Caesar orders a servant to go to the priests and tell them to make an animal sacrifice. The servant is meant to...
In act 2, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar is awakened by his wife, Calpurnia, crying out in her sleep, “Help, ho! They murder Caesar!” (2.2.3).
Caesar orders a servant to go to the priests and tell them to make an animal sacrifice. The servant is meant to report back to him what the priests find, and what the priests advise Caesar to do.
Calpurnia comes to tell Caesar not to go to the capital today. She's had terrible nightmares which she believes are warnings that Caesar will be killed if he goes out of the house.
Caesar tells Calpurnia not to worry about him. He believes that when he goes out into the street, all of those who wish to do him harm will run away in fear when they see his face. He says that he's no coward, and he doesn't want to appear afraid in front of the people of Rome.
CAESAR. Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once. (2.2.33-34)
Caesar waxes philosophical, and he seems resigned to death in whatever form it might come to him.
CAESAR. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come. (2.2.35-38)
The servant returns to report that the pries'ts advise Caesar that "They would have you not stir forth today" (2.2.40). The servant goes on to tell Caesar what happened when the priests sacrificed the animal.
SERVANT. Plucking the entrails of an offering forth,
They could not find a heart within the beast. (2.2.41-42)
Caesar takes his own interpretation of the ritual sacrifice. Rather than being concerned that the animal had no heart, Caesar believes that the gods are telling him that to stay home would be cowardice, and that he would be "a beast without a heart / If he should stay at home today for fear" (2.2.44-45).
Caesar says that anyone who plots against him should be more afraid of him than he is of them, and that they should know "That Caesar is more dangerous than he..." (2.2.47).
Calpurnia says that Caesar's pride is overruling his good sense. She offers a compromise, and begs him to stay home.
CALPURNIA. Do not go forth today. Call it my fear
That keeps you in the house and not your own.
We'll send Mark Antony to the Senate-house,
And he shall say you are not well today.
Let me, upon my knee, prevail in this. (2.2.53-57)
Caesar relents, and agrees to send Antony to tell the Senate that he won't be coming to the capital today.
Decius Brutus comes to escort Caesar to the capital. Caesar tells him that he won't be going, and he also tells Decius Brutus about his wife's dreams.
It's important to Brutus that Caesar goes to the capital today—Brutus knows that the assassins are already waiting for him, and he promised to take Caesar to them.
In act 2, scene 1, Brutus met with the other conspirators. He told them that he knows how to handle Caesar, so even if the priests told Caesar not to meet with the Senate he could convince the dictator to attend in spite of their warnings:
DECIUS BRUTUS. Never fear that. If he be so resolved,
I can o'ersway him, for he loves to hear
That unicorns may be betray'd with trees,
And bears with glasses, elephants with holes,
Lions with toils, and men with flatterers;
But when I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does, being then most flattered.
Let me work;
For I can give his humor the true bent,
And I will bring him to the Capitol. (2.1.212-221)
Brutus flatters Caesar and convinces Caesar that Calpurnia's dreams are a good omen.
Then Brutus lies to Caesar and tells him that the Senate intends to offer him a crown. If Caesar doesn't appear at the capital, they might change their minds. He plays on Caesar's ego—just like he said he would—by saying that if Caesar stays at home because of his wife's dream the Senate will mock Caesar and say that his wife tells him what to do.
DECIUS BRUTUS. And know it now, the Senate have concluded
To give this day a crown to mighty Caesar.
If you shall send them word you will not come,
Their minds may change. Besides, it were a mock
Apt to be render'd, for some one to say
“Break up the Senate till another time,
When Caesar's wife shall meet with better dreams.” (2.2.97-103)
As the crowning touch of his manipulation of Caesar, Decius Brutus says that Caesar will look like a coward if he doesn't go to the Senate.
DECIUS BRUTUS. If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper
“Lo, Caesar is afraid”? (2.2.104-105)
That's all that Caesar needs to hear. He agrees to go to the Senate, and even scolds Calpurnia for trying to make him stay home because of her dreams.
CAESAR. How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
I am ashamed I did yield to them.
Give me my robe, for I will go. (2.2.109-111)
It's a fateful decision; one that Caesar won't live long enough to regret.