Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 4
From Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Nearly an hour has passed since the conspirators entered Caesar's house to "taste some wine" with him; and the time draws on when they are to escort him to the senate-house.
1. prithee. A contraction of "pray thee."
6. constancy: resolution, firmness. Do you remember where Portia said, "I have made strong proof of my constancy?"
9. to keep counsel: to keep a secret.
14. went sickly forth: went out looking sick.
18. rumor: murmur, noise. I hear a noise of some excitement, like a struggle.
20. sooth: truly, indeed. Remember the opening line of "The Merchant of Venice": "In sooth I know not why I am so sad."
Enter the Soothsayer. This is the same man that interrupted Caesar's procession at the beginning of the play with the cry, "Beware the ides of March!" There is no reason for believing him to be Artemidorus, as some of the editors wish to make him. Why is it better to have two distinct persons try to warn Caesar?
34. praetors: city magistrates.
36. I'll get me to a place more void. That is, I'll move along to
a more open place, -- in contrast to the "narrower street" where he now stands talking with Portia.
38. Ay me: alas.
41. Brutus hath a suit, etc. These words are evidently spoken to Lucius to allay any suspicion that may arise from her exclamation: "The heavens speed thee in thy enterprise!" For a moment she had forgotten the boy's presence.
How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 26 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_2_4.html >.
Scene Questions for Review
1. Comment upon the great change that has come over Portia since we last saw her. How do you account for it?
2. What contrast is there between her feelings and those of Lucius? How does the dramatist make this contrast striking?
3. From her conversation with the soothsayer, what do you think is in Portia's mind? Has Brutus told her the plans of the conspirators, or is she merely suspicious?
4. How do you explain Portia's words, --
Brutus hath a suit
That Caesar will not grant?
Is this said aside or to Lucius?
5. Why do you suppose Shakespeare wrote this scene? Does it add anything to the plot of the tragedy? Would you omit it on the stage today?
Thoughts on Portia ... "Portia, Brutus's wife, is also his counterpart. As he, actuated by the principles of honor and love of country, forces himself to perform deeds against his nature, so Portia, exercising the self-restraint and noble dignity suited to a woman "so fathered and so husbanded," holds rigidly in check all the deep feeling, tenderness, and anxiety that are aroused in her by her husband's and her country's plight. (Act II, Sc. i, and II, 4.) When finally her suppressed grief and suspense can no longer be endured, her mind gives way and in a fit of madness she takes her own life." Helen M. Roth. Read on...