What are Calpurnia and Portia's attitudes toward their husbands in Julius Caesar?
Both Portia and Calpurnia feel that their husbands undervalue their advice.
Portia and Calpurnia are both strong women. Neither woman is willing to sit back and let her husband make decisions without interference. Each of them fears for her husband, and to a certain extent both of them should. Calpurnia worries her husband is in danger, and Portia worries her husband is up to something.
Portia is Marcus Brutus’s wife. She notices that he seems to be staying up late a lot and he hasn’t told her what is on his mind. She asks him to tell her what is going on, and he is dismissive toward her. She begs him to let her in on what he is planning.
I should not need, if you were gentle Brutus.
Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus,
Is it excepted I should know no secrets
That appertain to you? (Act 2, Scene 1)
Portia can’t help but notice that a bunch of people showed up at her house secretly in the middle of the night. Since Brutus won’t tell her what is going on, Calpurnia has him followed. She determines that he is involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Caesar, and secretly prays for him because there is nothing she can actually do to help.
Although Brutus survives the plot to assassinate Caesar, his attempts at governance do not go as well. Brutus’s absence from Rome and the stress of the war prove too much for Portia. Always a fiery woman, she commits suicide. Supposedly, she “swallow'd fire” (Act 4, Scene 3).
Calpurnia is Julius Caesar’s wife. We already know she is barren, something that bothers Caesar and likely caused her great shame. She acquiesces nonetheless when Caesar asks her to stand in Mark Antony’s path during the Feast of Lupercal race. This is supposed to make her fertile.
The soothsayer warned Caesar to beware the Ides of March. That night, Calpurnia had a dream that she interpreted as prophetic. The dream made her believe Caesar was in danger. She also shares a series of supposedly bad omens:
Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies,
Yet now they fright me. There is one within,
Besides the things that we have heard and seen,
Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch.
A lioness hath whelped in the streets;
And graves have yawn'd, and yielded up their dead … (Act 2, Scene 2)
Calpurnia actually almost succeeds in getting Caesar to stay home on the Ides of March. However, the conspirators planned for this eventuality. They sent Decius Brutus there to convince Caesar to come. To convince Caesar, Decius Brutus reinterpreted Calpurnia’s dream of citizens bathing their hands in Caesar’s blood as a positive sign. He also made it seem like Caesar would be either cowardly or ungrateful if he did not come.
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