The subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic: "the theme of the sermon was reverence". Almost everything a person reads has some sort of theme, without a theme, is the material really meaningful? When one is asked to identify the theme of a work of literature there is not one right answer, but many. In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, power and masculinity go hand-in-hand, pride holds both positive and negative qualities, and friendship results in manipulation and violent betrayals.
In ancient Rome, it was a “man’s world” where men are considered weak and cowardly at any sign of fear or emotion and women are considered inferior and irrelevant simply because they were women. In act one, Cassius attempts to undermine Caesar’s authority as a leader by attacking his masculinity multiple times: “But ere we could arrive the point proposed, / Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'...”(Shakespeare), here Cassius tells of a time when Caesar had tried to prove his bravery and nearly drowns in the Tiber river and called out to Cassius for help. In another instance, Cassius tells of a time when Caesar was ill and had to ask for water, “Alas, it cried 'Give me some drink, Titinius,' / As a sick girl. Ye gods, it doth amaze me”(Shakespeare). In ancient Rome, being sick or in distress was a sign of weakness and lack of manliness.
In act two, Portia attempts to persuade Brutus to share his secrets with her by telling him if he will not tell her, then she is simply his harlot, not his wife:
Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
Is it excepted I should know no secrets
That appertain to you? Am I yourself
But, as it were, in sort or limitation,
To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed,
And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the suburbs
Of your good pleasure? If it be no more,
Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife. (Shmoop Editorial Team)
After a failing attempt to convince Marcus Brutus to confide in her, she decides to prove her strength by giving herself a voluntary wound in her thigh, “I have made strong proof of my constancy, / Giving myself a voluntary wound / Here, in the thigh: can I bear that with patience”(Shmoop Editorial Team).
Caesar completely disregards his Calpurnia’s, his wife, ominous dream so he will not be seen as a coward to the other men, “Calphurnia here, my wife, stays me at home: / She dreamt to-night she saw my statue, / Which, like a fountain with an hundred spouts, / Did run pure blood:....”(Crowther). Calpurnia begs Caesar to stay home because ancient Rome was very superstitious and she had dreamt of his death. At first, Caesar agrees because, in reality, he too is superstitious and fearful, until Decius persuades him. “ How foolish do your fears seem now, Calphurnia! / I am ashamed I did yield to them. / Give me my robe, for I will go“ (Crowther), Decius changes the interpretation of Calpurnia’s dream by telling Caesar that Calpurnia is unable to properly interpret her dream and everyone would question his manhood and power if he listened to his wife. Although masculinity was a problem for both men and women in ancient Rome, pride seems to be more troublesome for the men versus the women.
Julius Caesar’s lack of humility and extreme arrogance throughout his time in the play is blinding him, but Marcus Brutus’ humbleness leads him to seem wiser and more likeable compared to Caesar. Caesar’s prideful arrogance shields him from seeing the harm the conspirators accuse him of and the harm that is being planned against him: “Caesar shall forth: the things that threaten'd me / Ne'er look'd but on my back; when they shall see / The face of Caesar, they are vanished” (Crowther).
The women, Portia and Clapurnia, are less affected by arrogance because for one, they lack the ability to hold arrogance. Calpurnia is open and honest...