A line-by-line translation

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Translation Act 2, Scene 1

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BRUTUS enters in his orchard.

BRUTUS

What, Lucius, ho!— I cannot by the progress of the stars Give guess how near to day . —Lucius, I say!— I would it were my fault to sleep so soundly.— When, Lucius, when? Awake, I say! What, Lucius!

BRUTUS

Hello, Lucius, where are you? I can’t tell by the position of the stars how near it is to dawn. Lucius, where are you? I wish I had the weakness of sleeping too deeply. Come, Lucius, come! Wake up, I say! Lucius!

LUCIUS enters.

LUCIUS

Called you, my lord?

LUCIUS

You called, my lord?

BRUTUS

Get me a taper in my study, Lucius.When it is lighted, come and call me here.

BRUTUS

Put a candle in my study, Lucius. When it’s lit, come here and get me.

LUCIUS

I will, my lord.

LUCIUS

I will, my lord.

LUCIUS exits.

BRUTUS

It must be by his death, and for my part I know no personal cause to spurn at him But for the general. He would be crowned. How that might change his nature, there’s the question. It is the bright day that brings forth the adder And that craves wary walking. Crown him that, And then I grant we put a sting in him That at his will he may do danger with. Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins Remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar, I have not known when his affections swayed More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder, Whereto the climber upward turns his face. But when he once attains the upmost round, He then unto the ladder turns his back, Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees By which he did ascend. So Caesar may. Then, lest he may, prevent. And since the quarrel Will bear no color for the thing he is, Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented, Would run to these and these extremities. And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg— Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous— And kill him in the shell.

BRUTUS

Killing Caesar is the only way. As for me, I have no personal reason to harm him other than the common good of the people. He wants to be crowned king. The question is, how might being king change him? Just as sunny days cause poisonous snakes to come outside, bad things can come from what looks good—and so we must step carefully. If we crown him king, then—I admit—we’d be giving him a power that he could use to do evil things, if he wanted. The abuse of power comes when power gets separated from compassion. And, to be honest about Caesar, I’ve never seen his emotions get the better of his reason. But it's a basic truth that an ambitious young man uses humility as a tool to move up the ladder. And then, when he gets to the top rung, he turns his back on those beneath him and shoots for the skies, while scorning what he did to get to the top. Caesar might do the same. Therefore, because he might, we must stop him. And since our argument has nothing to do with who he is right now, I must think of it this way:  if he got more power, his character as it is now would be transformed into the extreme one I've described. Therefore, we should think of him as a serpent’s egg—which, once it's hatched, grows dangerous, just as all serpents do. So we must kill him while he’s still in the shell.

LUCIUS enters.

LUCIUS

The taper burneth in your closet, sir. Searching the window for a flint, I found This paper, thus sealed up, and I am sure It did not lie there when I went to bed. [gives him a letter]

LUCIUS

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BRUTUS

Get you to bed again. It is not day.Is not tomorrow, boy, the ides of March?

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS

I know not, sir.

LUCIUS

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BRUTUS

Look in the calendar and bring me word.

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS

I will, sir.

LUCIUS

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LUCIUS exits.

BRUTUS

The exhalations whizzing in the air Give so much light that I may read by them. [opens the letter and reads] “Brutus, thou sleep’st. Awake, and see thyself. Shall Rome, etc. Speak, strike, redress!” “Brutus, thou sleep’st. Awake.” Such instigations have been often dropped Where I have took them up. —“Shall Rome, etc.” Thus must I piece it out: “Shall Rome stand under one man’s awe?” What, Rome? My ancestors did from the streets of Rome The Tarquin drive when he was called a king. —“Speak, strike, redress!” Am I entreated To speak and strike? O Rome, I make thee promise, If the redress will follow, thou receivest Thy full petition at the hand of Brutus!

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS enters.

LUCIUS

Sir, March is wasted fifteen days.

LUCIUS

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A knock sounds offstage.

BRUTUS

'Tis good. Go to the gate. Somebody knocks.

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS exits.

BRUTUS

Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, I have not slept. Between the acting of a dreadful thing And the first motion, all the interim is Like a phantasma or a hideous dream. The genius and the mortal instruments Are then in council, and the state of man, Like to a little kingdom, suffers then The nature of an insurrection.

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS enters.

LUCIUS

Sir, ’tis your brother Cassius at the door,Who doth desire to see you.

LUCIUS

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BRUTUS

Is he alone?

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS

No, sir, there are more with him.

LUCIUS

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BRUTUS

Do you know them?

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS

No, sir. Their hats are plucked about their ears, And half their faces buried in their cloaks, That by no means I may discover them By any mark of favor.

LUCIUS

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BRUTUS

Let 'em enter.

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS exits.

BRUTUS

They are the faction. O conspiracy, Shamest thou to show thy dangerous brow by night When evils are most free? O, then by day Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy. Hide it in smiles and affability. For if thou path, thy native semblance on, Not Erebus itself were dim enough To hide thee from prevention.

BRUTUS

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The conspirators enter: CASSIUS, CASCA, DECIUS, CINNA, METELLUS, and TREBONIUS.

CASSIUS

I think we are too bold upon your rest.Good morrow, Brutus. Do we trouble you?

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

I have been up this hour, awake all night.Know I these men that come along with you?

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

Yes, every man of them, and no man here But honors you, and every one doth wish You had but that opinion of yourself Which every noble Roman bears of you. This is Trebonius.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

He is welcome hither.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

This, Decius Brutus.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

He is welcome too.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

This, Casca. This, Cinna. And this, Metellus Cimber.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

They are all welcome.What watchful cares do interpose themselvesBetwixt your eyes and night?

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

Shall I entreat a word?

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS and CASSIUS step aside and whisper together.

DECIUS

Here lies the east. Doth not the day break here?

DECIUS

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CASCA

No.

CASCA

Lor

CINNA

O, pardon, sir, it doth, and yon gray linesThat fret the clouds are messengers of day.

CINNA

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CASCA

You shall confess that you are both deceived. [points his sword] Here, as I point my sword, the sun arises, Which is a great way growing on the south, Weighing the youthful season of the year. Some two months hence up higher toward the north He first presents his fire, and the high east Stands, as the Capitol, directly here.

CASCA

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BRUTUS

[comes forward with CASSIUS] Give me your hands all over, one by one. [shakes their hands]

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

And let us swear our resolution.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

No, not an oath. If not the face of men, The sufferance of our souls, the time’s abuse— If these be motives weak, break off betimes, And every man hence to his idle bed. So let high-sighted tyranny range on Till each man drop by lottery. But if these— As I am sure they do—bear fire enough To kindle cowards and to steel with valor The melting spirits of women, then, countrymen, W hat need we any spur but our own cause To prick us to redress? What other bond Than secret Romans that have spoke the word And will not palter? And what other oath Than honesty to honesty engaged, That this shall be, or we will fall for it? Swear priests and cowards and men cautelous, Old feeble carrions and such suffering souls That welcome wrongs. Unto bad causes swear Such creatures as men doubt. But do not stain The even virtue of our enterprise, Nor th' insuppressive mettle of our spirits, To think that or our cause or our performance Did need an oath, when every drop of blood That every Roman bears—and nobly bears— Is guilty of a several bastardy If he do break the smallest particle Of any promise that hath passed from him.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

But what of Cicero? Shall we sound him?I think he will stand very strong with us.

CASSIUS

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CASCA

Let us not leave him out.

CASCA

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CINNA

No, by no means.

CINNA

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METELLUS

O, let us have him, for his silver hairs Will purchase us a good opinion And buy men’s voices to commend our deeds. It shall be said his judgment ruled our hands. Our youths and wildness shall no whit appear, But all be buried in his gravity.

METELLUS

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BRUTUS

O, name him not. Let us not break with him, For he will never follow anything That other men begin.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

Then leave him out.

CASSIUS

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CASCA

Indeed he is not fit.

CASCA

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DECIUS

Shall no man else be touched but only Caesar?

DECIUS

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CASSIUS

Decius, well urged. I think it is not meet Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar, Should outlive Caesar. We shall find of him A shrewd contriver. And, you know, his means, If he improve them, may well stretch so far As to annoy us all; which to prevent, Let Antony and Caesar fall together.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius, To cut the head off and then hack the limbs, Like wrath in death and envy afterwards, For Antony is but a limb of Caesar. Let us be sacrificers but not butchers, Caius. We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar, And in the spirit of men there is no blood. Oh, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit And not dismember Caesar! But, alas, Caesar must bleed for it. And, gentle friends, Let’s kill him boldly but not wrathfully. Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods, Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds. And let our hearts, as subtle masters do, Stir up their servants to an act of rage And after seem to chide 'em. This shall make Our purpose necessary and not envious, Which so appearing to the common eyes, We shall be called purgers, not murderers. And for Mark Antony, think not of him, For he can do no more than Caesar’s arm When Caesar’s head is off.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

Yet I fear him.For in the engrafted love he bears to Caesar—

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

Alas, good Cassius, do not think of him. If he love Caesar, all that he can do Is to himself: take thought and die for Caesar. And that were much he should, for he is given To sports, to wildness and much company.

BRUTUS

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TREBONIUS

There is no fear in him. Let him not die,For he will live and laugh at this hereafter.

TREBONIUS

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A clock strikes.

BRUTUS

Peace! Count the clock.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

The clock hath stricken three.

CASSIUS

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TREBONIUS

'Tis time to part.

TREBONIUS

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CASSIUS

But it is doubtful yet Whether Caesar will come forth today or no. For he is superstitious grown of late, Quite from the main opinion he held once Of fantasy, of dreams and ceremonies. It may be, these apparent prodigies, The unaccustomed terror of this night, And the persuasion of his augurers May hold him from the Capitol today.

CASSIUS

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DECIUS

Never fear that. If he be so resolved, I can o'ersway him. For he loves to hear That unicorns may be betrayed with trees, And bears with glasses, elephants with holes, Lions with toils, and men with flatterers. But when I tell him he hates flatterers, He says he does, being then most flatterèd. Let me work. For I can give his humor the true bent, And I will bring him to the Capitol.

DECIUS

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CASSIUS

Nay, we will all of us be there to fetch him.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

By the eighth hour. Is that the uttermost?

BRUTUS

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CINNA

Be that the uttermost, and fail not then.

CINNA

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METELLUS

Caius Ligarius doth bear Caesar hard , Who rated him for speaking well of Pompey. I wonder none of you have thought of him.

METELLUS

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BRUTUS

Now, good Metellus, go along by him.He loves me well, and I have given him reasons.Send him but hither and I’ll fashion him.

BRUTUS

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CASSIUS

The morning comes upon ’s. We’ll leave you, Brutus.—And, friends, disperse yourselves. But all rememberWhat you have said, and show yourselves true Romans.

CASSIUS

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BRUTUS

Good gentlemen, look fresh and merrily. Let not our looks put on our purposes, But bear it as our Roman actors do, With untired spirits and formal constancy. And so good morrow to you every one.

BRUTUS

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Everyone exits except BRUTUS.

BRUTUS

Boy! Lucius!—Fast asleep? It is no matter. Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber. Thou hast no figures nor no fantasies, Which busy care draws in the brains of men. Therefore thou sleep’st so sound.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA enters.

PORTIA

Brutus, my lord.

PORTIA

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BRUTUS

Portia, what mean you? Wherefore rise you now?It is not for your health thus to commitYour weak condition to the raw, cold morning.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA

Nor for yours neither. Y' have ungently, Brutus, Stole from my bed. And yesternight, at supper, You suddenly arose and walked about, Musing and sighing, with your arms across, And when I asked you what the matter was, You stared upon me with ungentle looks. I urged you further, then you scratched your head And too impatiently stamped with your foot. Yet I insisted; yet you answered not, But with an angry wafture of your hand Gave sign for me to leave you. So I did, Fearing to strengthen that impatience Which seemed too much enkindled, and withal Hoping it was but an effect of humor, Which sometime hath his hour with every man. It will not let you eat nor talk nor sleep, And could it work so much upon your shape As it hath much prevailed on your condition, I should not know you, Brutus. Dear my lord, Make me acquainted with your cause of grief.

PORTIA

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BRUTUS

I am not well in health, and that is all.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA

Brutus is wise, and were he not in health,He would embrace the means to come by it.

PORTIA

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BRUTUS

Why, so I do. Good Portia, go to bed.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA

Is Brutus sick? And is it physical To walk unbracèd and suck up the humors Of the dank morning? What, is Brutus sick, And will he steal out of his wholesome bed, To dare the vile contagion of the night And tempt the rheumy and unpurgèd air To add unto his sickness? No, my Brutus. You have some sick offense within your mind, Which by the right and virtue of my place I ought to know of. [kneels] And upon my knees I charm you, by my once-commended beauty, By all your vows of love and that great vow Which did incorporate and make us one That you unfold to me, your self, your half, Why you are heavy, and what men tonight Have had to resort to you. For here have been Some six or seven who did hide their faces Even from darkness.

PORTIA

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BRUTUS

Kneel not, gentle Portia.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA

[rising] I should not need if you were gentle, Brutus. Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus, Is it excepted I should know no secrets That appertain to you? Am I yourself But, as it were, in sort or limitation, To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed, And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the suburbs Of your good pleasure? If it be no more, Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife.

PORTIA

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BRUTUS

You are my true and honorable wife,As dear to me as are the ruddy dropsThat visit my sad heart.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA

If this were true, then should I know this secret. I grant I am a woman, but withal A woman that Lord Brutus took to wife. I grant I am a woman, but withal A woman well-reputed, Cato’s daughter. Think you I am no stronger than my sex, Being so fathered and so husbanded? Tell me your counsels. I will not disclose 'em. I have made strong proof of my constancy, Giving myself a voluntary wound Here in the thigh. Can I bear that with patience, And not my husband’s secrets?

PORTIA

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BRUTUS

O ye gods,Render me worthy of this noble wife!

BRUTUS

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A knock sounds offstage.

BRUTUS

Hark, hark! One knocks. Portia, go in awhile. And by and by thy bosom shall partake The secrets of my heart. All my engagements I will construe to thee, All the charactery of my sad brows. Leave me with haste.

BRUTUS

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PORTIA exits.

BRUTUS

Lucius, who’s that knocking?

BRUTUS

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LUCIUS and LIGARIUS enter. Ligarius wears a handkerchief wrapped around his head.

LUCIUS

He is a sick man that would speak with you.

LUCIUS

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BRUTUS

Caius Ligarius, that Metellus spake of. Boy, stand aside. —Caius Ligarius, how?

BRUTUS

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LIGARIUS

Vouchsafe good morrow from a feeble tongue.

LIGARIUS

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BRUTUS

O, what a time have you chose out, brave Caius, To wear a kerchief! Would you were not sick!

BRUTUS

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LIGARIUS

I am not sick if Brutus have in hand Any exploit worthy the name of honor.

LIGARIUS

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BRUTUS

Such an exploit have I in hand, Ligarius,Had you a healthful ear to hear of it.

BRUTUS

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LIGARIUS

[removes his kerchief] By all the gods that Romans bow before, I here discard my sickness! Soul of Rome, Brave son derived from honorable loins, Thou, like an exorcist, hast conjured up My mortifièd spirit. Now bid me run, And I will strive with things impossible, Yea, get the better of them. What’s to do?

LIGARIUS

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BRUTUS

A piece of work that will make sick men whole.

BRUTUS

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LIGARIUS

But are not some whole that we must make sick?

LIGARIUS

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BRUTUS

That must we also. What it is, my Caius,I shall unfold to thee as we are goingTo whom it must be done.

BRUTUS

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LIGARIUS

Set on your foot, And with a heart new-fired I follow you, To do I know not what. But it sufficeth That Brutus leads me on.

LIGARIUS

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Thunder sounds.

BRUTUS

Follow me, then.

BRUTUS

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They exit.

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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.