What are some of the omens that occurred in Act I of "Julius Caesar?"
There are several key omens in Act I:
- In scene ii, the Soothsayer (a fortune-teller or seer; sooth means "truth") warns Caesar, "Beware the ides of March” (l. 18). (On the ancient Roman calendar, the ides were the 15th day of March, May, July, or October or the 13th day of the other months). Caesar brushes off the warning.
- In scene iii, Casca tells Cicero about strange, unnatural occurences in Rome on the day and night before Caesar’s assassination: a firestorm, a slave whose hand is on fire but does not suffer burns, a lion running around the capitol, frightened women who say they saw men in flames walking the streets, and an owl shrieking in the market during daylight. Casca says, “they are portentous things / unto the climate that they point upon.” (ll. 31-32). (The firestorm could be interpreted to represent either the brewing conspiracy against Caesar or the social and political turmoil that erupts after Caesar's murder; the lion could be seen to represent Caesar; and the burning men could be seen to represent the conspirators, whose actions will condemn them to eternal damnation. Shakespeare uses the owl in several of his plays to foreshadow a calamity.)
In ActI Sc3 a terrified Casca rushes into the street with a drawn sword just as an eathquake is taking place,"all the sway of earth/Shakes like a thing unfirm." Cicero asks him why he is so frightened and upset. Casca atonce tells him all the bizarre and scary incidents that have taken place:
1."A tempest dropping fire," it seemed as though fire dropped straight out of the sky and was being fanned by stormy winds.
2. An ordinary slave's hand caught fire and it burned so brightly, "like twenty torches joined," but yet the slave's hand was not scorched.
3. On his way to the temple of Jupiter (the Capitol) Casca met a lion on the street, but it so uncharacteristically did not harm him at all.
4. Casca next met "a hundred ghastly women," who told him that they saw men on fire walking up and down the streets.
5. Lastly, Casca says that on the previous day at noon the owl was heard "hooting and shrieking" at the market place.
Casca is convinced that all these strange events are bad omens and that something evil is going to happen in Rome.