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Authors: Tony Bradman

Julius Caesar

BOOK: Julius Caesar
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JULIUS CAESAR

Retold by Tony Bradman
Illustrated by Mark Oldroyd

CONTENTS

 

List of characters

Act One The Eagle Soars

Act Two Strange Dreams

Act Three Murder and Mischief

Act Four Armies on the March

Act Five The Noblest Roman

About the Author

List of characters

Julius Caesar,
Roman statesman and general

Octavius,
Triumvir after Caesar's death

Mark Antony,
friend of Caesar and a Triumvir

Lepidus,
third member of the Triumvirate

Marcus Brutus,
leader of conspiracy against Caesar

Cassius,
instigator of conspiracy against Caesar

Casca,
conspirator

Trebonius,
conspirator

Caius Ligarius,
conspirator

Decius Brutus,
conspirator

Metellus Cimber,
conspirator

Cinna,
conspirator

Calpurnia,
wife of Caesar

Portia,
wife of Brutus

Popilius Lena,
senator

Cicero,
senator

Flavius,
tribune

Marullus,
tribune

Lucilius,
supporter of Brutus

Titinius,
supporter of Brutus

Messala,
supporter of Brutus

Volumnius,
supporter of Brutus

Clitus,
servant to Brutus

Strato,
servant to Brutus

Lucius,
servant to Brutus

Dardanius,
servant to Brutus

Pindarus,
servant to Cassius

A soothsayer

The ghost of Caesar

ACT ONE
THE EAGLE SOARS

 

The people of Rome laughed and sang as they crowded through the streets of the city. It was March, the month when the Festival of Lupercal was held to mark the beginning of spring, always a good excuse to have fun. But something else had helped to make the people even happier. The war between Rome's great men for control of the ancient city and its growing empire had just ended, leaving a single winner, the mighty Julius Caesar. And now he had returned to celebrate his victory with feasts and special games laid on for the masses.

Not everyone was cheerful, though. Two nobles stood at the side of a street, their long white togas bright in the gloom of an overcast day, their faces hard and bitter as they watched the crowds enjoying themselves. Flavius and Marullus were supporters of Pompey, the general who had been Caesar's enemy in the war. But Pompey was dead, and Caesar had no more rivals.

At last, Flavius could stand it no more. He stepped out in front of a group of labourers who were chanting ‘CAESAR! CAESAR!' as they strolled along.

‘What are you doing?' said Flavius. ‘Have you no shame?'

‘None at all!' they grinned. ‘We're going to see the mighty Caesar!'

‘Have you forgotten Pompey already?' snarled Marullus. ‘There was a time when you would have waited all day just for a glimpse of him. Now you put on your best clothes and cheer the man responsible for his death! Be gone, and pray the Gods don't punish you for being so cruel and hard-hearted.'

The labourers simply laughed and jeered, and Flavius drew his friend away into the shadows. ‘Let's tear down the decorations that have been put up to honour Caesar,' Flavius whispered. ‘He thinks he can soar above us like an eagle, but he'll fly a little lower once we've plucked some feathers from his wings…'

They hurried off, and soon Caesar himself came into the same street. At first glance he was much like any other balding Roman noble – he certainly wasn't tall or handsome. But look more closely and you could see the strength in his face, the steely determination to get whatever he wanted, the aura of power.

He was accompanied by his wife Calpurnia, his second-in-command Mark Antony, and several others – important Romans such as Brutus and his wife Portia, the great orator Cicero, the senators Cassius and Casca. Behind them all was a large crowd of people jostling each other and yelling Caesar's name.

One voice was much louder than the rest, and caught the general's attention.

‘Who calls to me?' he said. ‘What do you want? Caesar will listen!'

Caesar often spoke in this way, using his name to refer to himself rather than saying ‘I' or ‘me'. Some thought it was to show that he was better than other men, while some
even suspected he did it to make himself sound like a god.

‘Do as he says, whoever you are!' Mark Antony roared. ‘Caesar must be obeyed!' Caesar's second-in-command was a solid, muscular man, a soldier from head to foot. But there was a spark of passion in his face, too.

An old man stepped forward. He had a mop of wild white hair and wore a long, ragged robe. ‘Beware the Ides of March!' he hissed, his eyes rolling.

The Romans had special names for some dates – the 15th day of March was always called the ‘Ides'.

‘What is he talking about?' said Caesar.

‘Tomorrow will be the Ides of March,' murmured Brutus, a man with a dark, brooding face. His toga was made of the finest wool, and so white it seemed to gleam. ‘He must be a soothsayer,' Brutus continued. ‘I think he's giving you a warning of some kind.'

‘Well, he's obviously mad then, a dreamer,'
said Caesar, laughing and confident. ‘Tomorrow has no fears for Caesar. This way, everyone…'

Caesar moved on, heading for the Forum, the great open space that had always been the heart of the ancient city. Most of the crowd followed him, but Brutus didn't, staying behind instead, his face thoughtful. Cassius saw him stop, and hung back, too. They ended up standing together by one of Rome's many temples to the gods, its tall white columns rising high above them.

‘Aren't you going to watch any more of the fun, Brutus?' said Cassius. He was thin and bony and had the face of a hawk, his nose like a sharp beak.

‘No, I'm not interested,' said Brutus. ‘Don't let me stop you, though.'

He turned to leave, but Cassius held his arm. ‘Wait, Brutus,' he said. ‘I've wanted to speak to you for a while. You've seemed rather …
distant
recently.'

‘I'm sorry, Cassius,' said Brutus, sighing.
‘It's just that I've had a lot on my mind. But don't worry, I still think of you as a friend.'

‘That's good, because what I have to say is very important,' Cassius said quietly, glancing over his shoulder to make sure nobody could overhear their conversation. ‘Many of the best men in Rome have enormous respect for your judgement, Brutus, and wish you could see the truth of what's going on.'

‘Are you leading me into danger, Cassius?' Brutus said, glancing over his shoulder, too. ‘Perhaps my judgement isn't as good as you think.'

‘You're too modest, Brutus,' said Cassius. ‘And you know me too well to think I'm trying to trick you. I don't flatter men to gain their confidence then betray them afterwards to all and sundry. Now that
would
be dangerous…'

Suddenly, there was a clamour of people cheering in the distance. Brutus and Cassius exchanged a look, but they both knew the noise came from the Forum.

‘What does that shouting mean?' Brutus murmured, gripping Cassius by the arm himself now. ‘I fear the people may have chosen Caesar as their king.'

‘Oh, so you
fear
such a thing, do you?' said Cassius, his eyes glittering, a smile on his lips. ‘Then I'm guessing that you don't want it to happen.'

‘I don't, even though Caesar and I have always been friends,' said Brutus, his face clouded, his eyes downcast. Then he looked up and frowned. ‘Just what are you getting at, Cassius?' he said impatiently. ‘Come on, out with it.'

‘Very well,' said Cassius, shrugging. ‘It's simple. I'm tired of being made to live in awe of somebody who is no better than me. I was born just as free as Caesar, and so were you, Brutus. Did you know he once challenged me to a swimming race across the River Tiber, and would have drowned if I hadn't saved him? I saw him shaking with cold and fear, and I
heard him whining like a sick girl. I can't believe the same man now lords it over the rest of us.'

There was another burst of shouting in the Forum, much louder this time. ‘It seems even more honours are being heaped on Caesar,' Brutus muttered.

‘Why, he strides over our little world like a giant, while we tiny men dodge his huge feet,' said Cassius with a sour laugh. ‘But
we
should be masters of our fates. It's our own fault if we allow ourselves to be ruled. Your name is as good as Caesar's, so why should his be spoken more? When has Rome been a city big enough for only one man? Was there not another Brutus in the past, a great ancestor of yours, who rose up against a tyrant king? I think there was…'

Once Rome had been ruled by kings, but the people had thrown them out. Since then it had been a Republic governed by the Senate, a body of men who debated important issues and appointed the chief officers of the state. The senators were mostly rich, older men, but
they considered each other as equals. At least they had until recent years. But then individuals like Pompey and Caesar had begun to grow in power and influence – something Brutus didn't like at all.

‘Enough, Cassius,' said Brutus. ‘I'll consider what you've said, and I'll let you know what I think in due course. Although you should know this – I would rather leave Rome forever than live under a tyrant. Wait, here comes Caesar again…' The crowd had returned, filling the street once more. ‘Something must have happened,' said Brutus. ‘He is upset, and the others look shocked.'

‘Yes, you're right,' said Cassius, his expression one of cold calculation. ‘Let's grab Casca as he goes past. He'll tell us what's been going on.'

The two men retreated further behind the temple's columns and waited for their chance. But Caesar had seen them, and turned to Mark Antony. ‘That Cassius has a lean and hungry look,' he said, his eyes narrowed and
suspicious, and his face as pale as a corpse's. ‘He thinks too much. Such men can be very dangerous.'

‘Oh, he's not someone you should fear, Caesar,' said Mark Antony.

‘Caesar fears no one, but men like Cassius are always jealous of those who are greater. Come, tell me everything you know about him…'

Brutus and Cassius had heard nothing of this, intent as they were on catching Casca. Cassius tugged Casca's cloak and pulled him into the shadows behind the columns. The crowd flowed on, everyone's eyes still focused on Caesar.

‘What has happened, Casca?' said Brutus. ‘Why is Caesar so moved?'

‘He was offered a crown, that's all,' said Casca. ‘And he turned it down.'

‘Good,' snapped Brutus. ‘But why did the crowd raise another clamour?'

BOOK: Julius Caesar
10.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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