The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599 and first performed in 1623. The story is set on ancient Rome and portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, his assassination and the defeat of the conspirators at the Battle of Philippi. William Shakespeare (who was baptized on 26 April 1564 and died in 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and a prominent dramatist.
Shakespeare’s standard poetic form was blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. Shakespeare’s works express the complete range of human experience. His characters were human beings who commanded the sympathy of audiences when many other playwrights’ characters were flat or archetypes. His character’s failings caused their downfalls while exhibiting the most basic of human emotions.
Shakespeare’s characters were complex and human in nature. He made the character development central to the plot; even though his plays portrayed mainly male characters, he saved special and unique roles for women, which did not fit the time stereotype in which the play was based on, and not even on his time. And thus, my thesis statement is “The revolutionary type of marital relationship Shakespeare exposes in this tragedy vastly increases the characterization of his male characters while enriching the story”.
Before going any further I would like to introduce both of the female characters in the play, in one side there’s Portia, wife to Marcus Brutus, a loyal, caring and beautiful woman, who is portrayed as an intelligent person who loves her husband, this leads her to perceive a change in Brutus’s daily life and she detects uneasiness from his way of being, she promptly questions him but to no avail, days later she learns that he was part of a conspiracy against the dictator Julius Caesar that ended up in his assassination and her husband’s escape from Rome, which leads her to desperation and finally, suicide.
On the other there’s Calpurnia which is seen as a superstitious, loving and humble wife to Caesar, she is first seen on the Lupercal racing event, but is strongly developed on Act II, in which she foresees the death of her husband on a dream and warns him not to go to the Capitol for his own safety.
The women in the play also add to the element of drama known as Theme (which, in simple words, is the main idea the author wants to transmit with a piece of literature), although the tragedy has a clear intention to show how regicide and usurpation work, it might have another theme, which is really peculiar: “Listen to your wife” Although in many of Shakespeare’s tragedies the hero has an opportunity to turn back from his destructive plan, it’s only in this one that women personify that opportunity.
Usually in Shakespearean tragedy, women are either passive or destructive, but in this one, there seems to be an underlying message that the tragedy could have been averted if either of two major characters had listened to his wife. First, Brutus is on the verge of confiding the assassination plot to Portia but is deflected by the late arrival of one last conspirator to swear the oath with him.
Since Portia has just reminded Brutus that she is the daughter of Cato (an almost legendary model of stern Roman integrity), we can be fairly sure that, if he had told her of the plan to kill Caesar as a tragic sacrifice necessary to preserve the Roman Republic, she would quickly have brought him to his senses. Then, on the very morning of the Ides of March, Calpurnia has almost persuaded Caesar to stay home that day, because of a nightmare she just experienced, when some of the conspirators arrive to escort him to the Senate and change his mind for him by saying that the Senate plans to offer him a crown that day.
If he had stuck to his earlier refusal, he might have lived to die in his bed years later. Of course, the roles of these women are not limited to that, as they also add to the plot by using foreshadowing, Calpurnia, has a more explicit foreshadowing theme, she has a nightmare in which she sees Caesar’s death and his blood filling the streets and soaking the hands of traitors who slew the greatest man of Rome, and tries to prevent him from going to the Capitol.
On the other hand, Portia keenly detects stress from Brutus’s actions, and she confronts him and tries to make him tell her what’s wrong, he says he won’t and she replies “Then I shall kneel, but I should not do if thou were gentle Brutus”, pointing out she clearly knows something is wrong with her husband, and went to the extreme of damaging herself in the thigh to make him open to her, and was almost successful but was interrupted by Caius Ligarius, who was the latest member to join the conspiracy, and that, in a certain way, was the start Brutus’s downfall.
They also add to the characterization in the story, mainly by being foils to their respective husbands (a foil is a character who contrasts with another character in order to highlight various features of that other character’s personality, throwing these characteristics into sharper focus. ) in one side, Calpurnia being humble and accepting towards her husband makes Caesar’s arrogance and pride shine brighter, it is evidently seen when she is trying to convince him to stay in his house for the day and, knowing of his husband’s characteristics says: “Please, do not go forth today.
Call it my fear that keeps you in the house and not your own”, to which Caesar grudgingly accepts but not before pointing out it’s because of her whim, and not because he is scared of omens or superstitions. Portia, on the other, is an intelligent woman, sharing similar characteristics to Cassius, but she uses her intelligence for the welfare of Brutus, not her own. She kneels to him in a humble way because she knows Brutus is going to make her stand up. She even damages herself in front of Brutus for him to react in his common, honorable way of dealing with things. Giving myself a voluntary wound here in the thigh; can I bear that with patience, and not my husband’s secrets? ” to which Brutus responds “O gods, render me worthy of this noble wife” To be honest I have never met a woman who would complement me in such a way as this, but I am certainly positive I have seen this in my life. My mother and father are my personal experience, they truly love each other and have lots of things in common, and of course, several things that make them different.
It is these things that make them love each other and what has kept them together for over fifteen years, since they have met there has been a change and a rich growth from both of them, since they accomplished a lot of things by themselves, and started off with few, but by having each other they were able to achieve what they have today. To conclude, I would like to appreciate Shakespeare’s choice of creating two female characters that have a high impact in the story, he could have made t so that the cast was composed of only males, but he decided to use these characters to show plot, theme, and mainly characterization of his male characters, since, as we discussed in class, he took the story from Roman history itself, and he couldn’t have possibly known that a conversation among Brutus and his wife took place, or Caesar’s, and he decided to do it because it enriched the story in the ways I have already stated.