David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 3

 — 4.3 —

Inside Brutus’ tent, Brutus and Cassius argued.

“Here is a way that you have wronged me,” Cassius said. “You have found guilty and publicly disgraced Lucius Pellafor taking bribes here from the Sardians. I sent you letters on behalf of Lucius Pella because I know the man, and you ignored my letters.”

“You wronged yourself to write letters in behalf of such a man,” Brutus said.

“In such a time as this, it is not suitable for every trivial offence to get its punishment,” Cassius said.

“Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself are much condemned for having an itchy palm — for selling and trading official positions for gold to people who do not deserve such positions.”

“I have an itchy palm!” Cassius said. “You are Brutus who speaks this; if you were not Brutus, I swear by the gods, this speech would be your last.”

“Your name, Cassius, protects this corruption by giving it an appearance of respectability, and therefore it goes unpunished,” Brutus said.

“Unpunished!”

“Remember the Ides of March,” Brutus said. “Did not great Julius Caesar bleed for the sake of justice? Who among us stabbed Caesar except in the cause of justice? We struck the foremost man of the entire world because he allowed robbers to go free. Shall wenowcontaminate our fingers with base bribes? Shall we sell the vast capacity we have for being honorable so we can acquire the trash and money that may be grasped by taking bribes? I would prefer to be a dog, and howl at the Moon, than to be such a Roman.”

“Brutus, do not provoke me,” Cassius said. “I will not endure it. You forget yourself when you hedge me in with your rules and limit my freedom of action. I am a soldier. I am more experienced and abler than yourself to make treaties.”

“No, you are not, Cassius.”

“I am.”

“I say you are not.”

“Test my patience no more, or I shall forget myself,” Cassius said. “Be concerned about your health, and tempt me no further.”

“Go away, insignificant man!” Brutus said.

“Is it possible that you can say that to me?” Cassius asked.

“Listen to me, for I will speak,” Brutus said. “Am I required to give way to your rash anger? Shall I be frightened when a madman stares at me?”

“Gods, must I endure all this?”

“All this?” Brutus said. “Yes, and more. Rage until your proud heart breaks. Go and show your slaves how angry you are, and make your slaves tremble. Must I give in to you? Must I show respectful attention to you? Must I stand here and cringe because you are in a testy mood? By the gods, you shall digest the poison of your temper, even though it makes you burst. From this day on, I’ll use you for my entertainment — I will laugh at you when you are hotheaded.”

“Has it come to this?” Cassius said.

“You say you are a better soldier,” Brutus said. “Prove it. Make your boasting come true, and I shall be well pleased. For my own part, I shall be glad to learn from noble men.”

“You wrong me in every way,” Cassius said. “You wrong me, Brutus. I said, an elder soldier, not a better. Did I say ‘better’?”

“If you did, I don’t care,” Brutus said.

“When Julius Caesar was alive, he would not have dared to have angered me in this way.”

“Be quiet,” Brutus said. “You would not have dared to provoke his anger.”

“I would not have dared!” Cassius said.

“No.”

“What? Dared not to provoke him!”

“No, because you would fear for your life,” Brutus replied.

“Don’t take my friendship for you for granted. I may do something that I shall be sorry for.”

“You have already done something that you should be sorry for — you have taken bribes,” Brutus said. “There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats. I am not afraid of them because I am so secure in my honesty and integrity that your threats pass by me like the idle wind, which I do not fear or respect.

“I sent to you to tell you to send me certain sums of gold, which you denied me. I can raise no money by vile means.”

An impartial observer might think about these things: Brutus can raise no money by vile means. Is it OK for Cassius to raise money by vile means and then give the money to Brutus? Is it OK for Cassius to raise money by accepting bribes and then give the money to Brutus? What if the only way to raise money is through vile means?

“By Heaven,” Brutus continued, “I had rather turn my heart and the drops of my blood into money than to wring from the hard hands of peasants their vile coins by tricks and deceitful means. I sent to you for gold to pay my legions of soldiers, and you denied me that money. Was that done like Cassius? Would I have done that to you? When Marcus Brutus grows so greedy as to keep such wretched bits of metal from his friends, then be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts — dash me to pieces!”

“I did not deny you the money.”

“You did.”

“I did not,” Cassius said. “He who brought my answer back to you was a fool. Brutus, you have broken my heart. A friend should put up with his friend’s weaknesses, but you make my weaknesses greater than they are.”

“I do not until you inflict your weaknesses on me.”

“You no longer like me.”

“I do not like your faults.”

“A friendly eye could never see such faults,” Cassius said.

“A flatterer’s eye would not, even if they should appear to be as huge as the high mountain that is Olympus.”

“Come to me, Antony and young Octavius, come,” Cassius said. “Revenge yourselves alone on Cassius because Cassius is weary of the world. He is hated by one he loves, defied by his brother, rebuked like a slave. All my faults are observed, written down in a notebook, learned by heart, and memorized so that they can be thrown in my teeth. I could weep my spirit from my eyes and die of grief! There is my dagger, and here is my naked breast. Within is a heart more precious than the mine of Plutus, the god of riches. My heart is richer than gold. If you are a Roman, cut my heart out. I, who denied you gold, will give you my heart. Strike me like you struck at Caesar because I know that when you hated him the worst, you loved him better than you ever loved Cassius.”

“Sheathe your dagger,” Brutus said. “Be angry whenever you will — your anger shall have free expression. Do what you will — I will take your abuse as a mere whim or bad mood. Cassius, you are yoked — partners — with a lamb that carries anger like the flint carries fire. When the flint is struck hard, it shows a hasty spark, and then immediately is cold again. So it is with anger and me.”

“Has Cassius lived to be only mirth and laughter — a joke — to Brutus, when grief and anger vex him?”

“When I said that, I was ill-tempered, too.”

“Do you admit it?” Cassius said. “Give me your hand.”

They shook hands.

“I give you my heart, too,” Brutus said.

“Oh, Brutus!”

“What’s the matter?”

“Aren’t you friendly enough to bear with me, when my bad temper, which I inherited from my mother, makes me forget how I should behave?”

“Yes, Cassius. From henceforth, whenever you are angry at Brutus, he will think your mother is angry, and leave it at that.”

Despite their precautions, gossip about their argument had spread among the soldiers, and now a poet came to Brutus’ tent and demanded to talk to Brutus and Cassius. The poet did not know that Brutus and Cassius had already patched up their quarrel.

The poet said, “Let me go in to see the generals. There is some argument between them, and they ought not to be alone together.”

Lucilius, one of the guards outside Brutus’ tent, said, “You shall not go to them.”

The poet replied, “Nothing but death shall stop me.”

The poet entered the tent, followed by Lucilius, Titinius, and Lucius.

“What is this!” Cassius said. “What is the matter?”

“For shame, you generals!” the poet said. “What do you mean?Love each other, and be friends, as two such men as you should be.I have seen more years, I’m sure, than either of ye.”

Brutus and Cassius made fun of the poet, although older men ought to be respected.

“Ha!” Cassius said. “How vilely does this rude man rhyme!”

“Get out of here,” Brutus said. “Saucy fellow, go!”

“Bear with him, Brutus,” Cassius said. “This is just the way he is.”

“I will allow him to be eccentric when he realizes that there is a proper time and place for it,” Brutus said. “What place has war for these idiot rhymesters?”

He said to the poet, “Get out!”

The poet left.

“Lucilius and Titinius, order the commanders to prepare to pitch camp for their companies tonight,” Brutus ordered.

Cassius ordered, “Then return immediately to us — and bring Messala with you.”

Lucilius and Titinius left to carry out their orders.

“Lucius, bring us a bowl of wine,” Brutus ordered.

Lucius left to carry out his errand.

“I did not think you could have been so angry,” Cassius said.

“Oh, Cassius, I am sick with many griefs.”

“If you surrender to the chance evils that befall us, you are not making use of your Stoic philosophy that ought to teach us to bear such evils patiently and without complaining.”

“No man bears sorrow better than I do,” Brutus said. “Portia is dead.”

“Portia?”

“She is dead.”

“How did I escape your killing me when I quarreled with you?” Cassius asked. “This is an unbearable loss of someone who touched and loved you! From which illness did she die?”

“Unable to endure my absence, and grieving because young Octavius and Mark Antony have made themselves so powerful — news of their power arrived with news of her death — she despaired and, while her servants were absent, she put hot coals in her mouth and swallowed fire.”

“That is how she died?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, you immortal gods!”

Lucius returned, carrying wine and a candle.

“Speak no more about her,” Brutus said to Cassius. “Give me a bowl of wine. With this drink, I bury all unkindness between us, Cassius.”

He drank.

“My heart is thirsty for peace between us,” Cassius said.

He added, “Fill the cup, Lucius, until the wine overfills it. I cannot drink too much of Brutus’ love.”

He drank.

Brutus heard approaching footsteps and said, “Come in, Titinius!”

Lucius left, and both Titinius and Messala entered Brutus’ tent.

“Welcome, good Messala,” Brutus said. “Now let us sit around this candle here, and discuss our needs.”

“Portia, are you really gone?” Cassius said to himself.

“No more, please,” Brutus said to Cassius.

He added, “Messala, I have here received letters that state that young Octavius and Mark Antony are marching against us with a mighty army. They are marching toward Philippi, a city in northeastern Greece.”

“I have letters that say the same thing,” Messala replied.

“Do they say anything else?” Brutus asked.

“That by proclamation of the death sentence and bills of outlawry, Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus have put to death a hundred Senators. They were declared outlaws and their property was seized.”

“There our letters do not agree well,” Brutus said. “My letters speak of seventy Senators who have died because of their proscriptions. Cicero is one of those who died.”

“Cicero!” Cassius said.

“Cicero is dead by order of Octavius, Mark Antony, and Lepidus,” Messala said.

He then asked Brutus, “Have you received any letters from your wife, my lord?”

“No, Messala.”

“Have any of the letters you have received contained news about her?”

Brutus did not want to talk about his late wife. He replied again, “No, Messala.”

“That is strange, I think,” Messala said.

“Why are you asking about her? Have you heard anything about her in the letters you have received?” Brutus asked.

“No, my lord.”

Brutus decided that eventually he would have to talk about his late wife, so he might as well start now. He said to Messala, “Now, as you are a Roman, tell me the truth.”

“Then like a Roman bear the truth I tell you. It is certain that she is dead and that she died in a strange manner.”

To a close friend such as Cassius, Brutus could reveal his feelings. In front of other people, he would act like a Stoic philosopher. He said, “Why, farewell, Portia. We must die, Messala. I have known that she must die one day, and so I have the patience to endure her death now.”

“Just like you are doing now, great men should endure great losses,” Messala said.

“I also know Stoic philosophy,” Cassius said. “But yet I could not bear such a great loss as patiently as you are bearing it.”

“Well, let us return to the work we must do while we are alive,” Brutus said. “What do you think about marching to Philippi immediately?”

“I do not think it is a good idea,” Cassius said.

“Why not?” Brutus asked.

“It is better that the enemy come to us. That way, he will exhaust his supplies and weary his soldiers, doing himself harm, while we, staying here, will be full of rest, in a good defensive position, and fresh.”

“Good reasons must, of necessity, give way to better reasons,” Brutus said. “The people between Philippi and here have been forced to help us. They have only grudgingly given us supplies. Our enemy’s army, marching through them, shall increase as people join the army. They will march against us refreshed, with newly added soldiers, and encouraged by the people’s support. We can stop these advantages for their army if we march to and fight at Philippi. Those people who would support our enemy will be cut off from our enemy’s army.”

“Listen to me, good brother,” Cassius started to object.

“Pardon me,” Brutus said. “I am not finished. You must know that we have gotten all that our allies can give us. Our armies are large, and our cause is at its peak. The enemy armies grow larger every day; they have not yet peaked. We are at our peak and are ready to decline. There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Neglected, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. Now is the time for us to take action and march against our enemies, not to sit back and let our enemies come to us.”

“Then, as you wish, march to meet them,” Cassius said. “My army and I will also march and meet them at Philippi.”

“The deepest part of night has crept upon our talk,” Brutus said. “We must obey natural necessity and get at least a little sleep. Is there anything else we should talk about?”

“No,” Cassius said. “Good night. Early tomorrow we will rise and march to Philippi.”

“Lucius!” Brutus called.

Lucius appeared.

“Bring me my robe.”

Brutus added, “Farewell, good Messala. Good night, Titinius. Noble, noble Cassius, good night to you, and sleep well.”

“My dear brother!” Cassius said. “This night began badly. May there never again come such division between our souls, Brutus!”

Lucius appeared, carrying Brutus’ robe.

“All is well,” Brutus said.

“Good night, my lord,” Cassius said.

“Good night, good brother,” Brutus said.

Titinius and Messala said, “Good night, Lord Brutus.”

“Farewell, everyone,” Brutus said.

Everyone except Brutus and Lucius left.

“Give me my robe,” Brutus said. “Where is your lute?”

“Here in the tent,” Lucius said.

“I can tell by the way you speak that you are sleepy,” Brutus said. “Poor boy, I don’t blame you. You are tired because you have been kept awake so long. Call Claudius and one other of my men. I’ll have them sleep on cushions in my tent in case I need them.”

“Varro and Claudius!” Lucius called.

Varro and Claudius entered Brutus’ tent.

Varro asked, “Does my lord need me?”

“Please, sirs, lie in my tent and sleep,” Brutus said. “It may happen that I shall wake you by and by to carry a message to my brother Cassius.”

“If it is OK with you, we will stand and wait here until you need us,” Varro said.

“No,” Brutus said. “Lie down and sleep, good sirs. Perhaps I shall not need you.”

Brutus put his hand in the pocket of the robe that Lucius had brought to him and said, “Look, Lucius, here’s the book I have been looking for. I put it in the pocket of my robe.”

Varro and Claudius lay down to sleep.

“I was sure your lordship did not give the book to me,” Lucius said.

“Bear with me, good boy,” Brutus said. “I am very forgetful. If you can stay awake a while, will you play a tune or two on your lute?”

“Yes, my lord, if you want me to,” Lucius said.

“I do, my boy. I trouble you too much, but I am grateful that you are willing to play for me.”

“It is my duty, sir.”

“I ought not to make you do more than you can do,” Brutus said. “I know that young boys need their rest.”

“I have slept for a while, my lord, already.”

“That was well done, and you shall sleep again. I will not hold you long,” Brutus said. “If I live through this, I will be good to you.”

Lucius played and sang a song. But he was tired and fell asleep.

“This is a sleepy tune,” Brutus said. “Oh, murderous slumber, you have arrested this boy’s playing and made him sleep although he was playing music. Gentle boy, good night. I will not do you wrong and wake you. You might break your lute, and so I will take it from you and put it here, where it will be safe, and so, good boy, good night.”

He looked at his book and said, “Let me see. Isn’t the corner of the page turned down where I stopped reading? Here it is, I think.”

The ghost of Julius Caesar entered Brutus’ tent, causing the candle’s flame to quiver.

“How badly this candle burns!” Brutus said. “Wait! Who comes here? I think it is the weakness of my eyes that shapes this monstrous apparition that comes toward me. Are you anything? Are you a god, an angel, or a devil, you who make my blood run cold and my hair stand up? Speak to me and tell me what or who you are.”

“I am your evil spirit, Brutus,” Caesar’s ghost said.

“Why have you come to me here?”

“To tell you that you shall see me at Philippi.”

“Then I shall see you again?”

“Yes, at Philippi.”

Recovering his courage, Brutus said, “Why, I will see you at Philippi, then.”

The ghost disappeared.

“Now that I have regained my courage, you have vanished,” Brutus said. “Evil spirit, I want to talk to you!”

Brutus called, “Boy, Lucius! Varro! Claudius! Sirs, awake! Claudius!” He wanted to know if they had seen the ghost.

Still asleep and dreaming, Lucius said, “The strings, my lord, are out of tune.”

“He thinks he is still playing his lute,” Brutus said. “Lucius, wake up!”

“My lord?”

“Were you dreaming, Lucius?” Brutus asked. “Is that why you cried out?”

“My lord, I do not think that I cried out.”

“Yes, you did,” Brutus said. “Did you see anything?”

“I saw nothing, my lord.”

“Go to sleep again, Lucius,” Brutus said.

Then he called, “Claudius!”

To Varro, he called, “Wake up!”

“My lord?” Varro and Claudius asked together.

“Why did you cry out, sirs, in your sleep?”

“Did we, my lord?” they asked.

“Yes. Did you see anything?”

“No, my lord, I saw nothing,” Varro said.

“Neither did I, my lord,” Claudius said.

“Go and present my compliments to my brother Cassius. Tell him to order his troops to advance early this morning. We will follow him and his troops.”

“It shall be done, my lord,” Varro and Claudius replied, and then they left to carry the message to Cassius.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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