Julius Caesar By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act II: Scene 2

Summary

The scene is set in Caesar's house during a night of thunder and lightning, and Caesar is commenting on the tumultuous weather and upon Calphurnia's having dreamed of his being murdered. He sends a servant to instruct his augurers, men designated to interpret signs and appease the gods, to perform a sacrifice. Calphurnia enters and implores Caesar not to leave home for the day. She describes the unnatural phenomena that have brought her to believe in the validity of omens. Caesar replies that no one can alter the plans of the gods and that he will go out. When Calphurnia says that the heavens proclaim the deaths of princes, not beggars, Caesar contends that the fear of death is senseless because men cannot avoid its inevitability.

The servant returns with information that the priests suggest Caesar stay at home today because they could not find a heart in the sacrificed beast. Caesar rejects their interpretation, but Calphurnia does finally persuade him to stay at home and have Antony tell the senators that he is sick. Decius then enters, and Caesar decides to send the message by him; Decius asks what reason he is to give to the senators for Caesar's failure to attend today's session, and Caesar says to tell them simply that he "will not come. / That is enough to satisfy the Senate." Privately, however, he admits to Decius that it is because of Calphurnia's dream in which many "smiling Romans" dipped their hands in blood flowing from a statue of him. Decius, resorting to the flattery to which he knows Caesar is susceptible, reinterprets the dream and says that Calphurnia's dream is symbolic of Caesar's blood reviving Rome; the smiling Romans are seeking distinctive vitality from the great Caesar. When Decius suggests that the senate will ridicule Caesar for being governed by his wife's dreams, Caesar expresses shame for having been swayed by Calphurnia's foolish fears. He declares that he will go to the Capitol.

Publius and the remaining conspirators — all except Cassius — enter, and Brutus reminds Caesar that it is after eight o'clock. Caesar heartily welcomes Antony, commenting on his habit of partying late into the night. Caesar then prepares to leave and requests that Trebonius "be near me" today to conduct some business. Trebonius consents, and in an aside states that he will be closer than Caesar's "best friends" would like for him to be. In another aside, Brutus grieves when he realizes that all of Caesar's apparent friends are not true friends.

Analysis

If Portia is noble, Calphurnia, Caesar's wife, suffers greatly in comparison. She is not so well-husbanded, for here Caesar shows himself to be weak and superstitious. Still, there is truth in Calphurnia's dreams and real caring for her husband in her attempts to keep him from going to the Capitol. Her fault lies in her shrewish nature, which her husband allows to get out of control. Her ability to convince him to stay at home serves to show his weakness.

Caesar shows some vestiges of masculinity, however. Calphurnia describes "fierce, fiery warriors . . . which drizzled blood upon the Capitol," but Caesar responds that "cowards die many times before their deaths." He is determined not be a coward. But as Calphurnia kneels before him, he is persuaded. Here, the reader is meant to remember Portia's actions in the previous scene. She, too, knelt before her husband and he was persuaded. Shakespeare invites the readers to draw comparisons between the two and see a strong woman married to a strong man and a weak woman married to a weak man.

Decius enters the scene as Caesar agrees to feign illness and stay at home. Decius uses all of his powers of persuasion to ensure that Caesar will go out that day. Caesar orders Decius to say he will not come — Caesar seems unable to give one command and follow it through, but is constantly changing his mind — but Decius will not do so unless he can give a good reason for Caesar's non-appearance. Caesar tells of Calphurnia's dream, that "she saw my statue, / Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts, / Did run pure blood; and many lusty Romans / Came smiling and did bathe their hands in it." Decius reinterprets the dream for him and convinces him that it is a good omen, appealing to Caesar's vanity. Yet even in Decius' flattering description, Caesar is effeminized, for the blood that pours from his statue signifies that "great Rome shall suck / Reviving blood." Caesar is placed in the position of mother, rather than father, of Rome. Convinced, Caesar prepares to go to the Capitol and the tension begins to build. Suddenly, he is surrounded by the men who plan to kill him and his only protector, Antony, enters, tired from the previous night's revels. Caesar, through vanity and weakness, blithely begins the procession to his own death.

Glossary

nor heaven nor earth neither heaven nor earth.

murther murder.

present sacrifice immediate sacrifice.

stood on ceremonies listened to omens.

whelped given birth.

yawn'd opened up.

beyond all use beyond normal experience.

purpos'd preordained.

confidence overconfidence.

happy time at an opportune moment.

stays pauses, tarries, waits, or delays.

to-night last night.

proceeding political well-being.

and reason to my love is liable Decius claims that it is out of love that he tells Caesar this even though he risks anger.

ague a fever marked by regularly recurring chills

erns grieves

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