What are some literary devices in Act 5, Scene 1 of Julius Caesar?
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A major literary device used in this particular scene is that of foreshadowing. In the first part of the scene we see Antony and Octavius preparing for battle. Up until now, we have seen them presenting a united front; now Octavius throws out an ominous hint that he will override the older and more experienced Antony in future:
I do not cross you; but I will do so. (V.i.20)
Although we do not see this happen in this particular play where both of them end triumphant, this remark by Octavius is of the utmost consequence for the next stage of this historical drama, presented by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra, where Octavius and Antony become rivals and enemies, ending with Antony’s defeat. In Julius Caesar it also serves as a reminder that political alliances can be precarious, in keeping with the brutal nature of the struggle for power, of which we have already seen ample evidence in the play.
Foreshadowing is also used in the case of a more immediate event, the battle that is looming between Antony and Octavius on the one side and Brutus and Cassius on the other. Brutus and Cassius meet to discuss the possible outcome of battle and what they should do in the event of their being defeated. Brutus declares he would rather end his own life than be humiliated or killed by the enemy; and this is exactly what happens to both him and Cassius. Just before this, Cassius also reveals to Messala that while two mighty eagles accompanied his soldiers to the site of battle, now there are only ravens and crows and kites to be seen. Therefore, the birds which are traditionally symbols of strength and royalty and power have deserted them, to be replaced by carrion-feeders; this does not bode at all well for his army.
The literary device of flashback or recapitulation - the opposite of foreshadowing - is also used in this scene. It occurs when the two sides trade insults with one another just before battle. Antony vividly recalls the exact manner of Caesar’s assassination and Cassius sardonically reminds Brutus of his earlier mistake of underestimating Antony against his, Cassius’s wishes:
Now, Brutus, thank yourself;
This tongue had not offended so today,
If Cassius might have ruled. (V.i.45-47)
The dialogue itself, in this confrontation between these four powerful men (the only time they appear all together in the play), functions as an important literary device. It sums up what has gone before and sets the scene for the final decisive battle. It also serves to effectively underline the characterization of these men: the passionate Antony, the equable Brutus, the bitter Cassius and the laconic Octavius.
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