How would you compare Calpurnia and Portia's attitudes toward their husbands in Julius Caesar?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Calpurnia and Portia both worry about their husbands, but for different reasons. Calpurnia fears her husband Caesar will be attacked, while Portia thinks her husband Brutus is going to get into trouble for attacking Caesar.

Politically, Julius Caesar was a very powerful person. He also made a lot of enemies. Calpurnia was a loyal and obedient wife. Even when Caesar made her do something that seemed humiliating, like stand in Antony’s path at the race, Calpurnia did it. She did not question Caesar for calling attention to her infertility, which was a touchy subject. 

Calpurnia tries to tell Caesar that there are bad omens that mean he should not go to the capitol: 

Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies,
Yet now they fright me. There is one within,
Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
A lioness hath whelped in the streets;
And graves have yawn'd, and yielded up their dead (Act II, Scene 2) 

Calpurnia also seemed to have prophetic dreams about Caesar. She imagined she saw him as a fountain oozing out blood, which the citizens bathed their hands in. This dream ultimately does foreshadow what happens to Caesar. Calpurnia initially succeeds in convincing Caesar to stay home because of her dream, but she did not have the clout to get him to stay. Decius Brutus convinced Caesar the dream did not mean danger. 

Portia’s also has a problem trying to make her husband listen to her. Portia tries to convince Brutus to tell her what is happening. Brutus does not want to do so, as the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar is a secret. Portia wants Brutus to understand that she can be trusted with sensitive information. She wants to be an equal partner.  

When Brutus does not tell Portia about his plans, she decides to have him followed. 

I must go in. Ay me, how weak a thing
The heart of woman is! O Brutus,
The heavens speed thee in thine enterprise!
Sure, the boy heard me: Brutus hath a suit
That Caesar will not grant. O, I grow faint.
Run, Lucius, and commend me to my lord… (Act II, Scene 3) 

When Portia realizes Brutus is going to kill Caesar, she is both nervous and proud of him. Remember, Portia is no friend of Caesar. Her father was Cato, Caesar’s enemy. Cato died fighting for Pompey. Portia experiences a vicarious thrill through her husband's plan.

In general, Portia is feistier than Calpurnia. She tries to convince her husband of her loyalty so he will involve her in his plans; Calpurnia has no such hopes. Calpurnia worries about her husband, but for very different reasons. Caesar is stubborn and won't take advice. In that respect, Calpurnia and Portia share a common problem with their respective husbands.

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Julius Caesar

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