Caesar wanders through his house in his dressing gown, kept awake by his wife Calpurnia’s nightmares. Three times she has called out in her sleep about Caesar’s murder. He sends a servant to bid the priests to offer a sacrifice and tell him the results. Calpurnia enters and insists that Caesar not leave the house after so many bad signs. Caesar rebuffs her, refusing to give in to fear. But Calpurnia, who has never heeded omens before, speaks of what happened in the city earlier that night: dead men walked, ghosts wandered the city, a lioness gave birth in the street, and lightning shattered the skies. These signs portend true danger, she says; Caesar cannot afford to ignore them.
Caesar counters that nothing can change the plans of the gods. He deems the signs to apply to the world in general and refuses to believe that they bode ill for him personally. Calpurnia says that the heavens proclaim the death of only great men, so the omens must have to do with him. Caesar replies that while cowards imagine their death frequently, thus dying in their minds several times over, brave men, refusing to dwell on death, die only once. He cannot understand why men fear death, which must come eventually to all.
The servant enters, reporting that the augurs recommend that Caesar stay home. They examined the entrails of an animal and were unable to find a heart—a bad sign. But Caesar maintains that he will not stay home out of fear. Danger cannot affect Caesar, he says. Calpurnia begs him to send Antony to the Senate in his place; finally Caesar relents.
Decius enters, saying that he has come to bring Caesar to the Senate. Caesar tells him to tell the senators that he will be absent that day. Calpurnia tells him to plead illness, but Caesar refuses to lie. Decius then asks what reason he should offer. Caesar states that it is simply his will to stay home. He adds that Calpurnia has had a dream in which she saw his statue run with blood like a fountain, while many smiling Romans bathed their hands in the blood; she has taken this to portend danger for Caesar.
Decius disputes Calpurnia’s interpretation, saying that actually the dream signifies that Romans will all gain lifeblood from the strength of Caesar. He confides that the Senate has decided to give Caesar the crown that day; if Caesar were to stay at home, the senators might change their minds. Moreover, Caesar would lose public regard if he were perceived as so easily swayed by a woman, or by fear. Caesar replies that his fears now indeed seem small. He calls for his robe and prepares to depart. Cassius and Brutus enter with Ligarius, Metellus, Casca, Trebonius, and Cinna to escort him to the Senate. Finally, Antony enters. Caesar prepares to depart.Read a translation of Act II, scene ii →
Artemidorus comes onstage, reading to himself a letter that he has written Caesar, warning him to be wary of Brutus, Casca, and the other conspirators. He stands along the route that Caesar will take to the Senate, prepared to hand the letter to him as he passes. He is sad to think that the virtue embodied by Caesar may be destroyed by the ambitious envy of the conspirators. He remains hopeful, however, that if his letter gets read, Caesar may yet live.