Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare begins on February 15, 44 B.C. on the Feast of the Lupercal. On this holiday, Caesar will be out in the streets of Rome to be acknowledged by the people and eventually offered the crown of Rome by Marc Antony.
In Act I, Scene ii, Cassius, one of the Roman generals and a senator, sees Marcus Brutus standing away from the rest of the crowds. Cassius asks Brutus what is wrong with him. Brutus tells him that he is at war within himself. It is has nothing to do with any of his friends.
Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius?
That you would have ne seek into myself
For that which is not in me?
As leader of the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar, Cassius realizes that it is important that Brutus be a part of the plot. Brutus is a friend of Caesar. In addition, he is popular with the Roman citizens and other senators. Brutus tells Cassius that he loves Caesar but does not want him to be crowned the emperor.
Cassius explains his reasons why he does not love Caesar as does Brutus. Both he and Brutus eat just as Caesar, and both of them can withstand the cold just as he does. Cassius tells two stories about Caesar to prove that he is unworthy of being emperor.
On a cold, windy day near the rough waves of the Tiber River, Caesar challenged Cassius to a race. They were to dive in with all of their armor on and swim to a certain point across the river. They both jumped in and began to swim.
About halfway across, Caesar cried out to Cassius to save him because he could not make it any farther. Cassius tells associates this with his ancestor Aeneas, who saved an old man from burning up in Troy, so Cassius saved Caesar. Caesar was so tired that Cassius had to pull him out of the river. Cassius cannot believe that now this man will become a god, and that Cassius will have to bow down to him.
Caesar had a fever while fighting Pompey’s sons in Spain; suddenly, he fell down and had a fit of the falling sickness [epilepsy]. This great god shook and his cowardly lips lost their color. His eyes whom everyone worships now did lose their brightness. He groaned and asked for some water: “Give me drink Titinius.” He sounded like a sick girl. This sickly, feeble man will rule the world alone.
Cassius ends his talk to persuade Brutus by reminding him that Caesar is hungry for power. Cassius compares him to the Colossus of Rhodes. [This was a huge statue that had its legs spread apart, one on one side of a harbor and the other one on the other side. Ships would sail under the legs to get into the harbor.]
Cassius reminds Brutus that man has to control his own fate. Men cannot wait on the stars and for signs about the future. It is up to each individual to assert himself.
Brutus has listened carefully to the argument presented by Cassius. He would not become a conspirator based on the argument that Caesar is unfit because he knows that Caesar is a great Roman leader. Rather, his argument against him concerns the good of the Republic and the Roman citizens who want to live as free men.
Brutus closes his discussion with Cassius by telling him that he would rather be a villager than to live under the oppression of an emperor. However, he still needs to think about everything. Cassius needs to come to his house to find what Brutus has decided.