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In Julius Caesar, what does "O ye gods, render me worthy of this noble wife!" mean?

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radostina | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:49 PM via iOS

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In Julius Caesar, what does "O ye gods, render me worthy of this noble wife!" mean?

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 6, 2013 at 1:02 AM (Answer #1)

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In Act II, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus has an important meeting with the men who are conspiring to assassinate Julius Caesar. After the meeting breaks up, Brutus's wife Portia enters and begins to question her husband about the reason for this late meeting and for his strange recent behavior. Most significantly she asks:

That you unfold to me, your self, your half,
Why you are heavy, and what men tonight
Have had resort to you -- for here have been
Some six or seven, who did hide their faces
Even from darkness.

Brutus keeps trying to put her off, and she keeps insisting on having him share his secrets and his plans with her. Finally she says:

Tell me your counsels; I will not disclose 'em.
I have made strong proof of my constancy,
Giving myself a voluntary wound
Here in the thigh. Can I bear that with patience,
And not my husband's secrets?

Brutus is greatly moved by his wife's reminder of her proof of her strength of character and her loyalty. He exclaims:

O ye gods,
Render me worthy of this noble wife!

This is not a prayer but more of an exclamation of strong feeling. Although he is not saying this directly to Portia, it is for her benefit. She has succeeded in persuading him to confide in her--but just then someone knocks at his front door and he concludes this long dialogue with his wife by saying:

Hark, hark, one knocks. Portia, go in a while,
And by and by thy bosom shall partake
The secrets of my heart.
All my engagements I will construe to thee,
All the charactery of my sad brows.
Leave me with haste.

Shakespeare chose to create a long, growing buildup to the actual assassination, which does not take place until the first scene of Act III. In Act II, Scene 1, Brutus expresses the mood Shakespeare is trying to achieve with this foreshadowing of Caesar's assassination in some famous lines:

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream.
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in counsel, and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

The interim between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion is more dramatic than the event itself, and Shakespeare evidently intended to extract the maximum dramatic effect from that interim.

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