Do you think Shakepeare's female characters seem to be as brave and smart as his male characters in Julius Caesar?William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Calpurnia and Portia of Julius Caesar are truly feminine characters and, as such, it is perhaps unfair to compare them with male characters who exist in entirely different spheres from them.  Both are loving and loyal wives, certainly, as they are concerned about their husband's welfare.  Both Calpurnia and Portia seem to possess an acumen which their husbands do not.  In Act II, for instance, Portia realizes that something bothers her husband and remarks, having noticed that Cassius and others were there,

Hoping it was but an effect of humor,
Which sometime hath his hour with every man.
It will not let you eat, nor talk, nor sleep,
And, could it work so much upon your shape
As it hath much prevail'd on your condition,
I should not know you, Brutus. Dear my lord,
Make me acquainted with your cause of grief. (2.1.261-267)

When Brutus patronizes her, saying that she is his true wife to whom he is endeared, she counters by telling him that she understands her position as a woman, but she shows her strength by stabbing herself in her thigh.  Portia explains that if she can bear that pain like a man, she can also bear her husband's secrets "with patience."  As the wife of the great stoic Cato, Portia proves that she is

A woman well reputed, Cato's daughter.
Think you I am no stronger than my sex,
Being so father'd and so husbanded?
Tell me your counsels, I will not disclose them.(2.1.310)

Brutus does not disclose his plans to her until it is too late for her to discuss them with him.  Then, she is burdened with his action as much as Brutus himself.  And, having lived with this secret when she can do nothing as a woman about it, Portia silences herself forever by eating burning coals.  One critic writes that Portia has decided to meet "fire with fire" as she has burned with Brutus's secret so she burns to keep it forever.  In this respect, her dying is not cowardly at all, but brave.

Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, too is an exceptional woman.  For, she, too, exhibits much perception in Act II, Scene 1, when she reports to her husband her dreams.  When Caesar rejects her suggestion that he stay home as cowardly and accepts what may happen fatalistically, Calpurnia shows more strength and rationality as she tells him that he can put the blame on her and she will shoulder it:

Alas, my lord,
Your wisdom is consumed in confidence.
Do not go forth today. Call it my fear
That keeps you in the house and not your own.
We'll send Mark Antony to the Senate-house,
And he shall say you are not well today.
Let me, upon my knee, prevail in this. (2.2.51-57)

Then, Caesar agrees; however, when he tells Decius he is not coming, he is persuaded against Calpurnia, and tells her yer fears seem foolish.  He is not willing to trust her or rely upon her strength, which she demonstrates.


hilahmarca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's hard to say because the character development isn't really there.  What we know about Portia and Calpurnia is limited.  They both seem to have great instinct and awareness.  Calpurnia knows Caesar will be in great danger if he goes to the Senate, while Portia can sense something is troubling Brutus, and he is in the process of doing something very dangerous.  The men would have been better off taking their wives' advice, listening to them, and confiding in them a little more.  However, the downside of these women is Portia is too emotional, while Calpurnia doesn't stand on even ground with Caesar.  Both their position in society and dispositions block them from using their intelligence to its greatest potential.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that the women characters in the William Shakespeare play Julius Caesar are stronger than the male characters, at least by today's standards. The women seem to be the voice of reason urging the men to stay home, to share what is distressing them. The women stand alone. The men only function as a unit. Their personal feelings are disregarded as they each go along with the crowd. This does not show strength of character.

killer98 | Student

Hmm good question.

The females in Julius Caesar are actually more smarter then the males even though the men have the power and lineage unlike the women.

Both Portia and Calphurnia predict that something bad is going to happen through the skill of "women's intuition" but both are completely ignored by their husbands.

So even though Shakespeare has not given them enough role in Julius Caesar,and they are powerless and their advice to Brutus and Caesar in worthless;both are extremely intelligent and WAY wiser than the men of the play.

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Julius Caesar

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