In Julius Caesar, how does Calpurnia show strength or power?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Julius Caesar is a play that is dominated by male characters wielding political power. There are only two female characters that appear in the whole play: Calpurnia, Julius Caesar's wife, and Portia, wife of Marcus Brutus. They appear to have only marginal roles, wholly excluded from the power politics that occupy their husbands, yet they too are not without significance, and are shown to have influence over their men in the private sphere. 

In the case of Calpurnia, she all but succeeds in persuading her husband not to go to the Capitol on the day when he will meet his death there. Julius Caesar, who until now has appeared in a wholly authoritative role, wielding power at the highest level of Roman society, is on the verge of giving in to his wife's demands that he stay at home, because she has had a dream about him that has frightened her. She suggests that they send Mark Antony to explain his absence. He does not object, in fact he falls in entirely with her suggestion:

Mark Antony shall say I am not well, 

And for thy humour I will stay at home. (II.2. 54-55).


Calpurnia might appear to be a weak woman, easily frightened by dreams, kneeling to her husband, but the mightiest man in Rome is not averse to obeying orders from her. She knows how to appeal to him. It is only Decius Brutus' cunning use of flattery that gets him to change his mind.

Calpurnia is of course proved right in the end; her intuition is shown to be more accurate than the decision-making of her powerful husband.


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Julius Caesar

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