How does Cassius view the storm and the omens from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, and what does Cicero mean by: “Men may construe things after their fashion, / Clean from the purpose of...
How does Cassius view the storm and the omens from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, and what does Cicero mean by: “Men may construe things after their fashion, / Clean from the purpose of the things themselves” (I.iii.34–35)?
Act One, Scene 3 opens with Casca commenting on the terrible weather and mentioning the strange omens he feels reflect the turbulence in Rome's government. After listening to Casca comment on the flaming hand of a slave, the glaring lion walking in the Capitol, and the owl hooting at noon in the marketplace, Cicero says,
"But men may construe things after their fashion, Clean from the purpose of the things themselves" (Shakespeare, 1.3.34-35).
Cicero is essentially saying that men tend to misinterpret things and end up missing the actual meaning of the unnatural events. According to Cicero, men do not exercise perspective when they interpret enigmatic portents, which leads to their wrong interpretations.
When Cassius enters the scene, he is exposing his chest to the thunderbolts and tells Casca that the terrible, chaotic weather reflects the hectic political atmosphere in Rome. He believes that the storm is in response to Julius Caesar's fiery ambition and represents the senators' bloody plan to assassinate Caesar. Cassius clearly interprets the storm as an ominous portent of the brutal plan to assassinate Caesar and the turbulent political atmosphere in Rome. Cassius tells Casca,
"But if you would consider the true cause Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts, Why birds and beasts from quality and kind, Why old men fool and children calculate, Why all these things change from their ordinance Their natures and preformèd faculties To monstrous quality—why, you shall find That heaven hath infused them with these spirits To make them instruments of fear and warning Unto some monstrous state" (Shakespeare, 1.3.63-72).
This is a great question. There are many omens in Julius Caesar. This is very much in keeping with the tenor of Roman history, as omens fill the annals of Roman history.
When we look at Julius Caesar,we see many different interpretations of these omens. Before the night of the assassination of Caesar, there are many omens (or portents) and a storm, and no one seems to interpret them correctly. For instance, Cassius interprets them as the dangers that lie ahead for Rome in view of Caesar's ambition. Cassius believes that Caesar is aiming for kingship. He even uses these omens to persuade Brutus to join the conspiracy. Caesar, on the other hand, pretty much ignores them.
What Cicero states is that people pretty much interpret things in they way they want to. This is patently true, because omens can be interpreted in many different ways. For example, the storm could be a sign that the gods disapprove of the conspiracy that has been hatched!