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Role Of The Supernatural In Julius Caesar

1001 words - 4 pages

William Shakespeare composed his most famous pieces in an age where the supernatural played a major role in the everyday of lives of peasantry and royalty alike. During that age, commonly referred to as the Elizabethan Age, people postulated that the world held a fragile balance. Rather than simply believing that the balance that existed was restricted to the spiritual world, they speculated that it applied to the laws that prevailed in nature. As a result, the Elizabethans maintained the mindset that the utilization of natural and spiritual implements would protect one from plague and other maladies, both supernatural and secular. Thus, the supernatural is a recurring them in Shakespeare's works of literature. In the play Julius Caesar, we see one such instance of the reiterated belief of the supernatural. As the play opens, we witness a short display of Roman life. The citizens present seem to have a strong conviction of the supernatural and its ability to solve everyday problems as well as some of the more complex. The people turn towards unworldly forces to guide them along as they follow a preordained destiny. An instance of the involvement of spirituality in every day life is put forth in Act I Scene 1. The setting is of the Feast of Lupercal. This festival is being celebrated as cobblers and senators alike roam the streets. The feast is held to honor the god Pan, the queen of fertility. This time is when infertile females are supposedly given increased fertility, as is obvious in the praising of Pan throughout the festivities. The main event is a race in which, through a certain method, virility may be given to the formerly sterile. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, is shown to be completely sterile and so the problem of bearing the emperor's heir is presented. Therefore, in accordance to the principles of the feast, Caesar commissions Antonius, "To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say/The barren touched in this holy chase,/Shake off their sterile curse." The exact definition of the touching is that she must make contact with a whip of a goat's hide carried by a racer during the aforementioned chase. Caesar believes this to be the most appropriate approach to attaining a child to succeed him in his place as ruler. The faith that he places in the gods to provide him with what he requires most is a premier representation of the Roman peoples' attitude towards the supernatural.Soothsayers of the Shakespearean era were believed to have been endowed with supernatural powers to forecast future events. Following the trend of otherworldly guidance in matters of fate, Shakespeare applies those who held the role of prophet to produce foreshadowing and to build suspense. There are two major instances of precognition in Caesar. Perhaps the most infamous line of the drama is, "Beware the ides of March," as exclaimed by the old soothsayer towards Caesar. This is an obvious portend referring to the eventual...

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