David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 2-3

 — 3.2 —

In the Forum were Brutus, Cassius, and many common citizens of Rome.

The citizens shouted, “We will be satisfied! Let us be given a satisfactory explanation!”

“Then follow me,” Brutus said, “and listen to what I have to say, friends.”

He added, “Cassius, you go to the other street. Let us divide the audience. Half will hear you speak, and half will hear me speak.”

He said to the citizens, “Those who will hear me speak, let them stay here. Those who will follow Cassius, go with him. Here in public, we will tell you the reasons why Caesar had to die.”

The first citizen said, “I will hear Brutus speak.”

Another citizen said, “I will hear Cassius speak, and we will compare their reasons after we have heard both Brutus and Cassius speak.”

Cassius left, and several citizens followed him to hear him speak.

Brutus went to the speakers’ platform.

The third citizen said, “The noble Brutus has ascended to the speakers’ platform. Silence!”

“Be patient until the end of my speech,” Brutus said. “Romans, countrymen, and friends! Hear me explain my reasons for killing Caesar, and be silent so that you can hear me. Believe me because of my honor. Have respect for my honor so that you may believe me. Use your wisdom to critique what I say, and use your intelligence so that you may the better judge me.

“If there is in this assembly any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say that Brutus’ love for Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demands why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Would you prefer that Caesar were living and that you all die as slaves, or would you prefer that Caesar were dead so that you can all live as free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him. As he was successful in war, I rejoice at it. As he was valiant, I honor him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him. Caesar has received tears for his love, joy for his success in war, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition. Who is here so base that he wants to be a slave? If any of you are like that, speak up, because that man have I offended. Who is here so barbarous that he would prefer not to be a Roman? If any of you are like that, speak up, because that man have I offended. Who is here so vile that he will not love his country? If any of you are like that, speak up, because that man have I offended. I pause for a reply.”

The citizens shouted, “None of us is like that, Brutus.”

“Then I have offended no one,” Brutus said, “I have done no more to Caesar than you would do to me if I were to become a tyrant. The reasons for Caesar’s death are recorded on a roll of parchment in the Capitol. Caesar’s glory is not belittled when he has earned it, and neither are his offenses, for which he suffered death, exaggerated.”

Mark Antony and others arrived, carrying Caesar’s body.

Brutus said, “Here comes his body, mourned by Mark Antony, who, though he had no hand in Caesar’s death, shall receive the benefit of Caesar’s dying: a place in the commonwealth, just as each of you has.

“With these final words, I depart: I slew my best friend for the good of Rome, and I still possess the dagger that killed him. I will use it to kill myself when my country needs my death.”

The Roman citizens shouted, “Live, Brutus! Live! Live!”

The first citizen shouted, “Let us carry Brutus in triumph home to his house.”

The second citizen shouted, “Let us create a statue of him and place it among the statues of his ancestors.”

The third citizen shouted, “Let him be Caesar and rule us.”

The fourth citizen shouted, “Caesar’s better qualities shall be crowned in Brutus!”

The first citizen shouted, “We’ll bring him to his house with shouts and clamors.”

Brutus began, “My countrymen —”

The second citizen shouted, “Peace, silence! Brutus speaks.”

The first citizen shouted, “Quiet!”

“Good countrymen, let me depart alone,” Brutus said. “And, for my sake, stay here with Antony. Honor Caesar’s corpse, and listen to Antony’s speech about Caesar’s glories. Mark Antony, by our permission, is allowed to make this funeral speech. I ask you to stay and listen to him. Not a man should depart, except for myself, until after Antony has spoken.”

Brutus left.

The first citizen said, “Let us stay and hear Mark Antony speak.”

The third citizen said, “Let him go up onto the speakers’ platform. We will listen to him. Noble Antony, go up and speak.”

Mary Antony said, “I am indebted to you, thanks to Brutus,” as he climbed onto the speakers’ platform.

The fourth citizen asked, “What did he say about Brutus?”

The third citizen said, “He said that he is indebted to all of us, thanks to Brutus.”

The fourth citizen said, “If he is wise, he will speak no harm of Brutus here.”

The first citizen said, “Julius Caesar was a tyrant.”

The third citizen said, “That’s for certain. We are blessed that Rome is rid of him.”

The second citizen said, “Quiet. Let us hear what Antony has to say.”

“You gentle Romans —” Mark Antony shouted above the noise.

The citizens shouted, “Quiet! Let us hear him!”

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” Mark Antony said. “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is often buried with their bones. So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus has told you that Caesar was ambitious. If this is true, it was a grievous fault, and grievously has Caesar answered for it. Here, with the permission of Brutus and the rest of the conspirators — for Brutus is an honorable man, and so are they all, all honorable men — I have come to speak at Caesar’s funeral. Caesar was my friend, faithful and just to me. But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. Caesar brought many captives home to Rome, and the money paid to ransom them filled the public treasury. Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When the poor have cried, Caesar has wept. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff. Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal I three times presented Caesar with a Kingly crown, which he did three times refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says Caesar was ambitious, and, to be sure, Brutus is an honorable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, but I am here to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause. What cause then keeps you from mourning for him? Oh, Reason, you have fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason. Bear with me. My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause until it comes back to me.”

The first citizen said, “I think that there is much sense in what Antony says.”

“If you think correctly about this, Caesar has been done great wrong,” the second citizen said.

“Has he, friends?” the third citizen said. “Then I fear that a worse man will replace him.”

“Did you hear what Antony said?” the fourth citizen asked. “Caesar would not take the crown; therefore, we can be certain that he was not ambitious.”

“If Caesar was not ambitious, then some people are going to pay for his death,” the first citizen said.

“Poor soul!” the second citizen said. “Antony’s eyes are as red as fire from crying.”

“There’s not a nobler man in Rome than Antony,” the third citizen said.

“Now let us listen to him — he begins again to speak,” the fourth citizen said.

“Only yesterday the word of Caesar might have overcome the opposition of the world,” Antony said. “Now he lies there, and no one has the humility to show him respect. Friends, if I were disposed to stir your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, I would do Brutus wrong and Cassius wrong, who, you all know, are honorable men. I will not do them wrong. I instead choose to wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, rather than wrong such honorable men. But here’s a parchment document with the seal of Caesar that I found in his study. It is his will. If you could hear his will and testament — which, pardon me, I do not intend to read out loud — you would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds and dip your handkerchiefs in his sacred blood. Indeed, you would even beg for one of his hairs as a memento, and, dying, you would mention it in your wills, and bequeath it as a rich legacy to your children.”

“We will hear the will,” the fourth citizen shouted. “Read it out loud, Mark Antony!”

“The will, the will!” the citizens shouted. “We will hear Caesar’s will!”

“Have patience, gentle friends,” Antony said. “I must not read Caesar’s will out loud. It is not fitting that you know how much Caesar loved you. You are not wood, you are not stones, you are men. Being men, hearing the will of Caesar will inflame you — it will make you mad. It is good you do not know that you are his heirs, for, if you did, what would come of it!”

“Read the will!” the fourth citizen shouted. “We’ll hear it, Antony! You shall read us the will — Caesar’s will!”

“Will you be patient?” Antony asked. “Will you stay awhile? I said too much when I told you about Caesar’s will. I fear that I wrong the honorable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar — I do fear it.”

“They were traitors!” the fourth citizen shouted, adding scornfully, “Honorable men!”

The citizens shouted, “The will! Caesar’s last will and testament!”

“The conspirators were villains, murderers!” the second citizen shouted. “The will! Read the will out loud!”

“You will compel me, then, to read the will?” Antony said. “Then make a ring about the corpse of Caesar, and let me show you him who made the will. Shall I descend from the speakers’ platform? Will you give me permission to descend?”

“Come down,” several citizens said.

“Descend,” the second citizen said.

“You have our permission,” the third citizen said.

Mark Antony came down from the speakers’ platform and stood over Caesar’s corpse.

“Make a ring around Caesar’s corpse,” the fourth citizen said. “Stand around the corpse.”

“Stand back from the bier,” the first citizen said. “Stand back from the body.”

“Give Antony, most noble Antony, room,” the second citizen said.

“Do not crowd me,” Antony said. “Stand farther away.”

“Stand back. Give him room. Fall back,” several citizens said.

“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now,” Antony said, touching Caesar’s cloak. “You all know this cloak. I remember the first time that Caesar put it on. It was on a summer’s evening, in his tent, that day he conquered the Nervii, enemies of Rome who lived in northern Gaul.

“Look! In this place ran Cassius’ dagger through. See what a rent the malicious Casca made. Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed, and as he plucked his cursed steel away, see how the blood of Caesar followed it, as if it were rushing out of doors to find out if it were Brutus who so unkindly knocked, because Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel — Caesar trusted Brutus as if Brutus were his guardian angel. Judge, gods, how dearly Caesar loved Brutus! This was the cruelest and most unkindest cut of all because when the noble Caesar saw him stab, ingratitude, which is stronger than traitors’ weapons, quite vanquished Caesar. That is when Caesar’s mighty heart burst. Caesar covered his face with his cloak and at the base of Pompey’s statue, on which was splashed Caesar’s blood, great Caesar fell. What a fall was there, my countrymen! At that time, I, and you, and all of us fell down, while bloody treason triumphed over us.”

The Roman citizens wept, and Antony said, “Oh, now you weep, and I see that you feel the blow of pity. These are gracious tears. Kind souls, you are crying when you see only the wounded cloak of Caesar. Look now!”

With a swift movement, Antony uncovered Caesar’s corpse and said, “Here is Caesar himself, marred, as you see, with the wounds of traitors.”

“Oh, pitiful sight!” the first citizen said.

“Oh, noble Caesar!” the second citizen said.

“Oh, woeful day!” the third citizen said.

“Oh, traitors, villains!” the fourth citizen said.

“Oh, most bloody sight!” the first citizen said.

“We will be revenged,” the second citizen said.

“Revenge! Go! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live!” the citizens shouted.

“Wait, countrymen,” Antony said.

“Quiet!” the first citizen shouted. “Let us hear the noble Antony!”

“We’ll hear him, we’ll follow him, we’ll die with him,” the second citizen shouted.

“Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up to such a sudden flood of mutiny,” Antony said. “These men who have done this deed are honorable. I don’t know what personal grievances they had against Caesar that made them kill him. These men are wise and honorable, and will, no doubt, answer you with reasons for why they killed Caesar. I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts: I am not an orator, as Brutus is. As all of you know, I am a plain and blunt man, who loves my friend. These men who gave me permission to speak about Caesar know that I am no orator. I have neither intellectual cleverness, nor rhetorical skill, nor authority, nor rhetorical gestures, nor eloquence, nor the power of speech to stir up the blood of men. I only speak directly and to the point. I tell you that which you yourselves do know. I show you sweet Caesar’s wounds — those poor dumb mouths — and I ask them to speak for me, but if I were Brutus, and Brutus were Antony, then Antony would have the rhetorical power to enrage your spirits and make every wound of Caesar speak so that even the stones of Rome would rise and mutiny and riot.”

“We’ll riot,” the Roman citizens said.

“We’ll burn the house of Brutus,” the first citizen said.

“Let’s go!” the third citizen said. “Let’s find the conspirators!”

“Wait, countrymen,” Antony said. “Listen to me.”

“Quiet!” the citizens shouted. “Hear what Antony, most noble Antony, has to say!”

“Why, friends, you go to do you not know what,” Antony said. “Why does Caesar deserve your love and respect? You do not know yet. Therefore, I must tell you. You have forgotten the will I told you of.”

“That’s true,” the citizens said. “The will! Let’s stay and hear the will!”

“Here is the will in my hand,” Antony said, “and it bears Caesar’s seal. To every Roman citizen he gives — to each man — seventy-five drachmas.”

“Most noble Caesar!” the second citizen said. “We’ll revenge his death!”

“Oh, royal Caesar!” the third citizen shouted.

“Hear me patiently,” Antony said.

“Quiet!” the citizens shouted.

“In addition, Caesar has left you all his gardens, his private summer houses, and newly planted orchards, on this side of the Tiber River,” Antony said. “He has left them to you and to your heirs forever. They will be public pleasure gardens in which you can walk and relax. Here was a Caesar! When will there come another like him!”

 “Never, never!” the first citizen shouted. “Let’s go! We’ll cremate Caesar’s corpse in the holy place and then with the firebrands set fire to the traitors’ houses. Let’s carry Caesar’s corpse to the holy place!”

“Fetch fire!” the second citizen said.

“Tear apart benches for wood!” the third citizen said.

“Tear apart shutters and anything we can use for wood to burn,” the fourth citizen said.

The citizens departed, carrying Caesar’s corpse.

“Now let it work,” Antony said. “Troubles and riots, you have started. Take whatever course you will.”

A servant came up to Mark Antony, who asked, “What news do you have for me?”

“Sir, Octavius has already come to Rome.”

“Where is he?” Antony asked.

“He and the soldier Lepidus are at Julius Caesar’s house.”

“And there will I immediately go to visit him,” Antony said. “He comes just as I had wished. The goddess Fortune is merry, and in this mood she will give us anything.”

“I heard him say that Brutus and Cassius have ridden like madmen through the gates of Rome.”

“Probably they have heard that the people are rioting because I persuaded them to riot,” Antony said. “Take me to Octavius.”

 — 3.3 —

Cinna the poet — not Cinna the conspirator — walked alone on a street in Rome. The poet was named Helvius Cinna; the conspirator was named Cornelius Cinna.

Cinna said to himself, “I dreamt last night that I feasted with Caesar, and bad omens now weigh on my imagination. I have no wish to wander out of doors, and yet something leads me forth.”

A mob of citizens arrived.

“What is your name?” the first citizen asked Cinna.

“Where are you going?” the second citizen asked.

“Where do you live?” the third citizen asked.

“Are you a married man or a bachelor?” the fourth citizen asked.

“Answer every man directly,” the second citizen said.

“Yes, and briefly,” the first citizen said.

“Yes, and wisely,” the fourth citizen said.

“Yes, and truly — you had better!” the third citizen said.

“What is my name?” Cinna the poet repeated. “Where am I going? Where do I live? Am I a married man or a bachelor? Then, to answer every man directly and briefly, wisely and truly — wisely I say, I am a bachelor.”

“That’s as much as to say that they who marry are fools — you’ll get a blow from me for saying that, I think,” the second citizen said. “Now answer us directly.”

“Directly, I am going to Caesar’s funeral,” Cinna the poet said.

“As a friend or as an enemy?” the first citizen said.

“As a friend,” Cinna the poet said.

“That matter is answered directly,” the second citizen said.

“Where do you live — briefly?” the fourth citizen asked.

“Briefly, I live by the Capitol,” Cinna the poet said.

“What is your name, sir, truly?” the third citizen asked.

“Truly, my name is Cinna.”

“Tear him to pieces! He’s a conspirator!” the first citizen shouted.

“I am Cinna the poet! I am Cinna the poet!”

“Tear him to pieces because of his bad verses!” the fourth citizen shouted.

“I am not Cinna the conspirator!”

“It does not matter — his name’s Cinna,” the fourth citizen said. “Pluck his name out of his heart, and let the rest of him go.”

“Tear him to pieces!” the third citizen cried.

The mob killed Cinna the poet.

“Let’s carry firebrands to Brutus’ house and to Cassius’ house and burn them down!” the third citizen shouted. “Some of us will go to Decius’ house, and some to Casca’s house and some to Ligarius’ house. Let’s go!”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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***

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