A line-by-line translation

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Translation Act 1, Scene 1

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FLAVIUS and MURELLUS enter on one side of the stage, as do a CARPENTER, a COBBLER, and some other commoners from the other end of the stage.

FLAVIUS

Hence! Home, you idle creatures get you home! Is this a holiday? What, know you not, Being mechanical, you ought not walk Upon a laboring day without the sign Of your profession? —Speak, what trade art thou?

FLAVIUS

Go away! Go home, you lazy creatures. Go home! Is today a holiday? Don't you know that, as working-class men, you shouldn’t walk around on a workday without wearing your work clothes? 

[To CARPENTER] Tell me, what’s your profession?

CARPENTER

Why, sir, a carpenter.

CARPENTER

Why, I’m a carpenter, sir.

MURELLUS

Where is thy leather apron and thy rule? What dost thou with thy best apparel on? —You, sir, what trade are you?

MURELLUS

Where are your leather apron and ruler? Why are you wearing your finest clothes?

[To COBBLER] And you, sir, what’s your job?

COBBLER

Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.

COBBLER

Well, sir, compared to a skilled workman, I'm just a cobbler, as you would put it.

MURELLUS

But what trade art thou? Answer me directly.

MURELLUS

But what’s your trade? Answer me straightforwardly.

COBBLER

A trade, sir, that I hope I may use with a safe conscience, which is, indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles.

COBBLER

I work a trade, sir, that I hope I can practice with a clear conscience. I am a mender of worn soles.

MURELLUS

What trade, thou knave? Thou naughty knave, what trade?

MURELLUS

What trade, fool? You good-for-nothing fool, what trade?

COBBLER

Nay, I beseech you, sir, be not out with me. Yet, if you be out, sir, I can mend you.

COBBLER

Sir, I beg you, don’t be angry. Yet, if your soles are worn out, I can mend you.

MURELLUS

What mean’st thou by that? “Mend” me, thou saucy fellow?

MURELLUS

What do you mean by that? “Mend” me, you rude man?

COBBLER

Why, sir, cobble you.

COBBLER

Well, cobble you, sir.

FLAVIUS

Thou art a cobbler, art thou?

FLAVIUS

You’re a cobbler, are you?

COBBLER

Truly, sir, all that I live by is with the awl. I meddle with no tradesman’s matters nor women’s matters, but withal I am indeed, sir, a surgeon to old shoes. When they are in great danger, I recover them. As propermen as ever trod upon neat’s leather have gone upon my handiwork.

COBBLER

Yes, sir, I make my living through use of an awl. I don’t meddle in politics or in the affairs of women. I’m just a surgeon for old shoes. When they’re in bad shape, I fix them. The most noble men who have ever walked on leather have walked on my handiwork.

FLAVIUS

But wherefore art not in thy shop today?Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?

FLAVIUS

But why aren’t you in your shop today? Why are you leading these men through the streets?

COBBLER

Truly, sir, to wear out their shoes to get myself into more work. But indeed, sir, we make holiday to see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph.

COBBLER

Well, sir, to wear out their shoes and get myself more work. But actually, sir, we took the day off to see Caesar and celebrate his triumph.

MURELLUS

Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels? You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, O you hard hearts, you cruèl men of Rome, Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft Have you climbed up to walls and battlements, To towers and windows, yea, to chimney tops, Your infants in your arms, and there have sat The livelong day with patient expectation To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome. And when you saw his chariot but appear, Have you not made an universal shout That Tiber trembled underneath her banks To hear the replication of your sounds Made in her concave shores? And do you now put on your best attire? And do you now cull out a holiday? And do you now strew flowers in his way That comes in triumph over Pompey’s blood? Be gone! Run to your houses, fall upon your knees, Pray to the gods to intermit the plague That needs must light on this ingratitude.

MURELLUS

Why celebrate it? What foreign lands has he conquered for Rome to rule? What foreign princes are chained to his chariot wheels and will earn Rome ransom money? You blockheads, you unfeeling men, you worse than stupid things! Oh, you with hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome! didn’t you know Pompey? Many a time you climbed up on walls and battlements, towers and windows—yes, even chimney tops, with your babies in your arms—and sat there all day just waiting to see great Pompey ride through the streets of Rome. And when you saw his chariot, didn’t all of you shout all at once so loudly that the Tiber River shook from the sound echoing within its banks? And now you put on your finest clothes? And now you choose to celebrate a holiday? And now you toss flowers in the path of the man who comes in triumph having defeated Pompey’s sons? Get out of here! Run to your houses, fall on your knees, and pray to the gods to spare you from the terrible punishment that is certain to come down upon you for such ingratitude.

FLAVIUS

Go, go, good countrymen, and for this fault, Assemble all the poor men of your sort, Draw them to Tiber banks, and weep your tears Into the channel till the lowest stream Do kiss the most exalted shores of all.

FLAVIUS

Go, go, good countrymen. And to atone for this error in judgment, gather together all the poor men like you. Lead them to the banks of the Tiber River, and weep into the water until it overflows.

The CARPENTER, COBBLER, and all of the commoners exit.

FLAVIUS

See whether their basest metal be not moved. They vanish tongue-tied in their guiltiness. Go you down that way towards the Capitol. This way will I. Disrobe the images If you do find them decked with ceremonies.

FLAVIUS

That should move even these coarse and unrefined men. They’re leaving, and feel so guilty they can’t speak. You go that way towards the Capitol, and I’ll go this way. Undress any statues you see that have been decorated in honor of Caesar.

MURELLUS

May we do so?You know it is the feast of Lupercal.

MURELLUS

Can we do that? You know it’s the feast of Lupercal.

FLAVIUS

It is no matter. Let no images Be hung with Caesar’s trophies. I’ll about And drive away the vulgar from the streets. So do you too, where you perceive them thick. These growing feathers plucked from Caesar’s wing Will make him fly an ordinary pitch, Who else would soar above the view of men And keep us all in servile fearfulness.

FLAVIUS

It doesn’t matter. None of the statues should be decorated in honor to Caesar. I’ll make sure the commoners get off the streets, and you do the same wherever you see a bunch of them together. If we can pluck the feathers of Caesar’s growing support among the commoners now, he’ll have to fly at a normal height. If we don’t, he’ll soar to such heights of power that all of us will live in fear and be his servants.

They exit in different directions.

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Ben florman
About the Translator: Ben Florman

Ben is a co-founder of LitCharts. He holds a BA in English Literature from Harvard University, where as an undergraduate he won the Winthrop Sargent prize for best undergraduate paper on a topic related to Shakespeare.