Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Julius Caesar - Does Intuition Matter?


When Caesar sees Cassius, he tells Antony, "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look./ He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous" (1.2.204-205). And Antony replies: "Fear him not."

As John McLaughlin might say – Wrong!

When Cassius and Brutus are plotting against Caesar, Cassius argues that, "I think it not meet/ Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,/ Should outlive Caesar. … / Let Antony and Caesar fall together" (2.1.168-170, 174). And Brutus replies, "for Mark Antony, think not of him,/ For he can do no more than Caesar's arm/ When Caesar's head is off."


And poor Calphurnia has had a dream in which Caesar is murdered and the Capitol and a statue of Caesar run red with blood that bathes the hands of smiling Romans. She recommends to Caesar that "You shall not stir out of your house today" (2.2.9). Caesar, after Decius suggests this is his only chance to earn a crown from the senate, says "How foolish your fears seem now, Calphurnia!/ I am ashamed I did yield to them./ Give me my robe, for I will go."


In all three cases, good advice is overlooked. What does this say about the characters of those who fail to heed such words of wisdom? And is it a function of tragedy that they do so? In Romeo and Juliet, such moments suggested the intercession of Fortune, Fate, or mere coincidence, but in Julius Caesar, the events that lead characters to their doom are significantly human. Has Shakespeare freed himself from concerns about Fate?


(Quotes from Folger edition)


Anonymous said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Mind Power

Zach said...


I agree that it appears as though many of the characters in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar lack true judgment in crucial decisions. In addition to the three examples that you have mentioned, there is another poor judgment call that Caesar makes when encountering the Soothsayer. When told to beware the ides of March, Caesar thinks nothing of it and says "he is a dreamer, let us leave him" (1.2.24). It seems as though the majority of these instances of poor judgment derive from Julius Caesar himself; two of your examples also include him as being "wrong". As others have questioned on this subject why this is the tragedy of Julius Caesar, who dies in the third act, and not some other character, such as Brutus, can probably be answered by this fact. An element of a Shakespearean tragedy includes these poor decisions because without them, we would not arrive at the catastrophic conclusion that makes a tragedy so tragic. In particular, it is Julius Caesar's hubris that ultimately leads him to his downfall- that he refuses to listen to anything that goes against him either because he does not believe it or does not want to believe it. I believe Shakespeare wanted to expose this fatal flaw to reason his death rather than let it simply be a result of the Fates' decision.


TyD said...

Good advice is also ignored by Caesar when the Soothsayer warns, "Beware the ides of March." Caesar ignores this warning and replies, "He is a dreamer, let us leave him." Caesar,along with Antony and Brutus display overconfidence in their beliefs/power and fail to recognize the impending tragedies that are to occur. Tragedy is a predominate factor throughout the story of Julius Caesar. Even though it is human decisions that result in the actions that occur, it cannot be ruled out that fate is not influencing these humans to be ignoring the words of wisdom.