Remember Caesar (Play)
Study the title of the play “Remember Caesar”. Who is Caesar? What is he remembered for? Let us go through the pages of history succinctly to answer the above questions.
❖ Julius Caesar was a brilliant military general and great Roman monarch.
❖ He was born on the 13th of July in 100 BC (BCE).
❖ He created the Julian calendar which is the basis for today’s calendar.
❖ He was assassinated by a group of Roman senators in 44 BC(BCE).
❖ The day that Julius Caesar was murdered, 15 March, was called the Ides of March in ancient Rome.
Here is the play that revolves around the ides of March ( i.e 15th of March the day Julius Caesar was assassinated). The play “Remember Caesar” is about a pompous and proud judge who fears a life threat after he discovers a message ‘Remember Caesar’ scribbled on a piece of paper in his pocket. He exhorts his assistant Roger to remain alert to foil the possible attempt of the assassins. He is panic-stricken and makes his assistant engage in elaborate precautionary measures. Let us read the play to know whether Lord Weston and Roger thwart the attempt or not.
Lord Weston–a judge
Roger Chetwynd–Weston’s assistant Lady Weston–Weston’s wife
LORD WESTON is seated by the fireplace, a table of books and papers beside him, talking. Downright is seated MR ROGER CHETWYND, a thin, earnest, absent-minded, and conscientious young person. So conscientious is he that his mind, even when absent, is absent on his employer’s business. He has begun by listening to his master’s lecture, but the lure of his work has been gradually too much for him, and he is now blissfully copying from one paper on to another while the measured words flow over him, his lips forming the phrases while he writes.
WESTON: Roger, it is not alone a question of duty; there is your own success in the world to be considered. It is not your intention to be a secretary all your life, is it? No. Very well. Diligence, and a respect for detail should be your care. I did not become Lord Weston by twiddling my thumbs and hoping for favours. I won my honours by hard work and zealous service. Today, I am the best-known, and certainly the most impartial, judge in England, and a favoured servant of his gracious majesty, Charles the Second. That, I submit, my good Roger, is an example to be studied. It is now only unbecoming in you to ask for a half-holiday, but it is greatly unlike you. I fear….(He has turned towards his secretary, and discovers his misplaced diligence. After a pause, coldly) Can it be, Mr Chetwynd, that you have not been listening to my discourse?
ROGER (brought to the surface by the cessation of the word music): What, my lord? Oh, no. Yes, certainly, sir, I am listening.
WESTON: What was I talking of?
ROGER: Yourself, sir. (amending) I mean, of your rise to success, my lord. (It is apparent that it is an oft-heard tale.)
WESTON: We were talking of your extraordinary request for a half-holiday, when you had one only last month. Would it be straining courtesy too far if I were to inquire what prompts this new demand for heedless leisure?
ROGER: I thought perhaps if you did not need me this afternoon, my lord, I might personally interview the clerk of the Awards Committee, and find out why he has not sent that document.
WESTON: (a little taken aback): Oh, Oh, indeed.
ROGER: The lack of it greatly hinders. It holds up my work, you see. And at this most interesting point…. (His glance goes longingly to his desk.)
WESTON: That, of course, is a different matter. I see no reason why you should not take a walk to Mr.Clay’s in the afternoon if the weather is fine. I am relieved that your thoughts are on sober matters, as befits a rising young man. Diligence, courage, and attention to detail: these are the three. Without an orderly mind no man can hope (ROGER has gone back to his work) to excel in any of the learned professions. (He has found a scrap of paper, rather crushed, in his pocket and smooths its out, uninterestedly, to make a rough spill). Detail, my good Roger, attention to detail. That is the beginning of greatness. That is the…..(reading automatically and with some difficulty what is written on the scrap of paper) ‘Remember Caesar’.
(Repeating, with vague interest. He turns the paper back and forth, at a loss. And then a new idea occurs to him, a rather horrible idea. To ROGER) What is the date to-day? (As ROGER, buried again in his work, does not answer) Roger! I said, what day of the month is it?
ROGER (Hardly pausing): It is the fifteenth, my lord.
WESTON: The fifteenth! The fifteenth of March. The Ides of March! (Looking at the paper again; in a horrified whisper)‘Remember Caesar’! ( Louder) So they want to kill me, do they? They want to kill me? (ROGER comes to the surface, surprised.) That is what it is to be a judge over men (all his pompousness is dissolving in agitation) an instrument of justice. Sooner or later revenge lies await in the by- ways. And the juster a judge has been, the more fearless (he waves the paper in the astonished ROGER’s face), so much greater will be the hate that pursues –
ROGER: What is it, my lord? What is it?
WESTON: My death warrant if I am not careful. What cases have we had lately? The treason affair – I refused to be bribed! (The boast gives him a passing comfort.) The piracy – both sides hate me for that. Or there was that footpad –
ROGER: Is it a threat, the paper? Where did it come from?
WESTON: It was in my pocket. Someone must have …. Yes, now I remember. A man brushed against me yesterday as I was leaving the courts. A small, evil-looking fellow, very shy.
ROGER: What does it say, the paper?
WESTON (much too occupied with his own fate to attend to his secretary’s curiosity): Just at the door, it was, and he didn’t wait for an apology. I remember. Well, I can only thank them for the warning. I may die before my time but it will not be to -day if I can help it. Go downstairs at once, Roger, and lock, bar and chain all the doors. And ask my wife to come to me at once. At once. Stop! Are there any strangers in the house? Work men or such?
ROGER: Only Joel the gardener, my lord; he is cleaning the windows on the landing. (He indicates with his head that Joel is just outside.)
WESTON: Send him away at once. Tell him to leave everything and go and lock the door behind him. And the windows – see that the windows, too, are closed.
WESTON (facing the cupboard with a levelled pistol): Come out! Come out! say. (There is silence.) Drop your weapon and come out or I shall shoot you now. (As there is still silence he forces himself to close in on the cupboard door, and standing to the side pulls it quickly open. It is empty. As soon as his relief abates he is ashamed, and hastily returns the pistol to its drawer.) (Enter, bright and purposeful, LADY WESTON. A charming creature. One knows at a glance that she is an excellent housewife, but to the last one is never sure how much intelligence and sweet malice there lies behind her practical simplicity.)
LADY WESTON (looking back as she comes in): I do wish that Joel wouldn’t leave pails of water on the landing! What is it, Richard?
WESTON: My dear, your husband’s life is in grave danger.
LADY WESTON: The last time it was in danger you had been eating game pie. What is it this time?
WESTON (annihilating her flippancy with one broadside): Assassination!
LADY WESTON: Well, well! You always wanted to be a great man and now you have got your wish!
WESTON: What do you mean?
LADY WESTON: They don’t assassinate nobodies.
WESTON (showing her the paper): Read that, and see if you can laugh.
LADY WESTON: I’m not laughing. (Trying to read): What a dreadful scrawl.
WESTON: Yes, the venomous scribbling of an illiterate.
LADY WESTON (deciphering): ‘Remember Caesar’. Is it a riddle?
WESTON: It is a death warrant. Do you know what day this is?
LADY WESTON: Thursday.
WESTON: What day of the month?
LADY WESTON: About the twelfth, I should guess.
WESTON (with meaning): It is the fifteenth. The fifteenth of March.
LADY WESTON: Lawdamussy! Your good sister’s birthday! And we haven’t sent her as much as a lily!
WESTON: I have deplored before, Frances, the incurable lightness of your mind. On the fifteenth of March, Caesar was murdered in the Forum.
LADY WESTON: Yes, of course, I remember. They couldn’t stand his airs any longer.
WESTON (reproving): He was a great man.
LADY WESTON (kindly): Yes, my dear, I am sure he was. ( Looking again at the scrap of paper) And is someone thinking of murdering you?
LADY WESTON: I wonder someone hasn’t done it long ago. (Before the look of wonder can grow in his eye) A great many people must hate judges. And you are a strict judge, they say.
WESTON: It is the law that is strict. I am a judge, my good Frances, not a juggler. I have never twisted the law to please the mob, and, I shall not please them by dying on the day of their choice.
LADY WESTON: No, of course not. You shall not go out of the house to-day. A nice light dinner and a good glass of –
WESTON: I have sent Roger to barricade all the doors, and I think it would be wise to close the ground floor shutters and see that they are not opened for any –
LADY WESTON: Is it the French and the Dutch together you are expecting! And this is the morning. Mr. Gammon’s boy comes with the groceries. How am I to –
WESTON: My dear, is a little pepper more to you than your husband’s life?
LADY WESTON: It isn’t a little pepper, it’s a great deal of flour. And you would be the first to complain if the bread were short, or the gravy thin. (Giving him back the paper) How do you know that the little paper was meant for you?
WESTON: Because it was in my pocket. I found it there when I was looking for something to light my pipe. (With meaning) There were no spills.
LADY WESTON: No spills. What, again? Richard, you smoke far too much.
WESTON (continuing hastily) – It was slipped into my pocket by a man who brushed against me yesterday. A dark, lean fellow with an evil face.
LADY WESTON: I don’t think he was very evil.
WESTON: What do you know about it? (sinking into a chair): Stop, Frances, stop! It upsets me to – (Enter ROGER a little out of breath after his flying tour round the house.)
WESTON: Ah, Roger. Have you seen to it all? Every door barred, every window shut, all workmen out –
ROGER (a little embarrassed): Every door except the kitchen one, my lord.
WESTON (angry): And why not the kitchen one?
ROGER (stammering): The cook seemed to think…. That is, she said…..
WESTON: Well, speak, man, what did she say, and how does what the cook thinks affect my order to bar the kitchen door?
ROGER (in a rush): The cook said she was a respectable woman and had never been behind bars in her life and she wasn’t going to begin at her age, and she was quite capable of dealing with anyone who came to the kitchen door –
WESTON: Tell her to pack her things and leave the house at once.
LADY WESTON: And who will cook your pet dishes? I shall also see that all the downstairs windows are shuttered as you suggest. We can always haul the groceries through an upper window.
WESTON (controlling himself): I think that so frivolous a suggestion at so anxious a time is in poor taste, Frances, and unworthy of you –
LADY WESTON: Did it appear frivolous to you? How strange! I had thought it odd to shutter the walls and yet leave openings in the roof that one could drive a coach and horses through. However! (She comes back into the room, takes two candelabra from different places in the room, and goes to the door).
WESTON: What do you want with these?
LADY WESTON: If we are to be in darkness below we shall want all the candles we can gather. (Exit.)
WESTON: The aptness of the female mind to busy itself about irrelevant and inconsiderable minutiae is a source of endless wonder to me. (Almost without noticing what he is doing he moves over to the fireplace and sticks his head into the chimney to view the width of it. As he withdraws it, he becomes aware of ROGER, standing watching). I see no reason now why you should not resume your work, Roger.
ROGER: Oh, my lord, it is beyond my power to work while you are in danger. Is there not something I could do?
WESTON (mightily flattered ): Nonsense, my good Roger, nonsense! Nothing is going to happen to me.
ROGER: I could perhaps go and warn the authorities, and so prevent –
WESTON (very brave): No, no, no. Am I to spend the rest of my life with a guard at my heels? Go on with your work and… (his eye has lighted on a package which is lying on a chair against the right wall. The box is oblong – roughly 18 in. by 10 in. by 4 in. – and tied with cord. Sharply) What is this?
ROGER: That came for you this morning, sir.
WESTON: What is it?
ROGER (with the faint beginnings of doubt in his voice): I don’t know, my lord. A man came with it and said that it was important that you should have it to-day.
WESTON: And you didn’t ask what it was! You fool!
ROGER (humbly): It didn’t seem to be my business. I never do ask about the contents of your lordship’s…. I showed your lordship the package when it came, and you said to leave it there.
WESTON (peering with growing uneasiness at the thing): The man who brought it, what did he look like? Was he small? Dark?
ROGER (who obviously had taken no notice): I think he was smallish. But as to dark – his hat was pulled over his face, I think - I think he appeared to have a mole on his chin, but I would not …. It may have been just a –
WESTON: A mole? (his imagination at work): A mole ! Yes. Yes. That man had a mole. The man who brushed against me. On the right side of his jaw. I can see it as if he were standing here. We must get rid of this. At once.
ROGER: Do you think it is some infernal machine, sir? What shall we do with it?
WESTON (indicating the side window): Open the window and I shall throw it as far into the garden as I can.
ROGER: But it may explode, sir, if we throw it.
WESTON: What is certain is that it will explode if we do not! How long has it been lying here?
ROGER: It came about nine o’clock, my lord.
WESTON (in an agony): Nearly three hours ago! Open the window, Roger.
ROGER: No, sir. You open the window. Let me handle the thing. My life is nothing. Yours is of great value to England.
WESTON: No, Roger, no. You are young. I have had my life. There are still great things for you to do in the world. You must live, and write my life for posterity. Do as I say. I promise you shall exercise the greatest care. (As ROGER rushes to the window) No. Wait. A better idea. The gardener’s pail. It is still on the landing!
ROGER: Yes! Yes, of course! (He is out of the room and back in a moment with the wooden pail of water, which still has the wet cleaning rag hung over its edge.)
WESTON: Stand back. (He picks up the parcel gingerly.) We do not know what may happen. (He inserts the parcel lengthwise into the pail, at full stretch of his arm, his head averted, his eyes watching from their extreme corners) There is not enough water! Not enough to cover it.
ROGER: I’ll get some. I shall not be a moment.
WESTON: No. Don’t go. The flowers! (He indicates a bowl of daffodils).
ROGER: Of course! (He pulls the daffodils from their setting, throwing them on the desk in his agitation and pours the water into the pail). Ah! That has done it!
WESTON (dismayed, as he takes his hand from the package): Now it is going to float! It must be wet through, or it is no use.
ROGER: We must put something heavy on top, to keep it down.
WESTON: Yes, yes. Get something.
ROGER: What shall I get?
WESTON: Anything, anything that is heavy and that will fit into the pail. Books, anything!
ROGER (to whom books are objects of reverence, if not awe): Books sir? But they’ll get very wet, won’t they?
WESTON: In the name of heaven bring the first six books off the shelf!
ROGER (snatching the books and bringing them ): I suppose it cannot be helped. Such beautiful bindings too! (He picks the wet cloth off the edge of the pail, dropping it on the carpet, and plunges the books into the water, which very naturally overflows at this new incursion).
WESTON (letting go his hold on the package and siting back on his heels with a sigh of relief): Ah! Well and truly drowned. (He mops his forehead and ROGER collapses into the nearest chair).
(Enter LADY WESTON, with a tray on which is a glass of wine and some biscuits.)
LADY WESTON (seeing their strange occupation): Richard! What have you got in the pail?
WESTON: A package that came this morning. The man who brought it was the same fellow that knocked against me yesterday and slipped that paper into my pocket. They thought I would open it, the fools! (He is beginning to feel better) But we have been one too many for them!
LADY WESTON (in wild dismay)You are making a mess of the beautiful, brand-new----
WESTON (interrupting her angrily): Frances! (The thunder of her name quenches her speech.) What does your ‘beautiful brand-new’ carpet matter when your husband’s life is at stake? You shock me.
LADY WESTON (who was not going to say ‘carpet’): Carpet? (After a pause, mildly) No, of course not, my dear. I should never dream of weighing your safety against even the finest product of Asia. You know how the doctor disapproves of excitement for you.
WESTON: Perhaps the doctor has never had an infernal machine handed in at his door of a spring morning.
LADY WESTON (contemplative, her eyes on the portrait which hangs opposite the side window): Do you think we had better remove Great-aunt Cicely?
WESTON: In the name of heaven, why?
LADY WESTON: She is in the direct line of shots coming through that window.
WESTON: And why should any shots come through the window, may I ask?
LADY WESTON (mildly objecting to the tone): I was merely taking thought for your property, my dear Richard. And anyone sitting in the ilex tree out there would be in a –
WESTON (on his feet): Frances! What made you think of the ilex tree?
LADY WESTON: That is where I would shoot you from. I mean, if I were going to shoot you. The leaves are thick enough to hide anyone sitting there, and yet not enough to obscure their view.
WESTON: Come away from that window.
LADY WESTON: What?
WESTON: Come away from that window!
LADY WESTON (moving to him): No one is going to shoot me.
WESTON (running out of the room, and calling to ROGER from the landing): Roger! Roger!
ROGER (very distant): My lord?
WESTON: Has the gardener gone away yet?
ROGER: No, my lord. He is eating his dinner outside the kitchen window.
WESTON: Tell him to sit under the ilex tree until I give him leave to move.
ROGER: The ilex tree? Yes, my lord.
(WESTON comes back and goes to the drawer of the table where his pistol is kept.)
LADY WESTON (as he takes out the pistol): Oh Richard dear, be careful. That is a very dangerous weapon.
WESTON (grimly important): I know it!
LADY WESTON: Well, I think it is a poor way to foil an assassin.
WESTON: What is?
LADY WESTON: Blowing oneself up.
(Enter ROGER with the bowl of daffodils.)
WESTON (looking round at him as he comes in): Has Joel gone to sit under the tree?
ROGER: Yes, sir. (Put thing down the bowl and making for the side window) At least, I gave him your message –
WESTON: Keep away from that window! (As ROGER looks astonished) There may be someone in the ilex tree.
ROGER: But do you think they would try to shoot you as well as – as…. (he indicates the bucket.)
WESTON: Who knows? When you have dealt with the criminal mind as long as I have… Did you open the door to speak to the gardener?
ROGER: Oh, no, my lord. I spoke through the shutter.
WESTON(snapping the lock of his pistol): Now we shall see whether there is anyone lurking in the tree. (He moves over to the side of the window, peering out with the fraction of an eye.)
LADY WESTON: Richard, if you are going to shoot off that thing, you will please wait until I – (She is interrupted by a loud knocking on the front door downstairs. This is such an unexpected development that all there are momentarily quite still, at a loss. ROGER is the first to recover).
ROGER: Someone at the front door. (He moves over to the window in the rear wall, from which one can see the street. He is about to open the casement so that he may lean out to inspect the knocker, when LORD WESTON stops him.)
WESTON (still at the fireplace): Don’t open that window!
ROGER: But I cannot see otherwise, my lord, who it is.
WESTON: If you put your head out of that window, they may shoot without waiting to ask questions.
LADY WESTON: But, Richard, it may be some perfectly innocent visitor.
(The knocking is repeated.)
ROGER: If I were to stand on a chair…..
(He brings a chair to the window and stands on it, but he is still not high enough to look down on whoever waits at the front door).
WESTON: Well? Well? Can you tell who it is?
ROGER: I am still not high enough, my lord.
LADY WESTON: Add the footstool, Roger.
(Roger adds the footstool to the chair, and aided by LADY WESTON climbs on to the precarious erection).
LADY WESTON: Now, can you see anyone?
ROGER (having seen, scrambling downing): All is well, my lord.
(He throws open the casement, and calls to someone below):
It is only Mr. Caesar. (As this information is succeeded by a blank pause) Shall I let him in?
WESTON: Who did you say?
ROGER: Mr. Caesar. You remember: the man you met on Tuesday at Hampton, my lord. He was to come to see you this morning about rose trees. You made a note of it.
WESTON (taking the crumpled piece of paper from his pocket in a dazed way): I made a note? ‘Remember Caesar’. Is that my writing? Yes, it must be – Dear me!
LADY WESTON (kindly): I shouldn’t have said it was the venomous scribbling of an illiterate. You had better go down and let Mr Caesar in, Roger. Put the pistol away, Richard, dear; your visitor might misunderstand it. (She speaks cheerfully, as to a child; it is obvious from her lack of surprise that excursions and alarms created by her husband over trifles are a normal part of existence for her).
WESTON: Mr Caesar. (He moves towards the bucket.)
LADY WESTON: Of course. How could anyone forget a name like that? And now if you’ll forgive me….. It’s my busy morning.
WESTON (arresting her as she is going out of the door): Oh Frances! What was in the parcel, do you think?
LADY WESTON: That was your new velvet cloak, dear. I did try to tell you, you know.
(The curtain comes down on LORD WESTON ruefully taking the first dripping cloak from the water).
Gordon Daviot (1896 – 1952) is the pen name of Miss.Elizabeth McKintosh, a Scottish born novelist and playwright. She served educational institutions in England and Scotland as a physical education instructor and soon took to writing novels under another pseudonym Josephine Tey.