Imagery, symbols and allusions
Pagan references permeate the text including a belief in the supernatural which is shown to be deceptive:
Calpurnia’s dream convinces Caesar not to visit the Senate A conspirator Decius reinterprets the omens and persuades Caesar to appear at the Senate. Shakespeare’s effective use of dramatic irony is seen here too when Caesar’s nobility and courage facilitate the conspirators’ plans.
Animal imagery dominates the omens, symbolic of power and later of the destructive primitive forces about to be unleashed by violent action precipitating a chain reaction of destruction. Elizabethan audiences, themselves conflicted in a desire for social stability were susceptible to omens and feared the supernatural.
‘Against the Capitol I met a lion
Who gaz’d upon me/and went surly by’
…‘men all on fire, walk up and down the streets.’
(Act Sc 2 ll 14 – 32)
Caesar describes himself before attending the Forum:
…Danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
We are two lions littered in one day
And I the older and more terrible.
(Act 2. Sc 2. ll. 44- 47)
Birds of prey are representations of defeat for the conspirators.
Two mighty eagles fell; and there they perch’d,
Gorging and feeding from our soldiers’ hands,
…This morning they are fled away and gone,
And in their stead do ravens, crows, and kites,
As we are sickly prey.
(Act 5 Sc 1.ll 79- 86)
Caesar’s blood is variously represented as a source of salvation for Rome by Brutus before the assassination and when Brutus refuses to kill Mark Antony.
Our course will seem too bloody, Ciaus Cassius,
To cut the head off and then hack the limbs –
…Let’s be sacrificers, but not butchers, Ciaus.
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,
And in spirit of men there is no blood.
O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit,
And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it…
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