Julius Caesar

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 2 Scene 1

page Act 2 Scene 1 Page 2

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Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power. And, to speak truth of Caesar,
20I 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,
25He 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,
30Fashion 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.
Rulers abuse their power when they separate it from compassion. To be honest, I’ve never known Caesar to let his emotions get the better of his reason. But everyone knows that an ambitious young man uses humility to advance himself, but when he reaches the top, he turns his back on his supporters and reaches for the skies while scorning those who helped him get where he is. Caesar might act like that. Therefore, in case he does, we must hold him back. And since our quarrel is with his future behavior, not what he does now, I must frame the argument like this: if his position is furthered, his character will fulfill these predictions. And therefore we should liken him to a serpent’s egg—once it has hatched, it becomes dangerous, like all serpents. Thus we must kill him while he’s still in the shell.
Enter LUCIUS
LUCIUS enters.

LUCIUS

35The 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

The candle is burning in your study, sir. While I was looking for a flint to light it, I found this paper on the window, sealed up like this, and I’m sure it wasn’t there when I went to bed. (he gives BRUTUS the letter)

BRUTUS

40Get you to bed again. It is not day.
Is not tomorrow, boy, the ides of March?

BRUTUS

Go back to bed. It isn’t daybreak yet. Is tomorrow the 15th of March, boy?

LUCIUS

I know not, sir.

LUCIUS

I don’t know, sir.

BRUTUS

Look in the calendar and bring me word.

BRUTUS

Check the calendar and come tell me.

LUCIUS

I will, sir.

LUCIUS

I will, sir.