Julius Caesar


In the play of Julius Caesar, we see a brief picture of Roman 
life during the time of the First Triumvirate. In this snap shot, we
see many unfortunate things. Shakespeare gives us the idea that many 
people try to circumvent what the future holds, such as unfortunate 
things, by being superstitious. Superstition seems to play a role in 
the basic daily life of most Roman citizens. For instance, the setting 
of the first scene is based upon superstition, the Feast of Lupercal. 
This feast is in honor of the god Pan, the queen of fertility. During 
this time, infertile females are supposed to be able to procreate, and 
fertile ones are supposed to be able to bear more. It is also a 
supposed time of sexual glorification and happiness. Other scenes 
depict how throughout Rome, roaming the streets are mysterious 
sooth-sayers, who are supposedly given the power to predict the 
future. Dictating what is to come through terse tidbits, these people 
may also be looked upon as superstitious. In the opening scene, one 
sooth-sayer, old in his years, warns Caesar to "Beware the Ides of 
March," an admonition of Caesar's impending death. Although 
sooth-sayers are looked upon by many as insane out of touch lower 
classmen, a good deal of them, obviously including the sayer Caesar
encountered, are indeed right on the mark. Since they lack any formal 
office or shop, and they predict forthcomings without fee, one can see 
quite easily why citizens would distrust their predictions. 
Superstition, in general elements such as the Feast of Lupercal, as 
well as on a personal level such as with the sooth-sayers, is an 
important factor in determining the events and the outcome of Julius 
Caesar, a significant force throughout the entire course of the play.

 Before the play fully unravels, we see a few of signs of 
Caesar's tragic end. Aside from the sooth-sayer's warning, we also see
another sign during Caesar's visit with the Augerers, the latter day 
"psychics". They find "No heart in the beast", which they interpret as 
advice to Caesar that he should remain at home. Ceasar brushes it off 
and thinks of it as a rebuke from the gods, meaning that he is a 
coward if he does not go out, and so he dismisses the wise advice as 
hearsay. However, the next morning, his wife Calphurnia wakes up 
frightened due to a horrible nightmare. She tells Caesar of a battle 
breaking out in the heart of Rome, "Which drizzled blood upon the 
Capitol," with Caesar painfully dying, such that "...The heavens 
themselves blaze forth the death of princes." Although Caesar realizes 
Calphurnia is truly concerned about his well-being, he seeks another
interpretation, coming to the conclusion that the person who imagines 
the dream may not be the wisest one to interpret it's meaning. Later 
Caesar tells his faithful companion Decius about it, and he interprets 
it quite the contrary, "That it was a vision fair and fortunate," and 
indeed, today is an ideal day to go out, since this is the day "To 
give a crown to mighty Caesar." Perhaps Decius is implying here that 
today is a day where much appreciation and appraisal will be given to 
Caesar, surely not the endangerment of his well-being as Calphurnia 
interprets it. Caesar predictably agrees with him, as most citizens 
enjoy believing the more positive of two interpretations.

 After Caesar's assasination at the hand of Brutus, Cassius, and 
the rest of the conspirators, Brutus and Cassius are chased into the 
country side, where we see a few superstitious signs of their 
forthcoming painful death in battle. In a dream, Brutus sees
Caesar's "ghost", interpreted as an omen of his defeat. He also looks 
upon the ensign, and instead of the usual stock of eagles, ravens and 
kites replace them, construed as another sign of their loss at 
Phillipi. Not surprisingly, Caesar's death is avenged in the end, with 
the two of the conspirators' double suicide. As superstition is 
inter-twined within the basis of the entire play, we can reasonably 
conclude that it is because of this irrational belief of why certain 
events occur and how to avoid them, that Caesar is retired and 
eventually avenged. In the words of Caesar's devoted follower and 
companion Mark Antony, "His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed 
in him that Nature might stand up and say to the world, 'This was a 

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