Fate in Julius Caesar

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

William Shakespeare's play 'Julius Caesar' explores the concept of fate throughout the story. In this lesson we will look at how fate is portrayed in the tragedy 'Julius Caesar'.

Do You Believe?

Fate is a tricky word. It refers to the idea that certain things happen because they are meant to happen. In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the concept of fate is explored and challenged through the actions and words of the characters. If you believe in fate, you might think that there was nothing Caesar could have done to avoid his death. If you do not believe in fate, you might see Caesar's arrogance as a cause of his death.

Caesar Does Not Seize His Chances

The main plot of Julius Caesar involves a group of conspirators who plan to murder Julius Caesar. Since the play is based on history, the audience knows that in the end, Julius Caesar will be killed. This encourages the perspective that it is Julius Caesar's fate to die, and the real interest comes from looking at the events that lead up to his assassination.

Caesar has several chances to avoid his fate. From the very beginning, Caesar himself notices that a certain man is not to be trusted. Caesar says that 'Cassius has a lean and hungry look; / He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.' One of Caesar's advisers tells him to not worry about Cassius, but as fate would have it Cassius is in the middle of masterminding the plot to kill Caesar. The fact that Caesar had suspicions from the start but still failed to foil the plot suggests that it was Caesar's fate to die at the hands of the conspirators.

Throughout the play, Caesar has many more chances to heed warning. He is warned by his wife, who has nightmares about Caesar dying. Caesar decides to ignore the dreams. He is also warned by a psychic who tells Caesar to beware of March 15th. Caesar calls the psychic a 'dreamer' and ignores these warnings as well. Finally, A man named Artemidorus tries to warn Caesar with a letter, but is dismissed as being too pushy. Since Caesar has so many chances to save himself, he is either arrogant and stubborn or in the hands of fate.

Third Time's a Charm

It is interesting to note that the word 'fates' is used just three times in the entire play. The first example comes in act 1 scene 2 while Cassius attempts to convince Brutus to become a part of his plan to kill Caesar. Cassius tells Brutus 'Men at some time are masters of their fates: / The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.' In other words, Cassius believes that people can be in charge of their lives. He uses this idea to argue that it is their own faults that they are serving Caesar rather than being served.

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