ACT II – Scene.ii
The scene opens in Caesar’s house.
It is a stormy night and Calphurnia has dreamed of Caesar’s murder. She asks a servant to instruct an augurer to interpret the signs, and she implores Caesar on her knees to stay at home.
The servant returns, advising that Caesar should stay at home, and
eventually he agrees, and he will advise Antony to tell the Senators that he is sick.
Decius Brutus enters and he gives his interpretation to the omen. The
vision concerned Romans dipping their hands in the blood flowing from Caesar’s statue.
Decius says that Calphurnia’s dream represents Caesar’s blood reviving Rome and the Romans are smiling because they are renewed. Decius goes on to suggest that the Senate will ridicule Caesar for being governed by his wife’s dreams. Caesar changes his mind and goes to the Capitol.
Caesar arrives and he welcomes Antony who is suffering the effects of
partying the previous night.
We have a total contrast from the previous scene, where
Brutus listened to Portia and now Caesar at first listens to Calphurnia and then disregards her pleading, which is again made on her knees. This is mainly due to Caesar’s arrogance and the ease with which
others sway him. He is not assertive. He is more concerned about what people think of him, and he does not wish to see his ego damaged.
We again have reference to animals when Calphurnia tells of her dream,
“Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
A lioness has whelped in the streets
And graves have yawned and yielded up their dead;
Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds
In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
Which drizzled blood from the Capitol;”
This time Caesar has changed from a lion that has the potential to become a
threat to Rome into a lioness giving birth to her kittens and is helpless at the mercy of Rome.
Again, Calphurnia’s dream mentions fire and blood, coupled with the opening of the scene, which was thunder and lightning. Shakespeare again brings these elements to the fore.
Decius finds it easy to persuade Caesar to change his mind and go to the
Senate by inferring that it is weak and cowardly for him to stay at home and be influenced by his wife’s dreams. Decius appeals to Caesar’s ego by telling him that
“This dream is all amiss interpreted,
- It was a vision fair and fortunate.
- Your statue spouting blood in many pipes,
- In which so many smiling Romans bathed
- Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
- Reviving blood and that great men shall press
- For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance.
- This by Calphurnia’s dream is signified.”
Decius brings two ideas together in this quote. Relics dipped in Caesar’s blood are holy. As
a king he can dispense colors, or tinctures, that can be put on a coat of arms as a great recognition or cognizance. Both these flatter Caesar and are repugnant to the true Republican.