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 man!\'"