Is it a proof that Brutus is only an indifferent commander, possessed of small intelligence, that he seems to be so mistaken as to the conditions? It might seem so, because this time his reasons for fighting at Philippi rather than at Sardis cannot possibly be ethical. And yet the correct explanation is another one. Brutus is tired to death of the whole string of events which are so ill-suited to his disposition that from amongst all his shattered hopes one wish only remains—to bring the whole business to an end. On that account Brutus wishes to advance; the only advantage of his plan being that the battle will be expedited—Philippi is, therefore, better than Sardis. He seeks the judgment for his actions which alone can give him peace and rest. Now, as before, the interim between thought and action is like a 'hideous dream,' which must be cut as short as possible. After all, judgment cannot be evaded. Let it comel"
The deep of night is crept upon our talk,
[While we were talking, night fell,]
And nature must obey necessity;
[and now our bodies need sleep,]
Which we will niggard with a little rest.
[a necessity that we will satisfy, reluctantly by sleeping for a
short period of time.]
There is no more to say?
[Is there anything else to talk about?]
niggard: To give sparingly.
No more. Good night:
[No, there is nothing else to talk about. Good night.]
Early to-morrow will we rise, and hence.
[We will get up early tomorrow and then leave.]
[Give me my gown.]
Farewell, good Messala:
[Goodbye, good Messala:]
Good night, Titinius. Noble, noble Cassius,
[Good night, TItinius. Good night, noble Cassius.]
Good night, and good repose.
[Good night, and sleep well.]
gown: A loose gown in which to sleep. (C.M. Yonge)
repose: A lying at rest; sleep.
O my dear brother!
[O my dear brother!]
This was an ill beginning of the night:
[We began this night badly [with our fighting]:]
Never come such division 'tween our souls!
[I hope we never fight again.]
Let it not, Brutus.
[Let it not happen again, Brutus.]
division: Disunion; difference in opinion or feeling; discord.
Every thing is well.
[Everything is good.]
Good night, my lord.
Good night, good brother.
Good night, Lord Brutus.
Farewell, every one.
Exeunt all but BRUTUS
Re-enter LUCIUS, with the gown
Give me the gown. Where is thy instrument?
[Give me my robe. Where is your [musical] instrument?]
Here in the tent.
[It’s here in the tent.]
What, thou speak'st drowsily?
[What, you sound sleepy?]
Poor knave, I blame thee not; thou art o'er-watch'd.
[Poor boy, I don’t blame you for being sleepy; you’ve been on
guard duty for a long time.]
Call Claudius and some other of my men:
[Call Claudius and some of the other men.]
I'll have them sleep on cushions in my tent.
[I’ll have them sleep on cushions in my tent.]
knave: A boy; especially, a boy servant.
blame: To censure; to express disapprobation of; to find fault with
overwatched: Tired by too much watching.
Varro and Claudius!
Enter VARRO and CLAUDIUS
Calls my lord?
[Did you call for us, my lord?]
I pray you, sirs, lie in my tent and sleep;
[Please, sirs, lie down in my tent and get some sleep;]
It may be I shall raise you by and by
[I might wake up at some point]
On business to my brother Cassius.
[to send you on errands to my brother-in-law Cassius.]
raise: To awake.
So please you, we will stand and watch your pleasure.
[If that’s what you wish [for us to go on errands], we will stand
guard [rather than go to sleep].]
I will not have it so: lie down, good sirs;
[I won’t have you do that, lie down, good sirs;]
It may be I shall otherwise bethink me.
[It may be that I’ll change my mind.]
Look, Lucius, here's the book I sought for so;
[Look, Lucius, here’s the book I was looking for.]
I put it in the pocket of my gown.
[I had put it in the pocket of my robe.]
bethink: To call to mind; to recall or bring to recollection, reflection, or consideration; to think; to consider; — generally followed by a reflexive pronoun, often with of or that before the subject of thought.
Hudson: "What the man is, and where he ought to be, is all signified in these two lines. And do we not taste a dash of benignant irony in the implied repugnance between the spirit of the man and the stuff of his present undertaking? The idea of a bookworm riding the whirlwind of war! The thing is most like Brutus; but how out of his element, how unsphered from his right place, it shows him! There is a touch of drollery in the contrast which the richest steeping of poetry does not disguise. I fancy the Poet to have been in a bland, intellectual smile as he wrote that strain of loving earnestness in which the matter is delivered. And the irony is all the more delectable for being so remote and unpronounced; like one of those choice arrangements in the background of a painting, which, without attracting conscious notice, give a zest and relish to what stands in front. The scene, whether for charm of sentiment or felicity of conception, is one of the finest in Shakespeare."
VARRO and CLAUDIUS lie down
I was sure your lordship did not give it me.
[I was sure your lordship hadn’t given it to me.]
Bear with me, good boy, I am much forgetful.
[Bear with me, good boy, I am very forgetful.]
Canst thou hold up thy heavy eyes awhile,
[Can you stay awake awhile]
And touch thy instrument a strain or two?
[and play a couple songs for me on your [musical] instrument?]
touch: To perform, as a tune; to play.
strain: A song.
Ay, my lord, an't please you.
[Yes, my lord, if that would make you happy.]
an't: If it.
It does, my boy:
[It would make me happy, my boy:]
I trouble thee too much, but thou art willing.
[I’m bothering you, but you do what I ask anyway.]
It is my duty, sir.
[Performing your commands is my duty, sir.]
I should not urge thy duty past thy might;
[I don’t want to ask you to do your duty if it’s too exhausting for
I know young bloods look for a time of rest.
[Young men need their sleep.]
I have slept, my lord, already.
[I’ve already slept, my lord.]
It was well done; and thou shalt sleep again;
[It’s good that you did, and you will sleep again [soon];]
I will not hold thee long: if I do live,
[I will not have you here too long: if I live [if I survive this war]]
I will be good to thee.
[I will treat you favorably.]
Music, and a song
This is a sleepy tune. O murderous slumber,
[This song makes me want to go to sleep. Oh, murdering sleep,]
Lay'st thou thy leaden mace upon my boy,
[do you attack with your lead mace my boy,]
That plays thee music? Gentle knave, good night;
[who plays music for you [you = sleep]? Gentle boy, good night;]
I will not do thee so much wrong to wake thee:
[I will not do you wrong by waking you up:]
If thou dost nod, thou break'st thy instrument;
[If you move your head, you’ll break your instrument;]
I'll take it from thee; and, good boy, good night.
[I’ll take your instrument from you; and, good boy, goodnight.]
Let me see, let me see; is not the leaf turn'd down
[Let me see, let me see; is the page where I stopped reading]
Where I left reading? Here it is, I think.
[turned down? Here’s the page, I think.]
Enter the Ghost of CAESAR
How ill this taper burns! Ha! who comes here?
[How weakly this candle burns! Ha! Who’s there?]
I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
[I think it’s the weakness of my eyes]
That shapes this monstrous apparition.
[that makes this monstrous ghost]
It comes upon me . Art thou any thing?
[appear before me. What are you?]
Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil,
[Are you some god, some angel, or some devil]
That makest my blood cold and my hair to stare?
[that makes my blood turn cold and my hair stand on end?]
Speak to me what thou art.
[Tell me what you are.]
hold: To keep.
sleepy: Tending to induce sleep.
leaden: Heavy; dull; sluggish.
nod: A quick inclination of the head in drowsiness or sleep.
leaf: A part of a book containing two pages.
shape: To form or create.
apparition: An unexpected, wonderful, or preternatural appearance; a ghost; a specter.
stare: To stand out; to project; to bristle.
In Shakespeare, the ghosts of the murdered often appear either to those close to them or to their own murderers, to seek vengeance for themselves (e.g., Banquo appears before Macbeth, Richard’s victims appear before Richard , and King Hamlet appears before Prince Hamlet). Brutus says earlier that he wishes not to “dismember Caesar,” but rather destroy his spirit, but at this point, ironically, we’ve seen the conspirators dismember Caesar, and Caesar’s spirit literally appear. This spirit not only portends Brutus’s death at Philippi, but is also perhaps symbolic of the fact that the mode of government that Caesar represents has survived his death, and will be firmly established with the conspirators’ defeat at Philippi.
Steevens: "That lights grew dim, or burned\ blue, at the approach of spectres was a belief which Shakespeare might have found examples of in almost every book of his age that treats of supernatural appearances. Compare Rich. III: 'The lights bur n blue. It is now dead midnight.'—V, iii, 180. —"
Beeching: "Tragedy has always made great use of Ghosts. This is necessary as the only means of representing what is eternal in man after death; it also helps to supply the place of what is impossible for us, the direct presentation of Destiny. Where murder has been committed, it is at once the simplest and most telling way of suggesting retribution. Thus Banquo appears to Macbeth; a company of Ghosts, to Richard; Caesar, to Brutus. This last instance is especially effective. Brutus had said: 'Oh that we then could come by Caesar's spirit, And not dismember Caesar.'—II, i, 190. But in the event what happened^ was this, that all they did was to 'dismember Caesar'; they could not 'come by his spirit'; that survived the butchery and asserted itself at the battle of Philippi. What an effective way, then, of exhibiting the unconscious irony of that speech, and showing the terrible blunder of the whole conspiracy, to write the stage direction, 'Enter the Ghost of Casar.'"
Thy evil spirit, Brutus.
[I am your evil spirit, Brutus.]
Goll: "What does this imply? It means that Brutus has lived on a fallacy. He had not the right to kill Caesar into which he reasoned himself. He has not acted rightly in putting his ideals above all human considerations. His theory was wrong. He is not the great citizen he imagined himself. He has chased phantoms; and, during the chase, he has trampled all true humanity under foot, violated the noblest human qualities: goodness, pity, gratitude, love. He is, in spite of all, a murderer, and must suffer the fate of a murderer. This, then, is the judgment on Brutus, the judgment of humanity, of society, according to the objective measure of justice. … To this judgment Brutus must answer, and humanity, society, history declare him guilty—Caesar passes sentence of death upon Caesar's murderer."
Why comest thou?
[Why did you come here?]
To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.
[To tell you that you will see me at Philippi.]
In other words, Brutus will die at the battle in Philippi.
Well; then I shall see thee again?
[Well, then I will see you again?]
Ay, at Philippi.
[Yes, you will see me at Philippi.]
Why, I will see thee at Philippi, then.
[Why, I will see you at Philippi, then.]
Now I have taken heart thou vanishest:
[Now that I have regained my composure, you disappear.]
Ill spirit, I would hold more talk with thee.
[Spirit [with bad intentions], I want to speak more to you.]
Boy, Lucius! Varro! Claudius! Sirs, awake! Claudius!
[Lucius, boy! Varro! Claudius! Everyone, wake up! Claudius!]
take heart: To have courage.
The strings, my lord, are false.
[The strings on my instrument, my lord, are out of tune.]
false: Not in tune.
He thinks he still is at his instrument.
[He thinks he is still playing his instrument.]
[Lucius, wake up!]
Didst thou dream, Lucius, that thou so criedst out?
[Did you cry out because of a dream you were having, Lucius?]
My lord, I do not know that I did cry.
[My lord, I do not know why I cried out.]
Yes, that thou didst: didst thou see any thing?
[Yes, you do know: did you see anything?]
Nothing, my lord.
[I didn’t see anything, my lord.]
Sleep again, Lucius. Sirrah Claudius!
[Go back to sleep, Lucius.]
Fellow thou, awake!
Why did you so cry out, sirs, in your sleep?
[Why did you cry out like that in your sleep, sirs?]
Did we, my lord?
[Did we cry out, my lord?]
Ay: saw you any thing?
[Yes, did you see anything?]
No, my lord, I saw nothing.
[No, my lord, I didn’t see anything.]
Nor I, my lord.
[I didn’t see anything either, my lord.]
Go and commend me to my brother Cassius;
[Go and speak to Cassius on my behalf;]
Bid him set on his powers betimes before,
[Tell him to begin marching his troops [towards Philippi] early in
the morning before I march my troops],]
And we will follow.
[and we will follow him.]
commend : To mention by way of courtesy, implying remembrance and good will.
set on : To begin, as a journey or enterprise
betimes: Soon; in a short time.
It shall be done, my lord.
[We will do it, my lord.]