The elderly poet, Cinna, hadn’t been out for some time, but he had a strange feeling that something was drawing him out of doors. He’d dreamt that he had dined with Caesar and that had filled his imagination with foreboding. As he approached the centre of the city a mob surrounded him.
‘What’s your name,’ someone demanded.
They began jostling him. ‘Where are you going?’ another said.
The questions came thick and fast. ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Are you a married man or a bachelor?’
They blocked his way. ‘Answer everything,’ a man said, grabbing the front of his robe.
‘Yes, and make it quick,’ another told him.
‘And tell the truth.’
‘Yes, if you know what’s good for you.’
‘What’s my name?’ said Cinna. ‘Where am I going? Where do I live? Am I a married man or a bachelor? Well, to answer everyone directly and briefly and wisely and truthfully – wisely, I’ll tell you that I am a bachelor.’
One of them sneered. ‘You saying that those who marry are fools? You’ll regret that, I’m afraid. Go on.’
‘I’m going to Caesar’s funeral.’
‘As a friend or an enemy?’
‘At least he answered that plainly.’
‘Where you live. Briefly.’
‘Briefly, I live next to the Capitol.’
‘Your name, sir. Honestly.’
‘Honestly, my name is Cinna.’
‘Tear him to pieces,’ one of them shouted. ‘He’s a conspirator.’
They grabbed him and threw him to the ground and began kicking him.
‘I’m Cinna the poet, I’m Cinna the poet,’ the old man screamed.
‘Tear him for his bad poems, tear him for his bad poems,’ one of them yelled.
‘I’m not Cinna the conspirator,’ the old man whined.
‘It doesn’t matter: his name’s Cinna. Pull his name out of his heart.’
‘Tear him, tear him,’ the leader shouted and they punched and kicked him till he lay unconscious at their feet. The leader beckoned. ‘Come, brands, get some. Fire brands. To Brutus, to Cassius: burn everything. Some to Decius’ house, and some to Casca’s: some to Ligarius. Go!’