Portia appeals to Brutus

Act 2 Scene 1 – Key Scene

In this scene, Portia is worried that her husband Brutus is out of bed and comes to find him. She has noticed a change in his behaviour and wants to know what is worrying him as it is stopping him from eating, talking or sleeping. She has also seen the masked conspirators visiting the house. Brutus won't confide in her so Portia kneels and lists the reasons why Brutus can trust her. Brutus admires her honour and integrity and says that he will share his secrets with her soon.

Take a look at an extract from this scene 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.
    It will not let you eat nor talk nor sleep,
    And could it work so much upon your shape
    As it hath much prevailed on your condition,
    I should not know you Brutus.
    Dear my lord,
    Make me acquainted with your cause of grief.

    And if it could change the way you look in the same way it's changed your behaviour, I would not know who you were when I looked at you Brutus.

    I am not well in health, and that is all.
    Brutus is wise and, were he not in health,
    He would embrace the means to come by it.

    Brutus is sensible and intelligent and if he was feeling ill he would accept help so he could be healthy again.

    Why so I do. Good Portia, go to bed.
    Is Brutus sick? And is it physical
    To walk unbracèd and suck up the humors
    Of the dank morning? What, is Brutus sick,
    And will he steal out of his wholesome bed
    To dare the vile contagion of the night
    And tempt the rheumy and unpurgèd air
    To add unto his sickness?
    No, my Brutus,
    You have some sick offense within your mind,
    Which by the right and virtue of my place
    I ought to know of. (She kneels) And upon my knees
    I charm you, by my once commended beauty,
    By all your vows of love, and that great vow
    Which did incorporate and make us one,
    That you unfold to me, your self, your half,
    Why you are heavy,
    and what men tonight
    Have had resort to you; for here have been
    Some six or seven who did hide their faces
    Even from darkness.

    If you are genuinely ill, why would you leave the protection of your bed to risk catching an infection from the damp air and making it worse?

    What do you think Portia means when she says Brutus’ sickness is within his mind? Do you think she knows what is wrong with him?

    I beg you, by my once-praised beauty, by all your vows of love and by the legal vow of marriage, that made the two of us one person, tell me why you are troubled.


    Portia saw the conspirators leaving with their faces covered. Why do you think she mentions them to Brutus?

    Kneel not, gentle Portia.
    He lifts her up.
    I should not need, if you were gentle Brutus.
    Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
    Is it excepted I should know no secrets
    That appertain to you?
    Am I your self
    But, as it were, in sort or limitation,
    To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed,
    And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the suburbs
    Of your good pleasure?
    If it be no more,
    Portia is Brutus’ harlot, not his wife.

    How many questions does Portia ask Brutus and why do you think she doesn’t wait for a response, or answers them herself? What effect does this have?

    Am I only on the edges of your life and not at the centre of it?

    Whore or prostitute.

    You are my true and honourable wife,
    As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
    That visit my sad heart.

    How close do you think Brutus is to telling Portia everything in this moment? Why doesn’t he?

    You are as important and precious to me as the blood that runs through my sad heart.

    (Text edited for rehearsals by Angus Jackson)
  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud. Are there any words or lines that really stand out? What do you think the relationship between Brutus and Portia is like?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of Julius Caesar at the RSC. Which production do you prefer and which best shows the relationship between the two characters in this scene?