Julius Caesar: random thoughts

Just a couple of quick hits from the deeper dive into Julius Caesar

Portia/Calpurnia

So last month, I talked a little about Portia’s “weak condition” and how I feel that this is an allusion to Portia’s historical pregnancy. If that’s the case and she’s visibly pregnant, and if Portia’s onstage at the beginning of Act One, Scene Two (as is described in the stage direction), then what is the reaction of Calpurnia, when Caesar tells her to stand in Antony’s way and get thwacked with his goatskin thong to “shake off (her) sterile curse” (I.ii.11)?

 

Like Father, Like Son

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the concept of Brutus being Caesar’s son (since Brutus’ mother had been a lover of Caesar’s, and the use of “kind” in Antony’s funeral oration [not to mention Plutarch’s statement that Brutus’ dagger thrust was to Caesar’s groin]). If that’s the case, there is certainly some similar personality traits:

In Act Two, Scene One, Decius describes how he can get Caesar to follow him to the Capitol, he jokes that Caesar “loves to hear” (II.i.203) that men can be betrayed

                                   flatterers;
But when I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does, being then most flattered
  • II.i.206-8

Yet, one could say the same of Brutus, and how he was talked into the conspiracy by Cassius, who regales Brutus with talk of his “worthiness” (II.i.59), nobility, and “honor” (II.i.94). Cassius knows that the way to Brutus’ heart, as it were, is though “the great opinion // That Rome holds of his name” (II.i.318-9).

Brutus also has a linguist trait of Caesar: the self-referential use of third person: he uses his own name 4 times before the assassination (not counting the times he reads his name in the planted note), and an additional 7 times after the death of Caesar. Caesar, on the other hand, in one-third of the scenes, refers to himself in the third person seventeen times.

When Brutus sends away the poet in Act Four, Scene Two, he says, “Get you hence, sirrah; saucy fellow, hence!” (IV.ii.186). Note the same dismissiveness as when responds to the Soothsayer in Act One, Scene Two, “He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass!” (I.ii.26).

Nothing like a little hereditary arrogance, right?

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