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Published: 23-09-2019

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The Incorporation of Superstition, Omens, and the Theme of Fate in Julius Caesar, a Play by William Shakespeare

From soothsayers to stormy nights, William Shakespeare found a way to incorporate superstition, omens, and the theme of fate into the famous scenes of his political play, Julius Caesar. This has caused readers to query the goal and significance of omens and portents in the play and how they reflect the time in which Julius Caesar lived. The fact that Shakespeare, who was alive in the late 1500s was writing about Julius Caesar who was alive about 100 B.C. to 44 B.C., also enables the reader to query if the superstitions, omens, and themes of fate had been far more reflective of the Roman Empire or of the Elizabethan Era. Research has shown that most of the omens and portents in Julius Caesar are reflective of the Roman Empire, but there is also a presence of these superstitions from Shakespeare life throughout the Elizabethan Era. This understanding of these views of omens, superstitions, and fate gathered from research on the two various time periods enables for a diverse effect of the play on the reader and makes it possible for the reader to gain a greater understanding of what they are reading.

A lot of of Shakespeare’s tragedies were effectively known for his incorporation of supernatural forces into his plays. From the 3 witches in Macbeth to the nightmare experienced by Richard III, Shakespeare naturally had some information of omens and portents. This becoming stated, there are also lots of supernatural forces in the play Julius Caesar, but how considerably of these forces reflect what was believed in the course of the life of Julius Caesar and which of these forces did Shakespeare incorporate primarily based on the beliefs of his own time? Julius Caesar was born in 100 B.C. and was murdered in 44 B.C. (Maltz) although Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616. Because of the massive time distinction in between the life of Julius Caesar and the life of Shakespeare, there are bound to be some omens and other supernatural forces in the play that reflect the time of Shakespeare far more that the time in which Julius Caesar lived.

In the course of the life of Julius Caesar, the most prominent omens incorporated “unusual behavior of birds and animals, strange births, spontaneous movements by statues, lighting strikes and the like.” (Maltz) In a history of omens that had been reported for the duration of Julius Caesar’s time, the report of “A three-footed mule was born at Reate” (Maltz) is incorporated. This is a actual instance showing that strange births were something strange and ominous that should be reported. An omen from the play Julius Caesar that is reflective of the omens from one hundred B.C. to 44 B.C. is when Calpurnia begged Caesar not to go to the meeting of the senate and told him that throughout the evening, the watch reported that a “lioness hath whelped in the streets” (The tragedy of Julius Caesar, two.two, 25). This quote signifies that throughout the night, a lioness gave birth in the street. This incident falls under the omen of strange births producing it very reflective and common of omens for the duration of the Roman Empire.

There are different encounters with birds in the play and even though they have been seen as bad omen across all instances, the specific behavior of the birds is what make them reflective of the Roman Empire. The birds and the stormy, lighting filled night that Caesar’s assassination was planned, added to the omens reflecting the time of Julius Caesar. In act 1 scene three, Casa says he saw “the bird of night”, which likely meant an owl, sitting “Even at noon-day upon the industry-spot, Howting and shrieking” (lines 34-35). Then, in act five scene 1, Cassius tells Brutus and Messala that he saw “Two mighty eagles fell, and there they perch’d, Gorging and feeding from our soldiers’ hands…. This morning are they fled away and gone, And in their steads do ravens, crows, and kites” (Lines 101-102 and 106-108). Cassius saw these eagles as symbols of him and Brutus and believed that the two of them have been going to die in battle when the eagles were replaced with ravens and crows. Both of these examples from the play are descriptions of uncommon behavior of birds, which was a frequent omen of the time. These examples also show that Shakespeare, again, utilised omens that have been reflective of the Roman Empire. As for the stormy night in which Cassius and Brutus planned for the assassination of Caesar, “lightining strikes and the like” (Maltz) had been also omens of Caesar’s time. There was also thunder and lightning on the morning that Caesar went to meet with the senate. In a book of reported omen, from 84 B.C. to 54 B.C. events such as “Lightning struck the temples of Luna and Ceres…” (Maltz) and “Thunder and lightning bolts flashed through the sky…” (Maltz) showing that Shakespeare had some information that storms were omens of the Roman culture.

Along with the use of omens reflective of the Roman Empire, Shakespeare also, either intentionally or unintentionally, utilised omens and supernatural forces that had been more reflective of his time. A quite memorable character from Julius Caesar is the Soothsayer. The Soothsayer warns Caesar to “Beware the ides of March” (1.2, 30) and when the Ides of March comes and Caesar tells the Soothsayer, “The Ides have come,” (three.1, 1) the Soothsayer replies “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.” (three.1, 2) The Soothsayer is a extremely important supernatural force in the play since he predicts that day that Caesar’s life will come to an finish. He is really reminiscent of the belief in witches during the Elizabethan Era. There have been a total of 270 Elizabethan witch trials in the course of the era (Alchin, Elizabethan Superstitions), which extended into Shakespeare’s life. Even though the Soothsayer was not a witch, his supernatural energy of foretelling the future shows influences from the beliefs of Shakespeare’s time. Another essential Omen in the play is Calpurnia’s dream the night ahead of Caesar would go to meet with the Senate. The use of this Omen can be seen in Elizabethan’s intricate views of dreams as omens. In the course of the Elizabethan era, there had been 3 kinds of dreams: Organic, Divine, and Supernatural (Camden) Supernatural dreams had been dreams that told the future, which makes Calpurnia’s dream quite reflective of the Elizabethan time. There are several a lot more examples of Omen, portents, and supernatural forces in Julius Caesar that are each reflective of the Roman Empire and the Elizabethan Era but, the main point is that in the play, Shakespeare utilised omens and portents that had been much more authentic to Julius Caesars time whilst nevertheless incorporating some of the beliefs of his personal time.

A really essential theme in Julius Caesar was Fate. As seen with the omens and portents, there are concepts of fate in the play that reflect the beliefs of both Shakespeare’s time and Julius Caesar’s time. In the course of the Elizabethan Era, it was strongly believed that a person’s fate was predestined primarily based on the astrological alignments when you had been born (Alchin). It was believed that the events in a person’s life and the choices they made throughout their life didn’t matter simply because their fate was currently decided for them (Alchin). This belief is reflected in the play every single time that Julius Caesar dismissed the omens and events that are presented to him as warnings. In Act 2 Scene 2, following Calpurnia tells Caesar of the occasion throughout the night, he replies, “It appears to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary finish, Will come when it will come” (Lines 35-37). This shows that Caesar believes that his fate is out of his handle, just as the Elizabethan’s believed. An example that goes against this belief is when Cassius tells Brutus, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” The mention of the stars shows a direct rejection of the Elizabethan beliefs.

When compared to the belief of fate during the Elizabethan Era, the beliefs in the course of the Roman Empire had been very distinct. Omens had been taken very seriously and had been noticed as significant warnings from above (Religion). As Cassius would say, the fault is not in the stars, but in the decision that an person tends to make. This belief explains why some characters, such as Cassius believed in omens and located meaning in them. In Act 5 Scene 1, Cassius saw the two eagles that left and were then replaced by crows and ravens. This event is not only an example of an omen of the Roman Empire as discussed above, but it is also an example of Cassius’s belief in fate and how it reflected the Roman Empire. When Cassius sees these two eagles, he sees them as symbols of him and Brutus. When the crows and ravens replace the eagles, Cassius then knows that he will not survive the upcoming battle. If Cassius had conventional beliefs of fate during the Elizabethan era, he would have ignored these birds and would not have observed them as omens of his death. He would have realized that if he have been to die in the battle, it would be due to the fact he was destined to rather than since the birds told him that he would. While Cassius did not act against this omen, (he continued into the battle understanding that he would die) he understood that if he went into battle he would die and that his death could be prevented if the battle was avoided. If Julius Caesar would have had held conventional beliefs of fate during the Roman Empire, he would have acknowledged the warnings from Calpurnia and he would not have gone to the senate that morning. With this details and examples from the play, it is apparent that the themes of fate reflect each the Elizabethan Era and the Roman Empire without having one particular overshadowing the other.

Whilst the various omens and beliefs of fate for the duration of the time of the Elizabethan Era and the Roman Empire had been intriguing, why are they important to the play or to the reader? The distinction among these concepts and the time period they reflect are crucial since they effect the reading and understanding of the play. Because Julius Caesar was a actual and historical character, it can be unclear to the reader what actually occurred or if something in the play is even true. Also, since there are elements of this play that can be identified in other Shakespeare plays, for instance, ghosts and witches as supernatural forces (Macbeth and Hamlet) and nightmares in each Henry III and Macbeth, it is straightforward to consider that Shakespeare just place into the play what he wanted to. Nonetheless, as observed by the omens, portents and ideas of fate, Shakespeare did use a lot of real facts and genuine culture of the Roman Empire to create this play. In truth, An Ancient Rome Chronology, 264-27 B.C. even states “Despite illness and numerous disquieting omens, he (Julius Caesar) decided to attend a meeting of the senate, exactly where he was assassinated.” Certainly, Shakespeare knew the history and understood what occurred throughout the Life of Julius Caesar. Even so, just as Shakespeare added his personal additions must not lead to thinking the play was made up, this knowledge should not lead the reader to believe that the play is biased only on reality. This is why it is important to recognize what time period every thing is coming from so that you realize that a specific occasion really occurred or that Shakespeare added the occasion for some extra impact.

All round, there is a blend of cultures from the Elizabethan Era and the Roman Empire when seeking at omens, supernatural forces, and fate. This blend has established to be crucial to the reader’s potential to realize what they are reading. It is important to recognize the viewpoint from which the play was written and the history behind it. Whilst only omens, supernatural forces, and fate were examined, there are numerous other elements in this play that show a discrepancy amongst roman and Elizabethan cultures. This is why it is crucial for readers to examine information and do study to recognize what point of view they are reading from.
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