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Julius Caesar: Superstition, Sacrifice, Suffering And Sorrow

1299 words - 5 pages

Superstition is considered a myth to most people, but for the ancient Romans, this was a historical belief. For the Romans, believing in superstition was a very ordinary thing. To them superstition explained the supernatural and strengthened their relationships with the gods (The Roman Empire). In the play Julius Caesar, the author William Shakespeare uses superstition repeatedly to affect the plot as well as the characters. Superstition in the play is used to foreshadow Caesar’s death, impact Brutus’ actions in the battlefield and to emphasize the Roman’s connection to superstition and fate.
One of the biggest superstitious beliefs in Rome at that time was the power to see the future; which Caesar’s future was to die. Julius Caesar was one of Rome’s greatest leaders and even he could not escape the superstitions of his death. Many signs of superstition were shown such as the appearance of the soothsayer, who is a person with the ability to see the future. When the soothsayer came up to Caesar he said, “Beware the ides of March” (1.2.28); and by the ides of March, the soothsayer means a day in the Roman calendar that marks the 15th of March. The effect of this quote was to foreshadow the death of Caesar through the superstitious act of seeing the future. Caesar’s death was also foreshadowed in Calphurnia’s dream where she saw the conspirators bathe their hands in Caesar’s blood (2.2.80-84). The Romans at that time widely believed in ghosts, so Calphurnia seeing ghosts in her dream coming out of their graves was also superstition. Not only was it superstition, but it was also a bad omen and a sign that something bad was going to occur. The lioness roaming the street and everything else Calphurnia dreamt about was superstition that foreshadows something ill happening to Caesar (2.2.17-25). This verifies Caesar’s death and superstition proves that fact. Furthermore, this emphasizes the importance that superstition has in the play in terms of foreshadowing events. Foreshadowing these events in the play gives the reader a sense of entertainment and allows the plot to build, and hint at the climax. This form of writing and effect was found very entertaining for people of the theatre during the Elizabethan times (Alchin). Without superstition, and the culture beliefs of the public back then implemented into the play, nobody would have watched or read Julius Caesar, thus making it a failure.
Superstition is not something used to only foreshadow events, but it also has a key effect on the characters and the actions that they take. One of the most notable characters that have been affected by superstition was Brutus. Brutus was a man who was a friend of Caesar and as the play went along he joined Cassius in the scheme to murder their leader, Caesar. After Caesar’s death Brutus was drowned with subconscious guilt and was visited by Caesar’s ghost. The ghost was a manifestation of Brutus’ guilt and it told Brutus that they will meet in Philippi. Due to...

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