A line-by-line translation

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Translation Act 1, Scene 3

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Thunder and lightning. CASCA and CICERO enter.

CICERO

Good even, Casca. Brought you Caesar home?Why are you breathless? And why stare you so?

CICERO

Good evening, Casca. Did you walk Caesar home? Why are you breathless? And why are you looking around like that?

CASCA

Are not you moved when all the sway of earth Shakes like a thing unfirm? O Cicero, I have seen tempests when the scolding winds Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen Th' ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam To be exalted with the threatening clouds, But never till tonight, never till now, Did I go through a tempest dropping fire. Either there is a civil strife in heaven, Or else the world, too saucy with the gods, Incenses them to send destruction.

CASCA

Aren’t you disturbed when the entire earth shakes as if it were unsteady? Oh, Cicero, I’ve seen storms with gusting winds that have split ancient oak trees. And I’ve seen the ocean swell, rage, and foam, as if it wanted to rise all the way to the dark clouds above. But not until tonight—not until now—have I ever seen a storm that drops fire. Either there is a civil war in heaven, or the world—too disrespectful toward the gods—angers them so much that they send destruction.

CICERO

Why, saw you anything more wonderful?

CICERO

Why, did you see anything else that made it seem like it came from the gods?

CASCA

A common slave—you know him well by sight— Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn Like twenty torches joined, and yet his hand, Not sensible of fire, remained unscorched. Besides—I ha' not since put up my sword— Against the Capitol I met a lion, Who glaz'd upon me and went surly by, Without annoying me. And there were drawn Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women, Transformèd with their fear, who swore they saw Men all in fire walk up and down the streets. And yesterday the bird of night did sit Even at noon-day upon the marketplace, Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies Do so conjointly meet, let not men say, “These are their reasons; they are natural.” For I believe they are portentous things Unto the climate that they point upon.

CASCA

A common slave—you’d recognize him—held up his left hand, which flamed and burned with the strength of twenty torches. And yet his hand did not feel the fire and was not scorched. In addition—I haven't sheathed my sword since seeing this—across from the Capitol I saw a lion who stared at me and then walked by without harming me. And there were a hundred frightened women all clustered together, who swore they saw men covered in fire walk up and down the streets. And yesterday the owl sat hooting and shrieking in the marketplace at noon. When all these strange things happen at the same time, men should not say, “Here are the reasons why this is happening; it's all natural and normal.” I believe these are omens regarding what will happen in the place where they occur, right here in Rome.

CICERO

Indeed, it is a strange-disposèd time. But men may construe things after their fashion, Clean from the purpose of the things themselves. Comes Caesar to the Capitol tomorrow?

CICERO

Yes, these are strange times. But men often interpret things for their own purposes, and misunderstand the actual meaning of the things themselves. Is Caesar coming to the Capitol tomorrow?

CASCA

He doth, for he did bid AntoniusSend word to you he would be there tomorrow.

CASCA

He is. He told Antonius to tell you he’d be there tomorrow.

CICERO

Good night then, Casca. This disturbèd skyIs not to walk in.

CICERO

Good night then, Casca. This angry weather isn’t something to walk around in.

CASCA

Farewell, Cicero.

CASCA

Farewell, Cicero

CICERO exits.

CASSIUS enters.

CASSIUS

Who’s there?

CASSIUS

Who’s there?

CASCA

A Roman.

CASCA

A Roman.

CASSIUS

Casca, by your voice.

CASSIUS

Casca, I recognize your voice.

CASCA

Your ear is good. Cassius, what night is this!

CASCA

Your ear is good. Cassius, what a night this is!

CASSIUS

A very pleasing night to honest men.

CASSIUS

It’s a very pleasing night to honest men.

CASCA

Who ever knew the heavens menace so?

CASCA

Who’s ever seen the heavens seem so threatening as this?

CASSIUS

Those that have known the earth so full of faults. For my part, I have walked about the streets, Submitting me unto the perilous night, And, thus unbracèd, Casca, as you see, Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone. And when the cross blue lightning seemed to open The breast of heaven, I did present myself Even in the aim and very flash of it.

CASSIUS

Those who have known how bad things are here on earth. I have walked around the streets, exposing myself to the perilous night, with my jacket unbuttoned like this, baring my chest to the thunderbolt, as you see, Casca. When the forked blue lightning seemed to break open the sky, I put myself right where I thought it would hit.

CASCA

But wherefore did you so much tempt the heavens?It is the part of men to fear and trembleWhen the most mighty gods by tokens sendSuch dreadful heralds to astonish us.

CASCA

But why would you tempt the heavens that way? Men are supposed to be afraid and tremble when the mightiest gods send such dreadful signs to warn and shock us.

CASSIUS

You are dull, Casca, and those sparks of life That should be in a Roman you do want, Or else you use not. You look pale, and gaze, And put on fear, and cast yourself in wonder To see the strange impatience of the heavens. But if you would consider the true cause Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts, Why birds and beasts from quality and kind, Why old men fool and children calculate, Why all these things change from their ordinance Their natures and preformèd faculties To monstrous quality— why, you shall find That heaven hath infused them with these spirits To make them instruments of fear and warning Unto some monstrous state. Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man Most like this dreadful night, That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars As doth the lion in the Capitol— A man no mightier than thyself or me In personal action, yet prodigious grown, And fearful as these strange eruptions are.

CASSIUS

You are dull, Casca. And you lack the sparks of liveliness that a Roman should have—or else you just don’t show them. You look pale, you stare, and you give yourself over to fear and wonder at the strange uproar in the heavens. But if you think about the true cause of all these fires, all these floating ghosts; or the reason why birds and animals are acting differently from how they normally behave; why old men, fools, and children make prophecies; why all these things have transformed from their natural qualities and become monstrous, then you’d see that heaven put such evil spirits in them so as to give a terrifying warning of an unnatural government that is coming. Right now, Casca, I could name a man who’s just like this dreadful night. He thunders, shoots lightning, opens up graves, and roars just like the lion in the Capitol. He is a man no mightier in his abilities than you or me. Yet he has grown as tremendous and frightening as tonight’s shocking sights.
 

CASCA

'Tis Caesar that you mean. Is it not, Cassius?

CASCA

It’s Caesar you’re talking about. Isn’t it, Cassius?

CASSIUS

Let it be who it is. For Romans now Have thews and limbs like to their ancestors, But—woe the while!—our fathers' minds are dead, And we are governed with our mothers' spirits. Our yoke and sufferance show us womanish.

CASSIUS

Don’t worry about who it is. Romans today may have the same strong bodies as our ancestors. But—curse this time!—we don’t have the will of our fathers. It's like we have inherited only the spirits of our mothers instead. Our willingness to be enslaved shows that we are weak, like women.

CASCA

Indeed, they say the senators tomorrowMean to establish Caesar as a king,And he shall wear his crown by sea and landIn every place save here in Italy.

CASCA

Indeed, they say that the senators plan to make Caesar a king tomorrow. And he’ll wear his crown at sea and on land everywhere except here in Italy.

CASSIUS

I know where I will wear this dagger then. Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius. Therein, ye gods, you make the weak most strong. Therein, ye gods, you tyrants do defeat. Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass, Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron Can be retentive to the strength of spirit. But life, being weary of these worldly bars, Never lacks power to dismiss itself. If I know this, know all the world besides, That part of tyranny that I do bear I can shake off at pleasure.

CASSIUS

I know where I’ll wear this dagger if that happens. I’ll free myself from slavery by killing myself. Oh, you gods, through suicide you make weak become strong. Through suicide, you gods, you can defeat tyrants. No stony tower, no brass walls, no airless dungeon, no iron chains can imprison a strong spirit. Though held by such prisons, life never loses the power to destroy itself. I know—and may all the world know—that I can overthrow the tyranny I currently suffer I whenever I want by killing myself.

Thunder sounds again.

CASCA

So can I.So every bondman in his own hand bearsThe power to cancel his captivity.

CASCA

So can I. Every imprisoned man holds in his own hand the ability to escape his captivity.

CASSIUS

And why should Caesar be a tyrant then? Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf But that he sees the Romans are but sheep. He were no lion were not Romans hinds. Those that with haste will make a mighty fire Begin it with weak straws. What trash is Rome, What rubbish and what offal, when it serves For the base matter to illuminate So vile a thing as Caesar! But, O grief, Where hast thou led me? I perhaps speak this Before a willing bondman. Then I know My answer must be made. But I am armed, And dangers are to me indifferent.

CASSIUS

So then how can Caesar have become a tyrant? Poor man! I know he wouldn’t be a wolf if he didn't see that the Romans were such sheep. He would not be a lion if the Romans weren’t deer. Someone who wants to make a big fire quickly starts with little twigs. Rome is trash—just rubbish and garbage to be burned—when it allows itself to light up the ambitions of a thing as worthless as Caesar. But, oh, grief! What have you made me say? I might be saying this to someone who wants to be a slave, and then I'll have to face the consequences of my words. But I’m armed, and danger is unimportant to me.

CASCA

You speak to Casca, and to such a manThat is no fleering telltale. Hold, my hand.Be factious for redress of all these griefs,And I will set this foot of mine as farAs who goes farthest.

CASCA

You’re speaking to Casca, not some smirking tattletale. Take my hand. If you’re forming a faction that will right all of these wrongs, I’ll go just as far as the one of you who will go the farthest.

CASSIUS

There’s a bargain made. Now know you, Casca, I have moved already Some certain of the noblest-minded Romans To undergo with me an enterprise Of honorable-dangerous consequence. And I do know by this they stay for me In Pompey’s porch. For now, this fearful night, There is no stir or walking in the streets, And the complexion of the element In favor’s like the work we have in hand, Most bloody, fiery, and most terrible.

CASSIUS

You’ve got a deal. Now you should know, Casca, that I’ve already persuaded some of the noblest Romans to join me in an effort that is at once honorable and dangerous. And I know that by now they’re waiting for me in the lobby of Pompey’s theater, because no one is out walking in the streets right now. And the sky is as bloody, fiery, and terrible as the work we are planning to do.

CINNA enters.

CASCA

Stand close awhile, for here comes one in haste.

CASCA

Hide for a bit—someone is rushing toward us.

CASSIUS

'Tis Cinna. I do know him by his gait. He is a friend. —Cinna, where haste you so?

CASSIUS

It’s Cinna. I recognize him by the way he walks. He is a friend.

[To CINNA] Cinna, where are you rushing to?

CINNA

To find out you. Who’s that? Metellus Cimber?

CINNA

To find you. Who’s that? Metellus Cimber?

CASSIUS

No, it is Casca, one incorporateTo our attempts. Am I not stayed for, Cinna?

CASSIUS

No, it’s Casca, who is an ally in our efforts. Are the others waiting for me, Cinna?

CINNA

I am glad on ’t. What a fearful night is this!There’s two or three of us have seen strange sights.

CINNA

I’m glad to hear it. What a frightening night this is! There are two or three of us who have seen strange sights.

CASSIUS

Am I not stayed for? Tell me.

CASSIUS

Are the others waiting for me? Tell me.

CINNA

Yes, you are.O Cassius, if you couldBut win the noble Brutus to our party—

CINNA

Yes, they are. Oh, Cassius, if you could just persuade noble Brutus to join us—

CASSIUS

Be you content. Good Cinna, take this paper, And look you lay it in the praetor’s chair Where Brutus may but find it. And throw this In at his window. Set this up with wax Upon old Brutus' statue. All this done, Repair to Pompey’s porch, where you shall find us. Is Decius Brutus and Trebonius there?

CASSIUS

Don’t worry. Good Cinna, take this paper and put it in the judge’s chair where Brutus sits so he will find it. And throw this one in through his window. Attach this one with wax to the statue of Brutus’ ancestor, Old Brutus. When all this is done, return to the lobby of Pompey’s theater, where you will find us. Are Decius Brutus and Trebonius there?

CINNA

All but Metellus Cimber, and he’s goneTo seek you at your house. Well, I will hie,And so bestow these papers as you bade me.

CINNA

Everyone but Metellus Cimber, and he’s gone to look for you at your house. Well, I’ll get going, and do what you've asked me to do with these papers.

CASSIUS

That done, repair to Pompey’s theatre.

CASSIUS

When you’re done, return to Pompey’s theater.

CINNA exits.

CASSIUS

Come, Casca, you and I will yet ere day See Brutus at his house. Three parts of him Is ours already, and the man entire Upon the next encounter yields him ours.

CASSIUS

Come on, Casca. Before the daylight comes, you and I will go see Brutus at his house. He is already three-quarters on our side, and this next meeting will bring him to us completely.

CASCA

Oh, he sits high in all the people’s hearts, And that which would appear offense in us, His countenance, like richest alchemy, Will change to virtue and to worthiness.

CASCA

Oh, he is loved and admired by the people. Just like an alchemist who transforms lead into gold, Brutus’ natural nobility would make actions look virtuous and good that would look bad if we did them alone.

CASSIUS

Him and his worth and our great need of him You have right well conceited. Let us go, For it is after midnight, and ere day We will awake him and be sure of him.

CASSIUS

You’re completely right about both Brutus’ nobility and our need for him. Let’s go, because it’s already after midnight, and before it’s day we must wake him and make sure he’s with us.

They exit.

Julius caesar
Join LitCharts A+ and get the entire Julius Caesar Translation as a printable PDF.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
  • Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
  • Downloads of 1179 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 26,005 quotes covering 1179 books
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms
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.