What is the theme for Act I of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare? 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the first three acts are devoted to the assassination of Caesar. The last two acts explain the events after the murder and the final battle, which leads to the deaths of the leaders of the conspiracy. 

Each of the scenes in the acts have a specific purpose. For example, in Act II, Scene ii, the action surrounds Caesar and the warnings that he ignores about going to the senate on the Ides of March. 

In Act I, the purpose and theme of the entire act is to introduce the major characters, the conflict facing the main character, and the introduction to the conspiracy. Every scene is carefully planned to move the characters and action forward toward the killing of Caesar.

Act I, Scene i--The soldiers convey the understanding that not everyone is happy in Rome.  The followers of Pompey blame Caesar for his death, so they do not want him to be made the emperor. 

You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things! O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
Knew you not Pompey?

In addition, a humorous interplay between the workers and the soldiers would have pleased the Shakespearean audience.

Act I, Scene ii--The main characters are introduced in this scene.  Furthermore, Cassius introduces the conspiracy to the audience and Brutus.  Important tidbits of information are distributed by Casca and Caesar. For example, the audience learns:

  • Calpurnia is barren
  • The Soothsayer warns Caesar
  • Caesar ignores him
  • Cassius hates Caesar
  • Caesar does not trust Cassius
  • Brutus has been struggling within himself

All of this information serves to entice the audience to want more.

Act I, Scene iii--This is the eve of the Ides of March.  It has been a terrible night and day with many signs and portents sent to show that the gods are not happy about the upcoming events. Cassius shows his disdain for the omens by baring his chest to be struck by lightning The conspirators are introduced and will meet to finalize the plans. Cassius suggests that he will commit suicide if Caesar becomes the emperor. 

I know where I will wear this dagger then:
Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius.

The end of the scene prepares the audience for Brutus's inclusion into the conspiracy.

In Act II, the Shakespearean audience now would be ready to listen to Caesar, Brutus, and prepare for the assassination.

 

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