What does Caesar's reaction to the soothsayer indicate about his character in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

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carol-davis's profile pic

carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene ii, Caesar is on his way into the Colosseum with his entourage.  The crowd has been waiting to see Caesar.  Suddenly, someone calls Caesar's name.  Caesar hears him and asks who spoke to him.  The soothsayer steps forward.  Also called a seer, the soothsayer was someone who makes predictions of the future usually on the basis of special knowledge. 

In a shrill voice, the soothsayer announces:

Beware the Ides of March. [The word Ides refers to the middle of any month or the 15th day.]

Caesar did not understand him because he was somewhat hard of hearing.  Brutus tells him what he said.  Caesar then asks for the man to come to him.

The soothsayer faces him and repeats:

Beware the Ides of March.

Caesar listens but then tells everyone that the man is just a dreamer and get away from him.

Caesar encounters the soothsayer again in Act III, Scene 1. It is now the Ides of March. Caesar is on his way into the Capitol and senate to speak to the senators.  Taunting the soothsayer, Caesar goes by him and states:

The Ides of March are here.

Essentially he was letting the soothsayer know that he did not believe him because it is now March 15th, and nothing has happened to him. In fact, this might be the greatest day of Caesar's life.

Eerily, the soothsayer replies:

Ay, Caesar, but not gone.

Obviously, the soothsayer knows something. Caesar should have listened to him. 

In Act II, Scene ii, Caesar had the priests offer a sacrifice and read the entrails of the sacrifice to find about the upcoming day.  The fortune tellers tell Caesar to stay at home.  The guts had given bad omens about what was to happened on that day.  Caesar was somewhat superstitious; however, he was who he was, and really would not listen to anyone but his own judgment.

Since he was not particularly supertitious, Caesar did not believe the soothsayer's warning.  This was one time that following a seer's forecasts might have paid off for the great Julius Caesar.

user6627394's profile picture

user6627394 | eNotes Newbie

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Caesar is actually superstitious as seen in Act 1 Scene 2 when he makes Anthony run the course to cure Calphurnia of her infertility. However, Caesar is a very egoistic person and thinks highly of himself to the extent where he deludes himself by thinking that he is invincible and that nothing can harm him. His ego and false sense of security supersedes his own beliefs and any regard for his safety. Hence he dismissed the soothsayer.

darshika25's profile pic

darshika25 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

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Julius Caesar is a great soldier in the story.However Shakespeare presented him to us with lots of flaws.He has too much weaknesses for a hero.

One of his greatest flaw is that he is overconfident of himself;this is what Shakespeare shows to us when he ignores the soothsayer's sayings.

In this scene,Caesar wanted to see who called him to tell him to 'beware the ides of march'.When he saw that it was the soothsayer,he completely ignores him and referred to him as a dreamer.This shows us that he is careless for his own safety and that he is arrogant.

When the ides of march have come,then Caesar taunts him by saying'The Ides of March are come'this clearly reveals his arrogance and overconfidence.

However Caesar pays heavily for his life for having ignored the soothsayer's warning.

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