The allegory is a literary device in which characters or events symbolize an aspect of the drama. The use of the allegory enhances the understanding of complex concepts by presenting the idea in a tangible way for the reader or audience.
Often, the allegory conveys hidden meanings through specific ideas, imagery, people, or events. Rather than just explain the idea, the allegory gives meaning to the words. It becomes visual as well as auditory facet to the words.
In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the allegories depend on meaningful messages; the weather; and animals to enhance the action leading up to the assassination.
“Beware the Ides of March!”
The Ides of March is the date of Caesar’s assassination. He was killed on March 15, 44 B.C. The use of the Ides of March phrase extends the understanding of the audience that this is a date to which Caesar should pay attention.
The soothsayer tells Caesar that he should beware this date one month before it occurs. In his conceit, Caesar refutes the soothsayer. The soothsayer comes again to Caesar who flaunts the fact that the date has come and Caesar is fine. Yet, the soothsayer tells Caesar again that the Ides are not over.
In almost every Shakespearean play, there is a storm. The lightning and thunder roar and the characters react. In Act I, scene iii, Cassius and Casca are out on March 14 preparing for the assassination the next day.
As the storm roared, Cassius bared his chest speaking to the gods to show him that they favored his actions. He is not struck by lightning which to him is a sign that the gods want him to follow his plan.
For my part, I have walk'd about the streets,
Submitting me unto the perilous night,
And thus unbraced Casca, as you see
Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone.
Cassius assumes that the stormy weather and the other signs are a warning to the conspirators to watch out for Caesar’s monstrous state of tyranny of Rome.
The main understanding is that when there is lightning and thunder bad things are afoot. Someone is going to die. In this case, it is Caesar…eventually all the conspirators will be dead as well. Everyone who was out on this night will die soon after the assassination. The storm scares Casca who thinks that the bad weather is an omen from the gods expressing the idea that man has not praised or prayed to the gods enough
The animals do strange things in the play.
The lioness gives birth in the street.
The king of all the animals---the lion [who symbolizes Caesar, the king of Rome] ---shows up in a vision of Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife. One lion goes by Casca and does him no harm. The lion does not act normally which Casca interprets as Caesar not behaving as a king should. In addition, Cassius refers to Caesar as “the lion in the Capitol” when he speaks about the need to assassinate him.
Finally, Caesar himself compares his power to that of the lion. Caesar claims that the lion and he were born on the same day; yet, Caesar is more dangerous and terrible than the lion.
One other interesting animal scene is discussed. The nocturnal owl was seen in the daytime screeching. To the conspirators, the owl screams the doom of Rome and the necessity to murder Caesar.
If Caesar had heeded the symbolic signs that are given to him throughout the first two acts of the play, the course of history might have changed significantly. That is the value of allegories.