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Compare and contrast the characters of Calphurnia and Portia in Shakespeare's play...

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kunnu | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 22, 2008 at 4:12 PM via web

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Compare and contrast the characters of Calphurnia and Portia in Shakespeare's play Julius Caeser.

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jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted December 22, 2008 at 8:53 PM (Answer #1)

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Calphurnia and Portia are women married to very strong men, during a time when men were stronger than usual.  They must be equally strong, in order to endure the trials and tribulations that come with their husbands' positions.  Calphurnia's husband, Caesar, is on a mission to conquer Rome; while Portia's husband, Brutus, is out to stop him.

Calphurnia's role in the play is fairly small, in terms of lines of text, etc.  However, her role is significant, because she tries to stop her husband's death.  She warns Caesar to stay home from the senate, and if he had listened to her, he would have escaped the plot to murder him.  Instead, he was coerced by the murderers not to listen to his wife, for such a thing might weaken his image.  Calphurnia's dream is foreshadowing, and Caesar's pride causes him to ignore her dream and her warning (and we all know how well that worked out for him).

Now Portia, that's a tough woman.  She is desperate to understand what Brutus goes through, even though he tries to shield her from the truth.  She stabs herself in the leg to prove she's strong enough to handle that truth, and later swallows hot coals to end her own life.  It doesn't get much tougher than that.  Her role is more vocal than Calphurnia's, and she tries to keep her husband out of trouble as well, but neither woman can prevent her husband's demise.

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ashcat | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 23, 2008 at 12:17 AM (Answer #2)

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Some of the similarities between Calpurnia and Portia are:

*They are the wives of important men in Rome's society

*Their warnings of impending doom are ignored by the men they love

*They are both given relatively small roles within the play and serve as the voice of caution and foreshadowing as each woman suspects that horrible things will befall their husbands

Some of the differences between Portia and Calpurnia are:

*Calpurnia's worry is brought on by strange dreams and images of nature while Portia's worry is brought on by logical deduction as she observes her husband's secret meetings and odd behavior an concludes that something is amiss

*Calpurnia listens to her husband and ceases her attempts to stop him from leaving for the forum. Portia supposedly listens to her husband but actually has a messenger boy sent out to spy on Brutus for her

*Portia is praised, honored and appreciated by her husband (2.1) who wishes to become worthy of her. Calpurnia is not appreciated by Caesar because she cannot bear children and treated more like an ornament than a partner in marriage

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