What three omens does Casca describe in Act 1 of Julius Caesar?

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In act 1, scene 3, Casca has a conversation with Cicero, where he describes several omens that he witnessed throughout the night. Initially, Casca tells Cicero that he's never seen such a terrible storm before in his life. Casca describes the storm as a "tempest dropping fire," which is another way of saying there is a terrible thunderstorm with numerous lightning bolts in the sky.

Casca's first omen is when he witnesses a common slave holding up his hand, which appears to be on fire "like twenty torches joined." However, the slave's hand is not burnt and seems immune to the fire. Casca's second omen is when he witnesses a lion staring at him near the Capitol, then strutting past him without bothering to attack. Casca's third omen is when a night owl hoots in the middle of the marketplace during the day. 

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Superstitions abound in the Rome of Julius Caesar. In fact, the chaotic state of human affairs is reflected in the many omens of Shakespeare's play.  A key figure in helping Cassius sway Brutus to feel that it is necessary to rid the republic of the tyrant Julius Caesar, Casca describes for Cassius what he has heard and seen in Act I, Scene2.  Then, in Scene 3, Cicero asks Casca what he has observed in the storm of lightening and thunder. 

Casca, visibly shaken, replies that he has seen four omens: 

  • a common slave whose left hand was caught on fire, but it "remained unscorched."
  • a "surly" lion who was in the center of Rome; it stared at him and passed by without attacking him.
  • A hundred ghostly women, huddled together, who in their fear swore that they had seen men on fire, walking up and down the streets.
  • An owl (seen the day before) who was incongruously out at noon, "hooting and shrieking."

After hearing Casca, Cassius, who has disputed fate previously with Brutus, berates Casca for his fears, telling him that he, Cassius, bared his chest in the aim of the flash of lightening, daring it to hit him.  Unlike Casca, who perceives these omens as warnings from the gods, Cassius sees them as warnings against Caesar.

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