Superstitions are thought to be irrational, and resulting from either ignorance,or fear of the unknown. Some believe that superstitions can take control oftheir life, for instance, if a black cat crosses youre path, you will havebad luck.
Most regard this as folklore and witchcraft. In the play Julius Caesarby William Shakespeare, superstitions took hold and played an important part ofmany peoples lives. The characters believed that they were getting a visioninto their future. Each character dealt with the superstition differently, somefeared them, and some disbelieved them. These superstitions not only gave thecharacters, but also the audience quick looks at what is to come. They areimportant, and help shape the way the play was performed, and interpreted.
Thefirst superstition, which was clearly visible, is the soothsayer, who in thefirst act tells Caesar beware the ides of March. This is a superstition, becauseit is irrational, and it comes from a situation of high risk, and involvesinfluences, which are unseen. This also shows Caesars arrogance, its not justthat he is not superstitious, but he also does not even let the soothsayerexplain himself. He laughs at the soothsayer, and says “he is a dreamer, letus leave him, pass. ” The soothsayer is warning him of his own death date, andhe laughs at him.
He does not believe in superstition, and this is clear by hisreaction, 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 thendestiny, and that he will have nothing to worry about. Caesars arrogance costhim his life, and showed that superstitions sometimes do come true. The nextsuperstition occurred the day of his death. Calpurina urges Caesar not to go tosenate today. She tells Caesar of the horrible dream she had, the night beforethe ides of March.
Caesar recalls the dream to the other men. “The cause is inmy will. I will not come. That is enough to satisfy the senate. But for youreprivate 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 afountain with an hundred spouts, did run pure blood; and many lust Romans camesmiling and did bathe their hands in it. And these does she apply for warningsand portents and evils imminent, and on her knee hath begged that I stay at hometoday”(Shakespeare, 79-81) Caesar just recalled and foreshadowed his owndeath, and yet he still leaves for the senate. Caesars arrogance is againshowed. He does not believe in fortune telling, or superstitions, althougheverything is warning him of the upcoming danger he is about to face. His wifehowever, is the opposite of him, in that she is very superstitious, she fearsher dream, and fears for her husband.
There was also another warning Caesarreceived. 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, forthe men believed they could use the beast to determine, if there would be dangertoday. This is an excellent example of a superstition, since it something to usthat seems irrational, but to superstitious people, they would believe that abeast could foretell the future. Everyone, other then Caesar, and in theaudience, could clearly see that he should have not left his home that day, butCaesar believed he was smarter then any omen, or superstition.
This was hisultimate down fall. The other superstition that played part in this play, waswhen 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 heis sitting up reading in his tent.
“Ha, who comes here- I think it is theweakness of mine eyes that shapes this monstrous apparition. It comes uponme-Art thou any thing? Art thou some god, some angel or some devil, that makestmy blood cold and my hair to stare’speak to what thou art. ” “Thy, evilspirit, Brutus” “why comst thou?” “To tell the thou shall see me atPhillippi” ” Well, then I shall see thee again?” “Ay, atPhilippi”(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 hisultimate downfall, however he does not want to be regarded as a fearful orsuperstitious person, so he chose to ignore the omen The superstitions aboutdates, and events play a more important role, then apparent in this play. Theygive dilemma, and drama to the play.
They also reveal many important charactertraits. They can save ones life, or take it. It is all in the personshands how they interpret the superstition. Many people in Brutus orCalpurnias position would not believe that a beast, dream, or ghost couldforetell the future. This is what makes them superstitions. In some cases thoughthey were more then just superstitions, since they came true.
The omens thesecharacters received might have seemed supernatural, or impossible, but for manypeople, they rely upon superstitions, and omens to make decisions. Superstitionsare really left up to interpretation, for example, When Caesar told ofCalpurnias superstition, about her dream, the other men interpreted in asthat, the Romans, were flourishing in Caesars blood and prosperity. Caesarfound superstitions, ridiculous and mocked them. Its really all in how, theperson understands the situation, and how they react to it, this is whatdetermines what a superstition is, and its importance. In this play, thesuperstitions were very important.