Character of Calpurnia in Julius Caesar
Calpurnia’s Fear of Omens, and Her Warning to Caesar
The character of Calpurnia has only slightly been drawn by Shakespeare, She appears in one single scene, and that also briefly. During the night she had seen a dream in which she had cried out for help because she had seen Caesar being murdered in the dream). In fact, she had cried out three times during the night because of the dreadful dream which she had seen.
In the morning when Calpurnia finds Caesar getting ready for the Senate-meeting, she tells him that he must not stir out of his house on this day because the watchmen had witnessed some horrid sights in the course of the night. She tells him that a lioness had been seen giving birth to her young ones in the streets, that graves had been seen opening and allowing the ghosts inside to move out, and that fierce, bloody battles had been fought in the clouds. She says that she had never before believed in omens but that she is now feeling frightened of them. When Caesar argues that these omens apply to the world in general as much as to him, she gives a reply which contains much sense and which, in fact, has become famous because of its pithy quality. Says she:
“When beggars die, there are no comets seen:
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
What Calpurnia means to say here is that no omens occur when ordinary people die, and that omens are seen only when big men such as kings and rulers are about to die. However, Caesar is not inclined to attach much importance to Calpurnia’s view of the matter.
Calpurnia’s Urgent Entreaty to Caesar
When Caesar ignores even the advice of the priests, Calpurnia regretfully tells him that his wisdom is consumed in confidence, meaning that his self-confidence is so excessive that it makes him blind to the realities around him. As Caesar has declared that he is not afraid of any danger, she implores him not to go out of the house on this day on the basis of her fears and not on the basis of any fears of his own. Thereupon Caesar does yield to her wish, saying that he would stay at home on this day just to please her and not because he is afraid of any omens. Subsequently, however, Caesar again decides to go out of doors because Decius Brutus has interpreted Calpurnia’a dream of last night favourably.
Calpurnia’s Love and Devotion to Caesar
Calpurnia feels terrified by the omens and by her own dream: but she feels terrified not for herself but for her husband’s sake. The omens, she says, have been sent to foretell the death of Caesar. That is why she entreats him not to invite disaster by going to the Senate-house. “Call it my fear that keeps you in the house, and not your own.” she says. But what she achieves is immediately afterwards nullified by Decius Brutus. However, in these few moments, she has given striking proof of her love for Caesar and her devotion to him. On the whole, therefore, she is as admirable a wife as Portia is. There is nothing in the play to justify the view that she is a weak person devoid of firmness or resoluteness.
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