Act I, Scene II
Caesar and his entourage, including Antony, Calpurnia, Portia, Decius, Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, Casca, and a Soothsayer, enter the public square, followed by a crowd of citizens and Flavius and Murellus. Antony, dressed for a feast, prepares for a ceremonial run through the city. Caesar urges him to touch Calpurnia, as it is believed that a ceremonial runner’s touch can cure barrenness. Antony agrees, stating that whatever Caesar says will become reality.
From the crowd, the Soothsayer calls out to Caesar, warning him to beware the Ides of March. Caesar pauses and calls the Soothsayer forward, who repeats the warning. However, Caesar dismisses the warning and the procession continues. Only Brutus and Cassius remain. Cassius questions why Brutus seems troubled lately, and Brutus confesses to being plagued by conflicting thoughts. He assures Cassius that he will not let his inner turmoil affect their friendship.
Brutus and Cassius have a private conversation. Cassius suggests that Brutus cannot see his own value, which everyone else recognizes. Cassius offers to be a mirror for Brutus, helping him discover his true worth. Meanwhile, Brutus expresses his fear that the people desire to make Caesar their king. Cassius agrees, admitting that he resents the idea of kneeling before someone he does not consider superior. He recalls instances where Caesar’s physical weakness contradicts his position of power.
Cassius emphasizes that while Caesar stands tall, Brutus and Cassius remain beneath him. They question why Caesar’s name should hold more significance than Brutus’s when spoken together. Cassius wonders about the age they live in, where one man can tower over the rest of the population. Brutus promises to consider Cassius’s words but admits that he would rather not be a citizen of Rome in such strange times.
Caesar and his entourage return, and Caesar comments to Antony that Cassius seems like a man who thinks too much, posing a danger. Caesar prefers to avoid Cassius, as he reads too much and lacks enjoyment in plays or music. Caesar urges Antony to stand on his right side, as he is deaf in his left ear, and asks for his opinion on Cassius. Eventually, Caesar and his party leave.
Brutus and Cassius approach Casca to inquire about the procession. Casca reveals that Antony offered a crown to Caesar three times, but Caesar rejected it each time. Despite Caesar’s fit, the crowd continued to express their love for him. Casca also mentions that Cicero spoke in Greek, but he could not understand him at all. Flavius and Murellus were punished for removing decorations from Caesar’s statues. Casca then leaves, followed by Brutus.
Alone, Cassius contemplates the noble nature of Brutus and hopes he can sway Brutus to their cause. He decides to forge letters from Roman citizens supporting Brutus and expressing fear of Caesar’s rise to power. Cassius plans to throw these letters into Brutus’s house that evening.
This scene provides a glimpse into Caesar’s popularity with the masses but also hints at his impending downfall. Caesar’s choice to ignore the Soothsayer’s warning is the first of many instances where he disregards signs of his fate. Although the people believe that Caesar’s word has the power to become reality, the fact that he and Calpurnia have been unable to produce a child suggests a vulnerability. This physical shortcoming could be detrimental to his ambitions as a potential monarch.
Brutus and Cassius’s conversation reveals their conflicting characters and sets them up as the main conspirators against Caesar. Brutus is torn between his love for Caesar and his concern for Rome’s best interests. Cassius manipulates Brutus by flattering his pride and offering to be his mirror, reflecting the high esteem in which the citizens hold him.
Cassius highlights Caesar’s physical weaknesses, portraying him as lacking stamina and possibly epileptic. However, Cassius fails to recognize that Caesar’s real power lies in his public image and the goodwill of the people, rather than his private infirmities. Caesar, on the other hand, perceives Cassius’s discord and coldness, which makes him uneasy.
The issue of Caesar’s own ambition arises when Casca recounts the triumphal procession. While Casca’s bias makes it difficult to ascertain Caesar’s true motivations, his hesitation in refusing the crown suggests that he could be seduced by power and become a dictator, as Brutus fears.
Cassius understands that Brutus’s internal conflict can be influenced by public opinion. By planting forged letters in Brutus’s house, Cassius aims to manipulate his honorable concerns for Rome and convince him that the people distrust Caesar. Cassius’s adaptability contrasts with Brutus’s inflexible ideals, making him susceptible to manipulation.