Julius Caesar Book Cover

 

Julius Caesar: A Verse Translation

ISBN-13 978-0-9836379-0-5

168 pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy Shakespeare in beautiful verse translations

 

Enjoy Shakespeare with Sir Toby, Feste, and Sir Andrew

 

 

 

Julius Caesar: A Verse Translation

Excerpt

 

In Scene One, Shakespeare used both prose and and blank verse (iambic pentameter). Scene Two is almost entirely blank verse. After Caesar's second exit, Casca uses prose to answer Brutus' and Cassius' questions. When Casca exits, Brutus and Cassius use blank verse to close the scene.

 

The Enjoy Shakespeare translations respect Shakespeare's choices and retain the basic line structure.

 


from Act One, Scenes 1-2

 

Scene One. Rome. A Street

[Enter FLAVIUS, MARULLUS, and a throng of PLEBEIANS (including a CARPENTER and a COBBLER), meeting on a street]

FLAVIUS (a tribune of the plebeians)

This scene

mixes prose

and blank

verse.

Go home, you idle creatures, get on home!

Is this a holiday? What? Don’t you know

That tradesmen aren’t allowed to walk around

On working days without the tools and clothes

Of their profession? Speak, what is your trade?

CARPENTER

Why, sir, a carpenter.

MARULLUS (a tribune of the plebeians)

Where is your leather apron? And your ruler?

Why do you have your best apparel on?

You, sir, what is your trade?

COBBLER

Truly, sir, compared with these fine workmen, I merely cobble at my trade.

MARULLUS

But at what trade? Just give me a straight answer.

COBBLER

A trade, sir, that I hope I can practice with good conscience, for indeed, sir, I mend bad soles.

MARULLUS

What trade, you knave? You no-good knave, what trade?

COBBLER

Please, I beg you, don’t be sore, but if you’re sore, sir, I can fix you.

MARULLUS

What do you mean by that, you nasty fellow? Fix me?

COBBLER

Fix your shoes, sir.

FLAVIUS

So you’re a cobbler, are you?

COBBLER

Truly, sir, I make my living punching holes in leather. I never meddle in another tradesman’s affairs, nor those of women, except with my punch. I truly am, sir, a surgeon to old pieces of hide. When they are in great danger, I make them feel like new. The finest men that have ever trod upon the skin of a cow have slipped into my handiwork.

FLAVIUS

But why are you not in your shop today?

Why do you lead these people through the streets?

COBBLER

I’m hoping, sir, to wear out their shoes to get myself more work. Actually, sir, we’ve declared a holiday to see Caesar’s victory parade and rejoice in his triumph.

MARULLUS

But why rejoice? What conquest could you mean?

The scene

closes with

blank verse.

What tribute-paying hostages chained to

His chariot wheels has he brought back to Rome?

You blocks, you stones—worse than oblivious!

O such hard hearts. Don’t you cruel men of Rome

Remember Pompey? Think how many times

You’ve climbed high up the walls and battlements,

To towers and windows, even chimney tops,

Your infants in your arms, and there you’ve sat

The whole day long in patient expectation

To see great Pompey drive the streets of Rome.

And when you saw his chariot appear,

Did you not shout in unison so loud

That underneath her banks the Tiber trembled,

Reverberating when she heard your sounds

Ring out across her sloping shores?

And now you dress up in your best attire?

And now arrange to have a holiday?

And now you toss some flowers in the path

Of one who triumphed over Pompey’s sons?

Be gone!

Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,

And pray the gods delay whatever plague

Will no doubt punish this ingratitude.

FLAVIUS

Go, go, good countrymen. For this offense,

Assemble all the poor men of your rank,

Lead them to Tiber’s banks, and let your tears

Flow down it’s channel, till the lowest stream

Can rise to kiss the highest shores of all.

[Exit PLEBEIANS]

Note how the lowest specimen is touched.

They vanish from us tongue-tied in their guilt.

You take that route down towards the Capitol.

I’ll go this way. Strip all the statues clean

Of any decorations that you find.

MARULLUS

Is that allowed?

They’re for the festival—the Lupercalia.

FLAVIUS

That’s no concern. Make sure no statue’s hung

With Caesar’s plunder. I will roam about

And get the common people off the streets.

You do that too, wherever they have massed.

These growing feathers plucked from Caesar’s wings

Will keep him at an ordinary height,

Within the sight of men, so we won’t live

In servile fear that he’ll swoop down on us.

[Exit]

 

 

Scene Two. Rome. A Public Place

[Trumpets sound. Enter in a procession JULIUS CAESAR, MARK ANTONY (dressed for the race) CALPURNIA, PORTIA, DECIUS Brutus, CICERO, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, CASCA, a SOOTHSAYER, and a large crowd of SENATORS, and PLEBEIANS]

JULIUS CAESAR

Calpurnia,—

CASCA (a patrician)

                    Silence! Caesar speaks.

[Trumpets cease]

JULIUS CAESAR

                                                            Calpurnia—

CALPURNIA (Caesar’s wife)

Here, my lord.

JULIUS CAESAR

Go stand and block Antonius’ path

When he is in the race.—Antonius.

MARK ANTONY (a friend of Caesar)

Caesar, my lord?

JULIUS CAESAR

Don’t go so fast, Antonius, that you

Forget to touch Calpurnia. Wise men say,

Touching the barren in this holy race

Shakes off the curse of childlessness.

MARK ANTONY

                                                              I’ll do it.

When Caesar says “Do this,” it will be done.

JULIUS CAESAR

Proceed. Observe all rites. Leave nothing out.

[Trumpet sounds]

SOOTHSAYER (a fortune-teller)

Caesar!

JULIUS CAESAR

Ha! Who said that?

CASCA

All noise must cease. Be silent once again!

[Trumpet ceases]

JULIUS CAESAR

Who is it in the crowd who’s calling me?

I hear a voice, shriller than all the music,

Crying out “Caesar!” Speak. Caesar will listen.

SOOTHSAYER

Beware the ides of March.

JULIUS CAESAR

                                             Which man said that?

BRUTUS (praetor of Rome)

A soothsayer says beware the ides of March.

JULIUS CAESAR

Bring him before me. Let me see his face.

CASSIUS (a patrician)

You, come out from the crowd. Look up at Caesar.

JULIUS CAESAR

What was it you just said? Speak once again.

SOOTHSAYER

Beware the ides of March.

JULIUS CAESAR

He is a dreamer. Let’s ignore him. Go.

[Trumpets sound]

[Exit all except BRUTUS and CASSIUS]

CASSIUS

You wish to see what happens in the race?

BRUTUS

Not I.

CASSIUS

Please come and watch.

BRUTUS

I’m not the sporting type. I lack the dose

Of playfulness that Antony must have.

Don’t let me, Cassius, hinder your desires.

I’ll leave now.

CASSIUS

Brutus, I’ve noticed something recently.

I don’t see in your eyes the gentleness

Or show of love that I’m accustomed to.

Your hands are placing reins too harsh and cold

Over a loving friend.

BRUTUS

                                     Now, Cassius,

Don’t be deceived. If my regard for you

Is veiled, it’s that I want my troubles kept

Entirely to myself. For I am vexed

These days with feelings quite ambivalent,

With thoughts not easily shared with someone else,

Which leave a stain perhaps on my behavior.

My good friends, thus—and, Cassius, you rank first

Among their number—have no cause to fret

And should assume no more from my neglect

Than that poor Brutus, warring with himself,

Forgets to show his love to other men.

CASSIUS

Then, Brutus, I was wrong about your feelings,

And due to this have buried in my breast

Important thoughts and serious contemplation.

Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?

BRUTUS

No, Cassius, for the eye can’t see itself

Unless reflected by some other thing.

CASSIUS

That’s true,

And it is very much lamented, Brutus,

That you have no such mirrors by which to send

Your hidden excellence back toward your eye

So you can see how you appear. I hear

When many of the highest ranked in Rome

(Except “immortal” Caesar) speak of Brutus

And groan beneath the yoke we now must wear,

They wish that noble Brutus had their eyes.

BRUTUS

What dangers would you lead me into, Cassius,

That would require that I find in myself

These things that are not in me?

CASSIUS

Good Brutus, be prepared for what you’ll hear.

And since you know that you can see yourself

The best through your reflection, I, your mirror,

Wish to reveal, without exaggeration,

A part of you which you do not yet know.

And do not be suspicious, noble Brutus.

Were I your common clown, or one who’s known

To spread his friendship thin by pledging it

To every glad-hander, or if you think

That I will flatter men, and hug them hard

And later slander them, or if you think

I’ll throw a banquet so the masses know

That I’m their friend, then deem me dangerous.

[Trumpets sound. Shouting is heard]

BRUTUS

What’s all this shouting? I’m afraid the people

Are making Caesar king.

CASSIUS

                                           Well, if you fear it,

Then I must think it’s something you don’t want.

BRUTUS

I do not, Cassius, though I love him well.

But tell me why you’re keeping me so long?

What is it that you wish for me to know?

If any of this talk concerns the public,

Show one eye honor and the other death

And I will look on both impartially.

I trust the gods will see to my success

As I love honor more than I fear death.

CASSIUS

I know that this ideal is there inside you

As fully as I know your outward features.

Well, honor is the subject of my story.

I cannot tell what you and other men

Think of this life, but if it is up to me,

I’d just as soon not live than live to stand

In awe of anyone no better than myself.

I was born free like Caesar; so were you.

We’ve eaten what he eats, and we can both

Endure the winter’s cold as well as he.

One time when on a raw and gusty day

The troubled Tiber raged against her shores,

Caesar said, “Right now, Cassius, do you dare

Leap in with me, into this angry flood,

And swim there to that cove?” On hearing this,

Though fully dressed, I plunged right in and called

For him to follow, which indeed he did.

The torrent roared, and then we beat it back

With vigorous muscles, thrusting it aside

And parting it, our hearts in competition.

But then before we reached the calmer cove,

Caesar cried, “Help me, Cassius, or I’ll sink!”

Then like Aeneas, Rome’s great forefather,

Whose shoulder saved Anchises from the flames

Of Troy, I took the tired Caesar from

The Tiber’s waves. And now I see this man’s

Become a god, while Cassius has become

A wretched creature bending at the waist

Whenever Caesar throws a glance his way.

He had a fever when he was in Spain;

And when he had a fit, I could observe

How hard he shook. It’s true! This god was shaking.

His lips, like cowards, fled from their own colors,

And those same eyes whose glance has awed the world

Had lost their luster. I could hear him groan.

Yes, and that tongue of his, which held the Romans

Spellbound, whose speeches filled their books,

“Oh, please,” it cried, “Give me a drink, Titinius,”

Like some sick girl.—By god, I am amazed

A man of such a feeble constitution

Could grab the lead in this majestic field

And cross the line alone.

[Shouting. Trumpets sound]

BRUTUS

                                          Is that more cheering?

I have no doubt that this applause must be

For some new honors being heaped on Caesar.

CASSIUS

Why, man, he straddles our thin stretch of world

Like some Colossus, and we puny men

Walk under his huge legs and scratch about

To dig ourselves an undistinguished grave.

A man at times is master of his fate.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars,

But in ourselves—that’s why we’re underlings.

“Brutus” and “Caesar”—what is it that’s in “Caesar”?

Why should that name be spoken more than yours?

Write them together, yours is as fine a name;

Say them, it flows as easily from the mouth;

Weigh them, it’s just as heavy; cast a spell,

“Brutus” will raise a spirit as fast as “Caesar.”

Now, in the name of every single god,

Upon what food has Caesar fed that’s made

Him grow so huge? This age we're in’s been shamed!

Rome, you have lost your lines of noble blood!

And name a time, at least since the great flood,

That’s ever been renowned for just one man.

And when, till now, could those who talked of Rome

Claim her wide walks had space for just one man?

Can this be Rome, with all its room to roam,

When in it there is but a single man?

O, you and I have heard our fathers say

There was another Brutus long ago

Who would have let the devil govern Rome

Before he’d let a king.

BRUTUS

I see no reason to mistrust your friendship.

And where you’re pushing me, that I can guess.

The thoughts I’ve had on this and on these times,

I’ll cover in the future. For the moment,

I wish that you—and as a friend I’m begging—

Would urge me on no further. What you’ve said,

I will consider. What you have to say,

I’ll calmly listen to and find a time

For both a hearing on these weighty things

And my response. Till then, friend, chew on this:

Brutus would rather be some villager

Than list himself among the sons of Rome

And bear the hard conditions that these times

Will likely load on us.

CASSIUS

I’m glad that my weak words

Strike even this much spark of fire from Brutus.

BRUTUS

The games are done, and Caesar is returning.

[Re-enter JULIUS CAESAR and his entourage, with MARK ANTONY and CASCA]

BRUTUS

I’ll do so.—But look at this, Cassius.

A mark of anger glows on Caesar’s brow,

And all the rest look like they got a scolding.

Calpurnia’s cheeks are pale, and Cicero

Glares with a ferret’s pointed, fiery eyes

The way he does inside the Capitol

When in debate with rival senators.

CASSIUS

Casca will tell us what the trouble is.

JULIUS CAESAR

Antonio.

MARK ANTONY

Caesar?

JULIUS CAESAR

Let me have men around me that are fat,

Men with combed hair and such who sleep at night.

Cassius there has a lean and hungry look.

He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.

MARK ANTONY

Fear him not, Caesar. He’s not dangerous.

He is a sympathetic, noble Roman.

 

JULIUS CAESAR

He could be fatter! But I fear him not.

If Caesar’s name were given to such fear,

There’s no man I’d be sooner to avoid

Than scrawny Cassius there. He reads a lot,

He is a great observer, and he sees

Right through men’s motives. He does not love plays,

As you do, Antony, cares not for music

And seldom smiles, or smiles in such a way

As if to mock himself and scorn his spirit

For being moved to smile at anything.

Men with such hearts can never be at ease

Once they behold one greater than themselves,

And, therefore, they are very dangerous.

I am more apt to state what should be feared

Than what I fear, for I am always Caesar.

Come to my right side, for this ear is deaf,

And tell me truly what you think of him.

[Exit CAESAR and his entourage, with MARK ANTONY. CASCA stays]

CASCA

You tugged me by my robe. Do you wish to speak with me?

BRUTUS

Yes, Casca. Tell us what occurred today

That’s making Caesar look so grim?

CASCA

Why, you were with him, weren’t you?

BRUTUS

If so, I would not ask you what occurred.

CASCA

Why, a crown was offered to him, and when offered it, he pushed it away with the back of his hand, like this, and then the people started cheering.

Casca answers

their questions

in prose.

BRUTUS

What was the second noise for?

CASCA

Why, for that too.

CASSIUS

They cheered him three times. What was the last for?

CASCA

Why, for that too.

BRUTUS

Was the crown offered three times?

CASCA

Indeed it was, and he pushed it away three times, each time gentler than the other, and with each push, the common folk around me cheered.

CASSIUS

Who offered him the crown?

CASCA

Why, Antony.

BRUTUS

Tell us how this was handled, noble Casca.

CASCA

Hang me if I can tell you how it was handled. It was complete nonsense. I ignored it. I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown—not a crown, really. Smaller—one of those coronets. And as I told you, he pushed it away, though for all I could tell, he’d have been happy to take it. Then he offered it to him again. Then he pushed it away again. But to me he seemed very averse to taking his fingers off of it. And then he offered it a third time. He pushed it away a third time, and each time he refused it, the rabble cheered and clapped their calloused hands, and threw their sweaty caps in the air, and uttered such a great amount of stinking breath because Caesar refused the crown that Caesar almost suffocated, for he fainted and fell over when it hit him. And as for me, I dared not laugh for fear of opening my lips and breathing the bad air.

CASSIUS

Hold on a minute. You saw Caesar faint?

CASCA

He fell down in the market place and foamed at the mouth and was speechless.

BRUTUS

It’s possible. We know he’s prone to seizures.

CASSIUS

Not Caesar. You and I and honest Casca—

We are the ones who now may suffer seizure.

CASCA

I don’t know what you mean by that, but I am sure that Caesar fell. If the rabble did not clap when he pleased them or hiss when he displeased them, as they’re used to doing for players in the theatre, then I am not an honest man.

BRUTUS

When he recovered, what did he say then?

CASCA

Indeed, before he fell down, when he realized that the common herd was glad he refused the crown, he popped open his robe and offered them his throat to cut. If I were a man of just any occupation and hadn’t taken him at his word, I’d have wanted myself in hell with all the other rogues. And so he fell. When he came to, he said if he had done or said anything improper, he hoped their worships would realize it was his illness. Three or four wenches where I stood cried, “Alas, a good soul!” and forgave him with all their hearts. But they can’t be taken seriously. If Caesar had used his sword on their mothers, they would have done no less.

BRUTUS

And looking so upset, he then came back?

CASCA

Yes.

CASSIUS

Did Cicero say anything?

CASCA

Yes, in Greek.

CASSIUS

For what purpose?

CASCA

Well, if I pretended to know that, I could never look you in the face again. But those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads. I wish I could offer more, but it was Greek to me. I have other news too. Marullus and Flavius, for pulling scarves off Caesar’s statues, have been removed. Farewell. There was even more nonsense, if I could remember it.

CASSIUS

Will you dine with me tonight, Casca?

CASCA

No, I have other plans.

CASSIUS

Will you lunch with me tomorrow?

CASCA

Yes, if I am alive, and your mind doesn’t change, and your meal’s worth eating.

CASSIUS

Good. I will expect you.

CASCA

Do that. Farewell to you both.

[Exit CASCA]

BRUTUS

What a gruff fellow he has grown to be!

Brutus and

Cassius use

blank verse.

He had a lively spirit back in school.

CASSIUS

As he still has today when taking on

All kinds of bold or noble enterprises

Though it’s well hid behind this sluggish manner.

This coarseness spices up his intellect,

Which makes men able to digest his words

And keep their appetites.

BRUTUS

Indeed it does. At this time, I must leave you.

Tomorrow, if you wish to speak with me,

I’ll meet you at your house, or if you want,

We’ll meet at mine, and I will wait for you.

CASSIUS

That’s fine. Till then, think of this world we’re in.

[Exit Brutus]

Well, Brutus, you are noble, yet I see

Your honorable metal can be wrenched

From what it tends to be. It’s fitting then

That noble minds stay with those most alike,

For who’s so strong he cannot be seduced?

Caesar puts up with me, but he loves Brutus.

If I were Brutus now and he were Cassius,

He would not sway me.I will toss tonight,

In different styles of writing, through his windows

As if they came from several citizens,

Letters, all speaking of the great opinion

That Rome has of his name, and indirectly

Caesar’s ambition will be hinted at.

The scene

closes with

a couplet

And after when he thinks his throne’s secure,

We’ll shake him up, or worse days we’ll endure.

[Exit]

 

© 2011 by Kent Richmond

 

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