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The play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare begins on the day of the Lupercal. Originally, the Lupercal had been a feast of fertility of the animals, celebrating the spring when animals bred and gave birth to their young. On this day, February 15, 44 B.C., Caesar and his wife Calpurnia have come to watch the race. The Lupercal has changed in time to represent fertility for women as well.
Calpurnia and Caesar were married in 59 B. C. Calpurnia was a 16 year old virgin at the time of their marriage and was Caesar's third wife. They loved each other despite Caesar's dalliances with Cleopatra and their illegitimate son.
Calpurnia depended on omens and portents to supervise her life. Highly superstitious, she believed that her dreams foretold the future. Thus, in Act II, Scene ii, Calpurnia warns Caesar not to go the Senate. This has been reported by Plutarch as an actual event between the couple.
On this day, Marc Antony will run in the Lupercalia race to demonstrate his athletic prowess. Considered to be a man among men to the Romans, Antony fought in great battles, proving his bravery and courage. He has been charged today with a special errand for Caesar.
Although Caesar would deny his beliefs in omens, he assigns Marc Antony to carry out one of the Lupercal's superstitions.
CAESAR (to Calpurnia)
Stand you directly in Antonius' way,
When he doth run his course. Antonius!
Caesar, my lord?
Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.
Calpurnia was to stand near the street. As Antony passed by he is to touch Calpurnia so that she might become pregnant and bare Caesar a son. Antony does complete this task as ordered by Caesar. Caesar wants a son with his legal wife to follow him as the ruler of Rome.
Of course, no such son is forth coming. Caesar will be dead in a month, and Calpurnia is not pregnant. Obviously, this superstition was prevented from completion possibly by the Soothsayer, who warns Caesar to beware the Ides of March. Of course, Caesar pays no mind to this portent or forecast and goes into the nest of conspirators.
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