How can I write an essay with close reference to the play Julius Caesar and evaluate the extent to which Caesar is responsible for his own death?

In writing an essay on the extent to which Julius Caesar is responsible for his own death, focus on how Caesar's arrogance and quest for power cause him to refuse to believe people's warnings.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It can be argued that Julius Caesar has a role in his own demise because he is too arrogant to listen to the many warnings and his desire for power overcomes his common sense. In arguing this point, it is important to detail the various warnings that Caesar chose to ignore and his reasons for doing so.

Calphurnia tries to keep Caesar home, because she is frightened by nightmares depicting her husband’s brutal death. Her premonition of his murder is so vivid that it should be enough to convince him to stay home. Additionally, she informs him of strange sights that people have reported: a lioness that gave birth in the street, sounds of battle and dying men, blood dripping on the Capitol. Calphurnia will hear nothing of Caesar leaving the house when such unnatural things are happening; she takes them as signs of doom and warns Caesar that such strange events often occur before the deaths of great men. He argues with his wife, telling her,

Cowards die many times before their deaths.
The valiant never taste of death but once.

Caesar refuses to appear afraid, as that would taint his image. His wife is correct when she tells him that his confidence overshadows his wisdom.

Even when the augurers do not find a heart in the sacrificial animal, Caesar explains it away as a test of the gods to see if he is a coward. Caesar egotistically states that he is more dangerous than Danger himself.

While he eventually agrees to stay home to make Calphurnia happy, he quickly changes his mind when Decius promises he will be crowned. Caesar’s greed takes over his better judgement, and he chooses to believe Decius’s explanation of Calphurnia’s dream as a revelation of the good that Caesar will do for Rome instead of the warning that it truly is.

On his way to the Capitol, Caesar chooses to ignore other warnings, because of his quest for power. Caesar ignores the soothsayer who tells him to beware. He mocks the man, saying “The ides of March are come,” meaning nothing has happened to him. The soothsayer knows that the day is not yet over and that Caesar remains in danger, but he can do nothing to convince a man who is driven by desire. Artemidorus begs Caesar to read his letter, which details the names of the conspirators. Yet, Caesar brushes him away, proclaiming that whatever involves Caesar himself should be last in importance. Caesar is attempting to appear selfless in putting everyone else in front of himself; instead, he turns away those who are trying to save his life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team