In Julius Caesar, what does Caesar tell Antony to do to Calpurnia?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act 2, scene 1, Caesar tells Antony, who is running a foot race, to touch Calpurnia, Caesar's wife, because the elders say that if an infertile woman is touched during this race, she will become fertile. Caesar also commands Calpurnia to stand in Antony's way so Antony can touch her.

During this race, men who hit a woman with a leather strap were thought to be able to make these women able to bear children. Calpurnia, who is Caesar's third wife, is infertile, which disappoints Caesar, who wants additional heirs. Caesar has an authoritarian nature, and he does not hesitate to call attention to his wife's barrenness in public. Calpurnia is also known for her knowledge of omens. She dreams that Caesar is murdered in the Capitol by Romans and warns her husband not to go out. However, he ignores her advice and is murdered.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Caesar reminds Antony to touch Calpurnia as he runs today. It was a superstition that if the runner touched the woman who is trying to get pregnant, that she will become pregnant and the sterile curse will be broken:

Forget not, in your speed, Antonio, 
To touch Calpurnia, for our elders say, 
The barren, touched in this holy chase,(10) 
Shake off their sterile curse. 

Truly, this is a superstition or a wive's tale, but still Caesar instructs Antony to touch his wife Calpurnia as he runs by. Marc Antony is a military commander who fought against Pompey. He is running the course which is a ritual performed during Lupercalia Festival in which a runner strips naked and races throught the streets wearing only a thong that is cut from a sacrificial goat. 

Caesar tells Antony to be sure and touch his wife to make sure she will get pregnant in the near future. By touching Calpurnia, Antony is breaking the sterile curse. He is blessing Calpurnia with fertility to become pregnant. Along the way, the runner strikes any woman he encounters, thus ensuring her fertility. Caesar tells him to be sure to strike Calpurnia, the wife of Caesar, and Antony assures him that he will.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team