Calphurnia's Dream

Act 2 Scene 2 – Key Scene

In this scene, Caesar’s wife, Calphurnia, has woken the house three times with nightmares about Caesar’s death. Frightened by the meaning of these dreams and by other signs of doom, Calphurnia begs Caesar not to leave the house as she fears something bad will happen to him. Caesar boasts that he is indestructible but eventually listens to her and agrees to stay at home. Straight away, Decius, one of the conspirators, changes Caesar’s mind. Calphurnia is once again ignored and, without knowing it, Caesar allows his murderers to accompany him to the Capitol.

Take a look at an extract from this scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies,
    Yet now they fright me. There is one within,
    Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
    Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
    A lioness hath whelpèd in the streets,
    And graves have yawned and yielded up their dead.
    Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds
    In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
    Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol.

    The noise of battle hurtled in the air,
    Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan,
    And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.
    O Caesar, these things are beyond all use,
    And I do fear them.

    I never paid much attention to omens

    This conversation is private. Do you think Caesar is used to be told what to do or being spoken to like this? Is Calphurnia used to asking him to do things in this way?

    Night watchman or security.

    Given birth to young.

    Graves have opened and the dead have risen out of them. An entire army of fire fought in the sky and blood rained down upon the Capitol.

    Most unnatural.

    How seriously does Caesar really take these signs? How can you tell?

    What can be avoided
    Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?

    Yet Caesar shall go forth, for these predictions
    Are to the world in general as to Caesar.

    The powerful gods control your fate, you can’t avoid it.

    Because these signs relate to the whole world, not just to me.

    When beggars die there are no comets seen;

    It was considered that comets appeared in the sky when a person of great significance died or was born.

  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud, then watch the actors trying it in different ways. Which way feels right? What, in the language makes you think that? Are there any words or lines that really stand out?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of Julius Caesar at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the scene feel right to you?