David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 1-2

 — 4.1 —

In a house in Rome, Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus were seated at a table. They had joined together to seize power and to divide the Roman territory into three parts — Europe, Asia, and Africa — that they would rule separately. Currently, they were making a list of people in Rome who would die. By killing many men, and exiling others, they hoped to stop opposition.

Mark Antony had a wax tablet in his hands. In the wax were written many names. Whenever they decided that a man had to die, Antony made a mark by that person’s name.

“These men, then, shall die,” Antony said. “Their names are pricked.”

Octavius said to Lepidus, “Your brother also must die. Do you consent, Lepidus?”

“I do consent —” Lepidus began.

“Make a mark by his name, Antony,” Octavius said.

Lepidus continued, “— on the condition that Publius — your sister’s son, Mark Antony — shall not live.”

“He shall not live,” Antony agreed. “Look, with a mark I damn him to die. But, Lepidus, go to Caesar’s house. Bring his will here, and we shall alter it to reduce his legacies and keep money for ourselves.”

“Will you two be here?” Lepidus asked.

“We will be either here or at the Capitol,” Octavius said.

Lepidus left.

Antony said, “Lepidus is an insignificant and undeserving man who is fit only for running errands. Is it fitting that when we divide the Roman territory into three parts— Europe, Asia, and Africa — that he get one of those parts?”

“You have thought him worthy,” Octavius said. “And you allowed him to vote on who should die in our harsh sentences of death and of exile.”

“Octavius, I have seen more days than you. I am older and more experienced,” Antony said. “It is true that we are laying honors on Lepidus so that he can bear the burden of our unpopular actions that shall give us power. He — not us — will be blamed for them. He shall bear the load of honors we give him as the ass bears gold. He will groan and sweat under the load, he will be driven or led where we want him to go, and when he has brought our treasure where we want it to be, then we will unload the treasure and set him loose, like an ass without a burden, to shake his ears and to graze in a pasture.”

“You may do as you like,” Octavius said, “but he is a tried and valiant soldier.”

“So is my horse, Octavius, and because of that I do give him his feed. My horse is a creature that I teach to fight, to turn, to stop, to run directly on — I guide his bodily motion. And, to some extent, so is Lepidus. He must be taught and trained and bid to go forth. He is a barren-spirited fellow — he has no ideas of his own. He feeds on curiosities, artifices, and fashions or styles. He becomes interested in things only after they are out of date. So do not talk about Lepidus except as a tool whom we may use.

“But now, Octavius, listen to important matters. Brutus and Cassius are raising armies. We must immediately raise our own armies and march against them. Therefore, let our forces be combined into one army, and let us get support from our allies and friends, and make the most of our resources. We need to immediately go into council and decide how we can uncover secret plans and how we can best fight open dangers.”

“Let us do so,” Octavius said. “We are like a bear that is tied to a stake, and surrounded by baying enemies. And some people who smile at us, I fear, have in their hearts millions of mischiefs.”

 — 4.2 —

In a camp near Sardis in western Turkey, in front of Brutus’ tent, Brutus, Lucilius, Lucius, and some soldiers met Titinius and Pindarus, one of Cassius’ slaves.

Brutus cried, “Halt!”

Lucilius cried, “Pass on the order to the troops to halt!”

“How are you, Lucilius?” Brutus asked. “Is Cassius near?”

“He is near,” Lucilius replied. “Pindarus has cometo bring you greetings from him.”

“Cassius has sent a good man to greet me,” Brutus said.

He said to Pindarus, “Your master, because of some change in himself, or because of the bad conduct of some of his officers, has given me some good reasons to wish that some things that have been done, had not been done. But, if he is near, he will be able to talk to me and explain things.”

“I do not doubt but that my noble master will appear, as usual, deserving of respect and honor,” Pindarus said.

“I do not doubt it,” Brutus said.

He added, “Lucilius, tell me how Cassius greeted you.”

“He received me with courtesy and with respect enough,” Lucilius said, “but not with such evidence of close friendship nor with such free and friendly conversation as he has displayed in the past.”

“You have described a hot friend cooling,” Brutus said. “It is always the case, Lucilius, that when friendship begins to sicken and decay, the friend treats you with an unnatural politeness. Plain and simple friendship is not deceitful or phony. But hollow, insincere men, like horses eager to run before the race begins, make a big show and promise of their spirit, but when the race begins, they lose their spirit and like deceiving and worthless nags, they cease to run.”

He added, “Is Cassius’ army coming here?”

“His army intends to camp in Sardis tonight,” Lucilius answered. “The greater part — including all the cavalry — is coming with Cassius.”

“Look,” Brutus said. “Cassius has arrived. Let us march at a dignified pace and meet him.”

Cassius cried, “Halt!”

Brutus cried, “Halt! Pass the order down the line of soldiers.”

“Halt!” the first soldier cried.

“Halt!” the second soldier cried.

“Halt!” the third soldier cried.

Cassius was angry. He said to Brutus, “Most noble brother, you have done me wrong.”

“May the gods judge me,” Brutus replied. “Do I wrong my enemies? No! So how could I wrong a brother?”

“Brutus, this dignified manner of yours hides wrongs. And when you do them —”

Brutus interrupted, “Cassius, calm down. Speak about your grievances quietly. I know you well. The eyes of both our armies here should perceive nothing but friendship between us, so let us not argue in public. We will order the soldiers to move away a little, and then in my tent, Cassius, you can tell me about your grievances.”

“Pindarus, order our commanders to lead their soldiers a little distance away from here,” Cassius ordered.

“Lucilius, you do the same,” Brutus said. “Let no man come to our tent until Cassius and I have finished our conference. Order Lucius and Titinius to guard our door.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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