Caesar.ActII.1-Brutus.Soliloquy

Act II, Scene 1, Lines 10-34 (II.1.10-34)

In this soliloquy Brutus wrestles with his decision to assassinate Caesar. Brutus must balance his respect and friendship for Caesar with the fear that he will one day become a tyrant. The soliloquy has been printed here as individual sentences to make it easier for you to read.


It must be by his death, and, for my part, I know no personal cause to spurn at him, But for the general.
He would be crown'd: How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder And that craves wary walking.
Crown him that, And then, I grant, we put a sting in him That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins Remorse from power, and, to speak truth of Caesar, I have not known when his affections sway'd More than his reason.
But 'tis a common proof That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, Whereto the climber-upward turns his face; But when he once attains the upmost round, He then unto the ladder turns his back, Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees By which he did ascend.
So Caesar may; Then, lest he may, prevent.
And, since the quarrel Will bear no color for the thing he is, Fashion it thus, that what he is, augmented, Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous, And kill him in the shell.

Now take your understanding of the individual lines and rewrite Brutus' soliloquy in modern English, keeping the meaning but putting it in your own words.

Brutus.
It must be by his death, and, for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder
And that craves wary walking. Crown him that,
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power, and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may;
Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
Will bear no color for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.
Brutus.
It can only be solved by Caesar's death; for my part,
I have no personal grudge against him;
I'm thinking only of the general good. He wants to be crowned a king.
The question is, how would that change his personality?
Bright sunshine brings out a poison snake, and that
means walk carefully. If we give Caesar a crown,
then, I think, we have put a poisonous bite in him
That he can cause trouble with whenever he wants.
Greatness is abused when it separates
Pity from power. And to tell the truth about Caesar,
I have never known him to be controlled by his heart
Instead of his head. But people often say
That humility is a ladder for young ambition,
And the person climbing looks up to this;
But once he reaches the top rung,
He then turns his back to the ladder,
And looks into the clouds, hating the lower levels
Which he climbed up to reach this high position. This is what Caesar may do.
Rather than let him do that, we must prevent it. And since the case against Caesar
Can't be proved from what he is like now,
We must shape our argument in this way: That Caesar's true nature, if allowed to develop
Would reach terrible extremes;
So we must think of him as a serpent's egg,
Which, if it hatched, would like all serpents grow dangerous,
And kill him before he hatches.