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The Contributions Of The Women Of The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar

1035 words - 4 pages

In a cast of over 30 characters, there are only two women. This is a statement describing the world renown play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. These two female characters are Calpurnia, the wife of Julius Ceasar, and Portia, the wife of Marcus Brutus. Other than these two women, the cast is composed entirely of male characters. In a work of literature so populated by men, one may ask why Shakespeare takes the time to include any women at all. However, after further reflection, it is clear to see the reason as to why they are included. Upon including Calpurnia and Portia in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare deepens our understanding of their husbands, highlights the social values of the time, and highlights important ideas in the play.
Though Calpurnia’s marriage to Caesar differs from that of Portia’s, in both marriages, social values of time are reflected through the actions of Portia and Calpurnia. For example, through Portia’s interactions with her husband we see that throughout all of Rome, it was known to even the women, that women were seen as less important. However, a woman could gain respect by marrying, or being the daughter of an honorable man. Portia reminds Brutus of this as she tries to convince him that she is worthy of his respect and his secrets. “I grant I am a woman, but withal/ A woman that Lord Brutus took to wife./ I grant that I am a woman, but withal/ A woman well reputed, Cato’s daughter.” (292-295). With these words, Portia conveys the qualities that both men and women believe a woman must have in order to gain respect in their society. This is not the only social value conveyed through a wife’s inclusion. In Caesar’s words with his wife at the festival of Lupercal at the beginning of the play, another social value is reflected. The festival of Lupercal is an event celebrated in attempts to bring fertility to the women who partake in the festivities. At this festival Caesar asks a favor of Mark Antony. “Forget not in your speed, Antonius,/ To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say/ The barren, touched in this holy chase,/ Shake off their sterile curse” (I.2.6-9). Asking this of Mark Antony displays clearly that Caesar believes Calpurnia to be at fault for them not, yet having any children. This shows that the men of Rome thought highly of themselves in every way. They were full of pride and saw no flaws within themselves.
With Caesar’s actions in Calpurnia’s presence we see the gentler, slightly less arrogant side to his personality. Also in having Portia’s presence, we see the more compassionate side of Brutus, her husband. We are shown Caesar’s gentler, less arrogant behavior when Calpurnia pleaded with Caesar that he not leave home that day, a request made due to her suspicions sparked by the soothsayer’s warning to beware the Ides of March. Caesar dismisses her feeling confident that the Soothsayer’s words were unimportant. However she continues in her attempts to convince him....

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