An Illusion of Fate

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Modern society has largely dismissed the existence of fate, choosing to believe that we act on free will. However, in Julius Caesar, Shakespeare argues that life is immutably controlled by fate, often through the illusion of free will.

Cassius, the leader of the conspirators, is one of the largest demonstrations of the effects of fate. Cassius denies the power of fate, stating that “Men at some times are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (1.2.140-142). He argues that his status in life is due to his actions, not those of fate. He seeks to change fate through free will, trying to alter the apparent fate (Caesar becoming emperor) by killing Caesar. However, there’s a flaw in his plan. Caesar has been fated to die on the Ides of March, as forewarned by the soothsayer, Calpurnia, and Artemidorus. In killing Caesar, Cassius has become a pawn of fate. He believed he was acting under free will, indignantly insisting fate didn’t control him, even as he did fate’s dirty work. Cassius does, in the very end, free himself from fate, but through death. He tells the conspirators that “Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius. Therein, ye gods, you make the weak most strong; Therein, ye gods, you tyrants do defeat.”(1.3.90-92). Cassius does truly escape fate, but at the high cost of his life.

Caesar is also another clear picture of fate in this work, as he fell victim to its ill effects. Despite being repeatedly warned of of his fate, he died anyway. Calpurnia gave him a particularly graphic warning, dreaming that “A lioness hath whelped in the streets, and graves have yawned 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 do neigh, and dying men did groan, and ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.” (2.2.17-24). Caesar...
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