Superstition or Truth Superstitions are thought to be irrational, and resulting from either ignorance, or fear of the unknown. Some believe that superstitions can take control of their life, for instance, if a black cat crosses youre path, you will have bad luck. Most regard this as folklore and witchcraft. In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, superstitions took hold and played an important part of many peoples lives. The characters believed that they were getting a vision into their future.
Each character dealt with the superstition differently, some feared them, and some disbelieved them. These superstitions not only gave the characters, but also the audience quick looks at what is to come. They are important, and help shape the way the play was performed, and interpreted. The first superstition, which was clearly visible, is the soothsayer, who in the first act tells Caesar beware the ides of March. This is a superstition, because it is irrational, and it comes from a situation of high risk, and involves influences, which are unseen. This also shows Caesars arrogance, its not just that he is not superstitious, but he also does not even let the soothsayer explain himself.
He laughs at the soothsayer, and says “he is a dreamer, let us leave him, pass.” The soothsayer is warning him of his own death date, and he laughs at him. He does not believe in superstition, and this is clear by his reaction, many others in his situation would be fearful of the ides of March, from the warning and omen, he got. Caesar believes he is more powerful then destiny, and that he will have nothing to worry about. Caesars arrogance cost him his life, and showed that superstitions sometimes do come true. The next superstition occurred the day of his death.
Calpurina urges Caesar not to go to senate today. She tells Caesar of the horrible dream she had, the night before the ides of March. Caesar recalls the dream to the other men. “The cause is in my will. I will not come. That is enough to satisfy the senate.
But for youre private satisfaction, because I love you, I will let you know. Calpurnia here, my wife stays me out home. She dreamt tonite she saw my statue, which like a fountain with an hundred spouts, did run pure blood; and many lust Romans came smiling and did bathe their hands in it. And these does she apply for warnings and portents and evils imminent, and on her knee hath begged that I stay at home today”(Shakespeare, 79-81) Caesar just recalled and foreshadowed his own death, and yet he still leaves for the senate. Caesars arrogance is again showed.
He does not believe in fortune telling, or superstitions, although everything is warning him of the upcoming danger he is about to face. His wife however, is the opposite of him, in that she is very superstitious, she fears her dream, and fears for her husband. There was also another warning Caesar received. When several men killed a beast, in the streets, they slaughtered him, and found no heart. This slaughtering of the beast was also a superstition, for the men believed they could use the beast to determine, if there would be danger today.
This is an excellent example of a superstition, since it something to us that seems irrational, but to superstitious people, they would believe that a beast could foretell the future. Everyone, other then Caesar, and in the audience, could clearly see that he should have not left his home that day, but Caesar believed he was smarter then any omen, or superstition. This was his ultimate down fall. The other superstition that played part in this play, was when Brutus was confronted with the ghost of Caesar, before he entered battle. This superstition foretells of his own down fall.
The ghost comes to him, as he is sitting up reading in his tent. “Ha, who comes here- I think it is the weakness of mine eyes that shapes this monstrous apparition. It comes upon me-Art thou any thing? Art thou some god, some angel or some devil, that makest my blood cold and my hair to stare? Speak to what thou art.” “Thy, evil spirit, Brutus” “why comst thou?” “To tell the thou shall see me at Phillippi” ” Well, then I shall see thee again?” “Ay, at Philippi”(171-173) This is Brutuss superstition, about going into battle. He is fearful of death, and of Caesar. He knew that the ghost was an omen of his ultimate downfall, however he does not want to be regarded as a fearful or superstitious person, so he chose to ignore the omen The superstitions about dates, and events play a more important role, then apparent in this play.
They give dilemma, and drama to the play. They also reveal many important character traits. They can save ones life, or take it. It is all in the persons hands how they interpret the superstition. Many people in Brutus or Calpurnias position would not believe that a beast, dream, or ghost could foretell the future.
This is what makes them superstitions. In some cases though they were more then just superstitions, since they came true. The omens these characters received might have seemed supernatural, or impossible, but for many people, they rely upon superstitions, and omens to make decisions. Superstitions are really left up to interpretation, for example, When Caesar told of Calpurnias superstition, about her dream, the other men interpreted in as that, the Romans, were flourishing in Caesars blood and prosperity. Caesar found superstitions, ridiculous and mocked them.
Its really all in how, the person understands the situation, and how they react to it, this is what determines what a superstition is, and its importance. In this play, the superstitions were very important.