Short summary - The Second Brutus - Vittorio Alfieri

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The Second Brutus
Vittorio Alfieri

In Rome, in the Temple of Concord, Caesar delivers a speech. He fought a lot and finally returned to Rome. Rome is mighty, it inspires fear in all nations. For the greater glory of Rome, it remains only to subdue the Parthians and avenge them for the victory over Crassus. The defeat in the battle with the Parthians was a shameful stain on Rome, and Caesar is ready to either fall on the battlefield or deliver the captive Parthian king to Rome. It was not for nothing that Caesar gathered the flower of Rome in the Temple of Concord. He expects from the Romans consent and readiness to go on a campaign against the Parthians. Cimbri objects: now is not the time for the Parthians; the civil massacre that began under the Gracchi does not subside, the Roman Empire is flooded with blood: “first you need to restore order at home / Take revenge for Rome / Not before it becomes the old Rome.” Antony supports Caesar: there was no case that the Romans did not avenge the death of the Roman commander. If the Parthians are not avenged, many conquered peoples will decide that Rome has trembled and will not want to endure its domination. A campaign against the Parthians is necessary, it remains only to decide who will lead the troops, but who under Caesar will dare to call himself a leader? "Rome" and "Caesar" mean the same thing today, and anyone who today wants to subordinate common greatness to personal interests is a traitor. Cassius takes the floor. He is an opponent of a military campaign, he is worried about the fate of his homeland: "Let the consul be a consul, the senate - / The Senate and the tribunes - tribunes, / And let the true people fill / As before, the forum." Cicero says that he is still faithful to the dream of the common good, peace and freedom. In the Roman Republic, they have long ceased to honor the laws. When order prevails in Rome, there will be no need for weapons, "so that the enemies / Become the fate of clouds driven by the wind." Brutus begins his speech by saying that he does not love Caesar because, in his opinion, Caesar does not like Rome. Brutus does not envy Caesar, because he does not consider him superior to himself, and does not hate him, because Caesar is not afraid of him. Brutus reminds Caesar how the obliging consul wanted to put on him the royal crown, but Caesar himself pushed his hand away, because he realized that the people are not such a thoughtless mass as he would like, the people can tolerate a tyrant for some time, but not an autocrat . In his heart, Caesar is not a citizen, he dreams of a royal crown. Brutus urges Caesar to become not the oppressor, but the liberator of Rome. He, Brutus, is a citizen and wants to awaken civil feelings in Caesar's soul. Antony denounces Brutus for his bold speeches. Caesar wants the question of the campaign against the Parthians to be resolved here, in the Temple of Concord, and to resolve the remaining issues, he proposes to gather tomorrow morning in the curia of Pompey.

Cicero and Cimbrus are waiting for their like-minded people - Cassius and Brutus. They understand that the homeland is in danger and it is impossible to delay. Cicero sees that Caesar, convinced that the general fear is more reliable for him than the love of the corrupt mob, relies on the army. Leading the Roman soldiers into battle with the Parthians, he deals the final blow to Rome. Cicero regrets that he is already an old man and cannot fight for his homeland with a sword in his hands. Came to the rescue, Cassius bitterly says that Cicero no longer has worthy listeners left, but Cicero objects: the people are always the people. No matter how insignificant a person is alone with himself, in public he invariably transforms. Cicero wants to make a speech before the people. The dictator relies on force, while Cicero relies on truth and therefore is not afraid of force: "Caesar will be defeated, / As soon as he is exposed." Cimbri is sure that Cicero will not be able to enter the forum, because the way there is closed, and if he could, his voice would be drowned in the cries of bribed people. The only remedy is the sword. Cassius supports Cimbrus: there is no need to wait for the cowardly people to declare Caesar a tyrant, we must be the first to sentence him and carry him out. The best remedy is the fastest. To put an end to slavery in Rome, one sword and one Roman are enough, why sit and waste time in hesitation? Brutus appears. He was late because he was talking to Antony. Caesar sent Antony to Brutus to arrange a meeting. Brutus agreed to meet with Caesar here, in the temple, because he believes that Caesar's enemy is more terrible than Caesar's friend. Cassius says that he, Cimbrus and Cicero are unanimous in hatred of Caesar, in love for the fatherland and in readiness to die for Rome. “But there were three plans: / To plunge the fatherland into a civil war, / Or, calling lies a lie, disarm / The people, or kill Caesar in Rome.” He asks Brutus' opinion. Brutus wants to try to convince Caesar. He believes that the thirst for honor is dearer to Caesar than the thirst for the kingdom. Brutus sees in Caesar not a villain, but an ambitious one. During the Battle of Pharsalus, Brutus was captured by Caesar. Caesar saved his life, and Brutus does not want to return kindness with ingratitude. Brutus believes that only Caesar can restore freedom, power and life to Rome today if he becomes a citizen again. Brutus believes that Caesar has a noble soul and will become a defender of laws, and not their violator. If Caesar remains deaf to his arguments, Brutus is ready to stab him with a dagger. Cicero, Cimbrus and Cassius are sure that Brutus has too high an opinion of Caesar and his plan is unrealizable.

Antony reports to Caesar that Brutus agrees to meet with him. He hates Brutus and does not understand why Caesar tolerates him. Caesar says that of his enemies, Brutus is the only one worthy of him. Caesar prefers to win not with weapons, but with mercy: to forgive a worthy enemy and enlist his friendship is better than to destroy him. This is what Caesar did with Brutus in his time, and this is what he intends to do in the future. He wants to make Brutus his friend by all means. When Brutus arrives, Antony leaves them alone. Brutus appeals to the mind of Caesar. He conjures him to become a citizen again and restore freedom, glory and peace to Rome. But Caesar certainly wants to conquer the Parthians. He fought so much that he wants to meet death on the battlefield. Caesar says he loves Brutus like a father. Brutus, on the other hand, experiences all feelings for Caesar in turn, except for envy: when Caesar manifests himself as a tyrant, Brutus hates him, when a man and a citizen speaks in Caesar, Brutus feels love and admiration for him. Caesar reveals to Brutus that he is his father. As proof, he shows Brutus a letter from his mother, Servilia, confirming that Brutus is her son by Caesar. Brutus is stunned, but this news does not change his beliefs. He wants to save his homeland or die. Caesar hopes that Brutus will change his mind and support him tomorrow in the Senate, otherwise he will meet in Caesar not a father, but a master. Brutus urges Caesar to prove his paternal love and give him the opportunity to be proud of his father, otherwise he will have to believe that his real father is the same Brutus who gave Rome life and freedom at the cost of the lives of his own children. Left alone, Caesar exclaims: “Is it possible that my only son / Refuses to obey me / Now that the whole world is subdued to me?”

Cicero, along with other senators, leaves Rome: he is an old man, and he no longer has his former fearlessness. Cimbri and Cassius question Brutus about his conversation with Caesar. Brutus tells them that he is Caesar's son. “In order to cleanse the blood from this stain / Terrible, I must shed it to the drop / For Rome.” Brutus failed to convince Caesar. Cimbrus and Cassius believe that Caesar should be killed. Brutus goes for advice to his wife Portia, the daughter of the great Cato. Portia, to prove her courage, cut off her chest with a sword and steadfastly endured the pain, so that her husband did not even know about it. And only after this test did she dare to ask Brutus to entrust her secrets to her. Cimbrus and Cassius admire Portia's courage.

Antony comes to Brutus. Caesar tells him that he hopes for the voice of blood, which will command Brutus to love and respect the man who gave him life. Brutus asks if Caesar is ready to give up his dictatorship, revive the laws and obey them. Brutus asks Antony to tell Caesar that tomorrow in the Senate he hopes to hear from him a list of effective measures to save the fatherland. Brutus is as eager to save Rome for the good of the Romans as he is to save Caesar for the sake of Rome. After Antony leaves, the conspirators decide to enlist a few more worthy Roman citizens to their side.

Senators gather in the curia of Pompey. From the street comes the screams of the crowd. Cassius tells Brutus that at his sign, the conspirators with swords will attack Caesar. Caesar appears. He asks why so many senators didn't come to the meeting. Brutus replies: “Those who sit in the senate / Came out of fear; those who are not here, / Dispelled fear. Brutus delivers a speech where he extols the virtues of Caesar, who has gained the upper hand over himself and over someone else's envy. He congratulates Caesar, who wants to become a citizen, equal among equals, as before. Brutus explains to the audience that he speaks on behalf of Caesar, since he and Caesar are now one, because he is the son of Caesar. Caesar is shocked by the inspired audacity of Brutus. He says he wants to make him his successor. Caesar did not back down from his decision to go on a campaign against the Parthians. He wants to take Brutus with him, and after defeating the enemies of Rome, he is ready to give himself into the hands of his enemies: let Rome decide who he wants to see Caesar: a dictator, a citizen, or no one at all. Brutus appeals to Caesar for the last time, but Caesar declares that whoever does not obey him is an enemy of Rome, a rebel and a traitor. Brutus draws a dagger and shakes it over his head. The conspirators rush to Caesar and smash him with swords. Brutus stands aside. The wounded Caesar crawls to the statue of Pompey and expires at its foot with the words: “And you ... my boy? ..” The people come running to the cries of the senators. Brutus explains to the people that Caesar is killed, and he, Brutus, although his dagger is not stained with blood, along with others killed the tyrant. The people want to punish the murderers, but they are hiding, only Brutus is in the hands of the people. Brutus is ready for death, but reminds the people of freedom and calls on those to whom she is dear to rejoice: Caesar, who fancied himself a king, sleeps forever. Hearing the inspired speeches of Brutus, the people are imbued with confidence in him, and when they hear that Brutus is the son of Caesar, they appreciate all his nobility. Brutus mourns Caesar, for he honors his dignity, which cannot be found equal. He is ready for death, but asks for a reprieve. Having fulfilled his duty as a liberator and citizen, he will end his life over the coffin of his murdered father. The people are ready to follow Brutus. Brandishing his sword, Brutus leads the people to the Capitol to expel the traitors from the sacred hill. The people, following Brutus, repeat: "Freedom or death!", "Death or freedom!"