Why are the supernatural happenings reported in Act I, Scene 3?Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The new ideas of the Elizabethan Age's science, astrology, and technology gave rise to a renewed interest in the supernatural world, creating a renewed fear of the preternatural world and its influence upon mortals.  With his audience in mind, Shakespeare utilized this belief in omens and supernatural happenings to both captivate his audiences and to develop his themes as well as to illustrate the unnatural and chaotic condition of man's affairs in his play.

In Act I, Scene 3, the brooding storm of the setting symbolizes the political storm in Rome.  On the night before the Ides of March, a frightened Casca describes bizarre supernatural happenings to Cicero, telling him of fire dropping from the heavens, a hand that is also on fire, but the flesh is not burned, a lion that is near the Capitol, an owl that hoots in the marketplace, and men who are ablaze walking through the streets.  

These bizarre events give substance to the soothsayer's warning to Caesar to beware the Ides of March.  They also convince Casca that the state of Rome is turbulent.  He feels that either the gods are at war with each other--"civil strife in heaven"--or they intend to destroy Rome--

Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,

Incenses them to send destruction. (1.3.12-13)

 However, Cassius interprets them as warnings against Caesar.  He tells Casca,

You are dull, Casca, and those sparks of life
That should be in a Roman you do want,
Or else you use not. You look pale and gaze
And put on fear and cast yourself in wonder,
To see the strange impatience of the heavens.
But if you would consider the true cause...

That heaven hath infused them with these spirits       To make them instruments of fear and warning
Unto some monstrous state.
Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man
Most like this dreadful night,
That thunders, lightens, opens graves, and roars
As doth the lion in the Capitol, (1.3.63-81) 

Casca understands that it is Caesar about whom Cassius speaks. Then, Cassius convinces Casca that Caesar is a tyrant who should be removed from his office, and they agree to enter into an

Of honorable-dangerous consequence (1.3.131-132)

Ironically, these supernatural events foreshadow the bloodshed, civil war, and chaos that follows as well as demonstrating the unnatural condition of man's affairs.


notch | Student

Act 1,Scene 3 opens with queer, unusual things going around in the whole of Rome. In scene 3 the readers are clearly shown, much thanks to Shakespeare's mastery of language that there is a conflict between the two worlds mainly microcosm and macrocosm. The Romans of the time believed that the world of nature (the macrocosm) and the political world of human affairs (the microcosm) reflected each other, and that disturbance in any one world, resulted in unusual events in the other.

Likewise we see that there is something wrong in Rome’s politics; like the conspiracy being formed to kill Caesar, subsequently the gods are sending ill omens to explain that something unusual is going on the microcosm and the effects are been shown in the macrocosm world. This describes the gods anger of all the evil going on it can either be Cassius forming a conspiracy or either because the commoners are celebrating the triumph of Caesar and disregarding Pompey.Like Murellus hints in Act 1,Scene 1 to the commoners when they are disregarding Pompey and celebrating Julius Caesar’s triumph

Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,

Pray to the gods to intermit the plague

That needs must light on this ingratitude.”

However,there were sceptics who denied that there was any link between the two worlds:Cicero is such a sceptic,but Casca is convinced that the strom is intended as a warning from the gods.

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Julius Caesar

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