How do Calpurnia and Portia relate in different ways to their husbands in Julius Caesar?Describe the differences between the two wives and how each interacts with her spouse.

Expert Answers
shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since this play (populated with over 30 males) offers only two female characters, Calpurnia and Portia, it is significant to observe the ways in which they contrast with each other.

Calpurnia is the classic dutiful wife.  The audience first meets her when Caesar calls for her at the beginning of the play (the way a master might call his dog to his side?), and she promptly arrives by his side, answering, "Here my Lord."  Later, when she dreams of something dreadful happening to Caesar on the way to the Capitol, she begs him to remain at home.  It is safe to say that she is overcome with fear and displays a 'woman's weak nature.'  Caesar disregards her fears as "foolish" and does go to the Capitol (and his doom).

Portia, on the other hand, is introduced after Brutus has met with his fellow conspirators.  She also has a sense of foreboding about her husband, but rather than display fear and beg him to listen to her, she demands, as an equal, to be included in his concerns.  She even wounds herself in her thigh in order to prove her strength and constancy.  Brutus doesn't confide his secret to her, but he does implore,

O ye gods,

Render me worthy of this noble wife.

It is interesting to note that the Roman society prided itself on being balanced and ordered.  I suspect that Shakespeare found it satisfying to "balance" his presentation of the Roman wife with these two very different characters.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question