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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When he returns to Rome from the war against Pompey, Julius Caesar enters the city to the adulation of many. When a soothsayer approaches and warns Caesar to "beware the ides of March" (1.2.21), the confident Caesar does not heed the warning, calling the man "a dreamer." Having dismissed this warning, Caesar delights in the glory, and when he is offered a crown of laurel, he seems tempted to put it on. It is this action, along with the death of Pompey, who was with him in the First Triumvirate, that causes Brutus to worry that Caesar might not continue to be honorable and just if he is given sole authority of Rome.

The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,
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,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may. (2.1.18–25)

Although he has ignored the soothsayer who has approached him, when his troubled wife comes to him and reports her dream, Caesar listens and responds with a certain fatalism. Caesar tells her, "It seems to me most strange that men should fear, / Seeing that death, a necessary end, / Will come when it will come." (2.2.33–35) Further, he compares himself to a lion, saying that he and Danger are two lions from the same litter, and he is the stronger. In response, Calpurnia accuses him of being overly confident. She begs him to stay home and "Call it my fear / That keeps you in the house and not your own." (2.2.53–54) She urges him to send Mark Antony to say that Caesar is not well. To humor his wife, Caesar agrees to do so. However, when Decius arrives to escort Caesar to the Senate House and Caesar tells him why he is not going, Decius reinterprets Calpurnia's dream and then informs Caesar that the Senate plans to

give this day a crown to mighty Caesar....
If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper
"Lo, Caesar is afraid?" (2.2.98–105)

Caesar reconsiders his decision after hearing Decius's interpretation of the dream and the news that he is to be offered a crown. He then tells Calpurnia that her fears now seem foolish, adding that he is ashamed to have yielded to them. He departs with Decius.

When Caesar arrives at the Senate, Artemidorus approaches with a letter, urging him to read it because it warns him of Brutus, Cassius, and the other conspirators, but Caesar dismisses him because he has already been indecisive and he wishes to display confidence now. Unfortunately, this is a fatal mistake.

Shakespeare's portrayal of Julius Caesar is that of a complex character who is sometimes reasonable but at times arrogant. At other times he is superstitious, or compassionate, or unapproachable. A complex character, Caesar is a man whom nobles such as Brutus and Cassius have reason to fear—but he is not villainous.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Julius Caesar is described as ambitious by his enemies. Whatever may be said of him, he wants to be well thought of by everyone.  He is vain and perhaps self-centered.  It. is not necessarily clear that he is indeed, ambitious. He does work hard, as he refuses to stay home from the Senate because of Calphurnia's dream (athough it is because a "friend" has interpreted the dream in a way to appeal to his vanity, making the horrible dream into one that honors him throughout all of Rome).  He refuses the crown not once, but three times.

He also suffers from the "falling down" sickness or epilepsy, which could concern Caesar as appearing weak in the eyes of his fellow Romans.  He seems to be always alert as to outward appearances.

Caesar is also seen as a superstitious man who views Cassius as one with a "lean and hungry look".  He doesn't trust very many, and the ones he does trust--Brutus--betrays him.

He could also be seen as hard and unfeeling since he treats Calphurnia with such disregard when he openly requests that Mark Antony touch her during the Feast of Lupercal to heal her barrenness.  It is not unusual that he wants a son, but it is insensitive to request it in this manner for his wife.

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Julius Caesar

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