Imagine a world where women were completely subservient to men. Imagine what it would be like to live in a society where women were home-schooled, and not allowed to attend any type of university. What would today’s society be like if women lawyers, doctors, actors, and military soldiers were nonexistent? It would be a modern day version of the Elizabethan era in England. This was a time period where women had little rights, but the dramatic arts flourished due to Queen Elizabeth’s appreciation for them. It was during this time period that literary genius William Shakespeare wrote his many plays including The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Living in this time period caused him to look at women in a somewhat submissive way and portray them as so.
In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, women did not have strong roles. The roles of women are not common in the play, and their appearances are very limited. In fact, there are only two female roles in the play; the subservient Calphurnia, wife of Caesar, and the daring wife of Brutus, Portia. These two contrasting characters bring an element of foreshadowing to most of the notable events that occur during the play. One example of Calphurnia being used to foreshadow events is when she tells Caesar to “not go forth today; call it my fear” (2.2.50), indicting that she believes something dreadful will happen to Caesar. Calphurnia has also seen many omens that she believes are indicators of Julius Caesar’s death.
Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
A lioness hath whelped in the streets,
And graves have yawn’d, and yielded up their dead;
Fierce fiery warriors fight upon the clouds
In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol;
The noise of battle hurtled in the air;
Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan,
And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.
O Caesar, these things are beyond all use,
And I do fear them.
Calphurnia is also haunted with nightmares of the death of her husband, which she interprets as an omen, which states that Caesar is only accelerating the date of his death by going to the capitol. However, Caesar dismisses this “foolish” idea, and continues to go the capitol as planned. Within the next few scenes, it is made known that her interpretation was more than accurate. Although Portia did not play a large part in foreshadowing important incidents, she did allude to the events that would occur later in the play.
Prithee, listen well.
I heard a bustling rumor, like a fray,
And the wind brings it from the Capitol.
As she says this, she is referring to the noise of an activity taking place in the capitol, which we soon learn is Caesar’s death.
Women, however having a large role in the foreshadowing of Julius Caesar, still...