During the life and times of William Shakespeare, prophecy held heavy influence over the Elizabethan people. The term prophecy represented the only certain method of predicting future events; Shakespeare uses this fact to his advantage in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Throughout the play, prophecy is utilized to aid in the development of primary characters such as Caesar, Casca, Cassius, and Brutus that will in turn emphasize important events in the tragedy.
Until he is assassinated, Julius Caesar is characterized by his lack of interest in warnings, specifically those that take the form of a prophecy. Toward the start of the play, a soothsayer warns, “Beware the ides of March” (I.ii.24). Caesar responds, “He is a dreamer, let us leave him. Pass” (I.ii.25). In doing so, the character of Caesar presents himself to the Elizabethan audience as scandalously bold, a hamartia that will follow him throughout the remainder of the play. For example, when Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, dreams of Caesar’s statue bleeding, he says only, “What can be avoided / Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?” (II.ii.27-28). Later, when the matter is again brought up before he leaves to attend the Senate meeting, he explains:
The gods do this in shame of cowardice:
Caesar should be a beast without a heart
If he should stay at home today for fear.
No, Caesar shall not; Danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he. (II.ii.41-45)
By this point in the play, the audience would think Caesar’s death to be easily avoidable if not for his audacity. Thus, the Elizabethan viewers watch the assassination with far more distress than they would without Caesar’s character flaw.
In contrast to Caesar, the character of Casca is presented as entirely...
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...sting nature. Because the ghost has said nothing about any sort of harm coming to Brutus, he does not fear the ghost. This lack of response thus once again portrays Brutus’ admirable belief in the fundamental good of all people. As with Cassius, actions taken by Brutus as a result of prophecy serve to create more sympathy for him at the time of his death.
To conclude, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is enhanced thoroughly by the character development presented through responses to prophetic occurrences, specifically those referring to such central figures as Caesar, Casca, Cassius, and Brutus. Shakespeare has provided actors, audiences, and readers everywhere with a work of art that fantastically presents the nature of people and emotional demise. As such, Julius Caesar and its creator are globally known and recognized for their importance in the world of literature.
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