ACT I – Scene.iii
It is now evening in Rome and there is a terrible
storm; there are also rumors of strange unearthly apparitions.
Casca: “A common slave – you know him well by sight –
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches joined, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remained unscorched.
Against the Capitol I met a lion
Who gazed upon me and went surly by
Without annoying me.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noonday upon the market place,
Hooting and shrieking.”
Casca discusses this with Cicero, but Cicero is unable to interpret these
Cicero leaves and Cassius enters, and he tells Casca that these are divine warnings that Caesar will destroy the Republic. He urges Casca to join with him in opposing Caesar. Another conspirator, Cinna, is persuaded to throw a message through Brutus’ window.
At Pompey’s porch, a further three conspirators join Cassius, Casca and
Cinna - Decius Brutus, Trebonius and Metellus Cimber. They are confident that they will win Brutus to their cause.
This scene is full of the supernatural, which brings an
atmosphere of foreboding and excitement to the audience.
It should be noted that there is no attempt to ask Cicero into the plot. Clearly Cassius has identified those that are potential allies, and those that will stay loyal to Caesar.
There are several references to fire, and also to dangerous animals, both
elements of destruction and Cassius associates Caesar with these in a way of cementing the conspirators’ purpose.
Cassius interprets the scene of the lion in the Capitol as Caesar and although the lion is quiet, it is a ferocious and dangerous animal, and they should not allow it into their midst. It should not be lost on the reader that Shakespeare is also trying to persuade the audience that the conspirators’ cause is just, even though it is driven by the supernatural.
Shakespeare’s aim at this stage is to undermine Caesar’s position by
emphasizing his physical defects and his indecisive manner.