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Shakespeare hints

In his play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare hints at Caesar’s imminent death via three powerful literary devices. Act II, takes place on March 15 just hours before Caesar’s death; a death prognosticated through foreshadowing, asides, and imagery. The Act’s opening scene contains a soliloquy by Brutus, which portends Caesar’s murder. Readers can expect fate to have rendered Caesar powerless as Brutus’ soliloquies prepare them for a Messianic trajectory.

As evidence, consider the element of foreshadowing displayed in Brutus’: “It must be by his death and for my part, I know no personal cause to spurn at him, But for the general. He would be crown’d: How that might change his nature, there’s the question…” (Book, pg#). Further evidence of his Caesar’s fate appears in Caeser’s asides. Caesar to Trebonius: “Be near me, that I may remember you”; Trebonius to Caesar: “I will”, then aside, “and so near will I be, That your best friends shall wish I had been further (pg#). ”

However, the most striking literary device at Shakespeare’s disposal stems from the imagery: during a violent storm the night before Caeser’s death, his augurers examine the entrails of a bird, which they discover, has no heart – implying, in terms of omens from the gods, that Caesar will garner no last minute reprieve from his historic assassination. Then Calpurnia’s dream filled with blood spilled upon the capitol, soldiers primed for war, strife and war foretells the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination as Mark Antony avenges his murder.

Part Two: Shakespeare presents Caesar as an unwitting victim in the schemes of regicidal conspirators. He does so with the intent of creating a tragic hero; one whose personality is radically different from the actual historical figure. By historical accounts, the real-life Caesar was better described as a tragic villain. To that end, Shakespeare’s Caesar is not historically accurate. The character is a literary figure not an historical one.. Shakespeare’s Caesar comes across as a likable but rather vain, victim of his own ambition.

Moreover, he is the unwitting victim of his murderers. Caesar would be king – his crime amounts to no more, save he entertained such ambitions in a republic with a well-justified antipathy towards single-man rule. Brutus, a key conspirator, indicates as much in the following passage: “It must be by his death; and for my part, I know no personal cause to spurn at him, But for the general. He would be crown’d” (Book, pg#). Caesar, it seems, proves more a victim when his conspirators seek to justify their murderous intent.

In fact, they briefly entertain the notion of drawing Cicero, a respected enemy of Caesar’s, into their plot: “let us have him, for his silver hairs will purchase us a good opinion” (pg#). Apparently, the desire to rid Rome of a potential king belongs to a marginalized group of nobles. However, Caesar, a victim to this lot proves equally vulnerable to his pride. His wife, Calpurnia, affirms as much: “Alas, my lord, Your wisdom is consumed in confidence. Do not go forth to-day” (pg#), she says to him on the fateful day of his murder.

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