Like in all of his writing, Shakespeare uses a plethora of figurative language to bring Julius Caesar to life for audiences orally, as well as physically on the stage. Imagery specifically refers to how people interact with the world using their five senses. Any words or phrases that describe how something feels, smells, sounds, looks, or tastes is imagery, from the crisp cinnamon-scented air, to the dandelions that tickle my ankles as I run through a field. As with all figurative language, the purpose of imagery is to bring a scene to life with just words, making audiences feel as though they are in the world of the story.
Some examples from the play include:
- In Act 1, Scene 1, Marullus chastises tradesmen who are out on the street awaiting Caesar's return. Marullus is angry that the tradesmen are disloyal to Pompey, who previously co-ruled with Caesar and whose sons Caesar has just defeated. Marullus recalls a past when the commoners used to celebrate Pompey as much as they are now celebrating Caesar:
"And when you saw [Pompey's] chariot but appear,
Have you not made universal shout
That Tiber trembled underneath her banks,
To hear the replication of your sounds
Made in her concave shores?"
The imagery Marullus is using suggests the strength of the commoners' passion for Pompey – so much that their cheering caused the Tiber river itself to tremble.
- In the second scene of Act 1, Cassius uses figurative language to describe the changes he has seen in Brutus's personality and countenance lately, saying:
"Brutus, I do observe you now of late:
I have not from your eyes that gentleness
And show of love as I was wont to have:
You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand
Over your friend that loves you."
Cassius's descriptive imagery of Brutus's eyes that lack gentleness is just the beginning of a conversation that showcases Cassius's attempts to manipulate Brutus in to joining the conspirators.
- Another instance of imagery occurs later in that conversation, as Cassius tells Brutus about a fever Caesar had while they were in Spain:
"And when the fit was on him, I did mark
How he did shake: 'tis true, this god did shake;
His coward lips did from their color fly,
And that same eye whose bend doth awe the world
Did lose his lustre: I did hear him groan"
Here Cassius is using dramatic imagery to paint a picture of a weak, pathetic Caesar for Brutus. Cassius wants to convince Brutus that Caesar is unfit to rule Rome, and is using figurative language to help him do it.