Shakespeare uses storms to portend or foreshadow coming events and to set the tone or atmosphere for a scene. As other Educators have noted and discussed, the storm in act 1, scene 3 of Julius Caesar symbolizes and portends the coming storm in Rome, foreshadows the disturbance and chaos that will be caused by Caesar's assassination, and sets the tone of secrecy and uncertainty for the conspiracy scenes leading up to the assassination.
The sudden flashes of lightning and the loud thunder at the beginning of the scene seem a bit heavy-handed, unless Shakespeare intended to wake up anybody in the audience who dozed off during the previous scene and alert everybody else in the theatre to pay attention to the growing conspiracy against Caesar that follows in the next two scenes.
Judging by Casca's lines in the early part of the scene, it's apparent that Shakespeare wanted to emphasize the conspiracy and the coming disruption in Rome, and he wants to make it perfectly clear that's exactly what the...
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