How does Shakespeare present Caesar in Act I of Julius Caesar, particularly through descriptions of his character and in relation to supernatural happenings?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act I, Caesar comes across as a proud and charismatic man. The masses cheer over him, and he dismisses the warnings of a soothsayer. Although Caesar hates to admit he fears anyone or anything, he suspects Cassius, saying “I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd / Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.” Caesar presents himself as being above other men.

Others worry about his ambition. Casca says that Antony offered Caesar the crown three times, and Caesar only reluctantly turned it down. Cassius seems jealous of his great status, sarcastically referring to Caesar as something superhuman:

... he [Caesar] doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about…

Cassius also mocks Caesar’s physical weaknesses, reminding Brutus that Caesar is as mortal as they are. Caesar has “the falling sickness,” and Cassius recounts when he had to save Caesar from drowning and when Caesar fell ill.

As for supernatural happenings, Casca says that “all the sway of earth / Shakes like a thing unfirm.” He also saw a man’s hand painlessly burn, encountered a lion at the Capitol, and describes the tempest as “dropping fire.” Various other bizarre events foreshadow Caesar’s murder at the hands of the senators. These events relate less to Caesar's character (though Caesar later refers to himself as a lion) and more to his impending fate.

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Julius Caesar

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