Cassius tests Brutus

Act 1 Scene 2 – Key Scene

In this scene Cassius, who is secretly plotting against Caesar, talks to Brutus and tests him to see if he feels the same. He says that Brutus has grown distant and reminds him of how close they used to be as friends. Brutus eventually tells Cassius that he is also afraid about how much power Caesar has and that he might be made king. Cassius then speaks more openly about his own plans and Brutus promises him he will think about the things he’s said.

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.

    Vexèd I am
    Of late with passions of some difference,
    Conceptions only proper to myself,
    Which give some soil, perhaps, to my behaviours.

    But let not therefore my good friends be grieved
    (Among which number, Cassius, be you one)
    Nor construe any further my neglect
    Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
    Forgets the shows of love to other men.

    Recently, I've been worried by my own private thoughts and confused emotions and it may have had a bad effect on my behaviour.

    Why has Brutus not been friendly towards Cassius lately and not been speaking to him? Why must they both be so careful about revealing their thoughts? What has Brutus been keeping to himself? Why do you think Brutus refers to himself in third person?

    Then, Brutus, I have much mistook your passion,
    By means whereof this breast of mine hath buried
    Thoughts of great value,
    worthy cogitations.
    Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?

    Brutus, I misunderstood your feelings and because of this, have kept some very important thoughts to myself.

    Deep thinking and processing.

    No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself
    But by reflection, by some other things.

    A man cannot see himself unless he is reflected in something (like a mirror).

    ’Tis just.
    And it is very much lamented, Brutus,
    That you have no such mirrors as will turn
    Your hidden worthiness into your eye,
    That you might see your shadow. I have heard
    Where many of the best respect in Rome,
    Except immortal Caesar, speaking of Brutus
    And groaning underneath this age’s yoke,
    Have wished that noble Brutus had his eyes.

    I have heard many important Romans, apart from the ‘god-like’ Caesar, talk about you. They are complaining about the tyranny of today’s government and wishing you could see yourself as nobly as they do.

    Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius,
    That you would have me seek into myself
    For that which is not in me?

    What does Brutus think Cassius is asking him to do? He has just compared him to Caesar, but what is Brutus’ reaction?

    (Text edited for rehearsals by Angus Jackson)
  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud, then watch the actors trying it in different ways. Which way feels right? Are there any words or lines that really stand out? Who seems to be in control and what is the relationship between these two characters like?
  • Watch
    Take a look at the actors performing this scene. How do the characters come across in this version?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of Julius Caesar at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for this private conversation feel right to you?