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What are some literary techniques that are significant in Julius Caesar?

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willtchiu | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 27, 2012 at 8:09 PM via web

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What are some literary techniques that are significant in Julius Caesar?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 27, 2012 at 10:04 PM (Answer #1)

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Certainly, much of the beauty of Shakespeare's plays comes from his masterful employment of literary techniques. Here are some examples:

1. Perhaps the most significant figure of speech is the metaphor from Act IV, Scene 3, in which Brutus refuses to listen to the advice of Cassius to not march to Philippi, but rather let the triumvirate's troops come to them: 

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries. (4.3.217-220)

In this moment before Philippi, Brutus forgets that tides must also fall. Critic R. A. Yoder observes that the metaphor is appropriate for the play: Caesar as risen and fallen, and so, too, does Brutus, and ultimately does Antony.

That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,(2.1.22-25)

2. In this passage from the soliloquy of Brutus, "ambition's ladder" is a metaphor for Caesar's desire for power which can lead to tyranny as expressed by "the ladder turns its back."

3. Further in this soliloquy, Brutus compares Caesar to "a serpent's egg" (l.32) in a simile.

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma or a hideous dream (2.63-65)

4. In this passage, Brutus uses a simile to compare talking about an action and completing this action as disturbing, a "hideous dream."

5. Finally, there is much visual imagery back in Act I, Scene 3, as Casca relates what he has observed to Cassius.  He reports having seen the heavens dropping fire, a hand ablaze, but not actually burning, a lion roaming through the streets, "blue lightning," an owl hooting in the marketplace, and men on fire.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 27, 2012 at 8:50 PM (Answer #3)

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I think you would find a lot of literary techniques in Mark Antony's funeral oration. He refers to Caesar's wounds as "poor, poor dumb mouths" and later says he would "put a tongue in every wound of Caesar that should bid the stones of Rome to rise and mutiny." He also says something very complicated about how if he were Brutus and Brutus were Antony, although he obviously doesn't really mean that he would like to be able to speak like Brutus when he is doing so much better speaking as himself.

At the beginning of his speech he says, "Lend me your ears." This is apparently intended to make his auditors laugh at him and think him an incompetent orator, while at the same time giving Brutus and anyone else of Brutus's faction the impression that they are not going to have to worry about Antony having any strong effect on the assembled mob. Then there is the simile about the blood of Caesar rushing out of doors to be resolved if Brutus so unkindly knocked or no. And Antony says that Brutus was Caesar's angel, a metaphor.

You can also find good examples in Antony's soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1, which ends with:

And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Ate by his side come hot from hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice

Cry "havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth

With carrion men, groaning for burial.

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