Imagery 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.

Imagery is a powerful tool that helps readers visualize a story. In this lesson we will examine several examples of imagery from William Shakespeare's ~'Julius Caesar.~'

Why Use Imagery?

The puppy was playing. It was cute. This description is accurate, but with a little bit of imagery it can come to life. The black pot-bellied puppy waddled into the kitchen. He ran in clumsy circles trying to nip his own tail. Imagery is a literary tool that uses vivid descriptions to portray a scene. In 'Julius Caesar' by William Shakespeare, we can find several examples of imagery.

A Raging River

One of the first examples of imagery comes in Act 1, Scene 1 when Cassius speaks to Brutus. In this scene, Cassius is speaking to Brutus in an attempt to turn him against Caesar. Cassius talks about a time when he raced Caesar across the Tiber river. Cassius uses vivid imagery, telling Brutus that it was a cold stormy day and the waves were crashing against the banks. The two men fought the wave with their sinewy arms. One of the reasons why the imagery is important here is because Cassius desperately needs Brutus to believe him. The more details Cassius offers, the more believable his story is.

The Crowd That Raised a Stink

The next example of imagery comes in Act 1, Scene 2 when a character named Casca is describing the crowd's reaction to Caesar. Caesar was offered a crown and refused it. When Caesar refuses the crown, the commoners cheered. Casca tells his friends that the commoners cheered and 'clapped their chapped hands' and threw their sweaty hats into the air. When they cheered, Casca continues, the crowd's breath was so bad that he was afraid to laugh because he would have to breathe in the 'stinking air.' This example of imagery appeals to the audience's senses of smell, sight, sound, and even taste. Casca's details bring the audience into the crowd.

A Bloody Fountain

In Act 2, Scene 2, we see another warning sign with vivid description is when Caesar describes his wife's dream. In Calpurnia's dream, she sees a statue of Caesar that has been stabbed one hundred times. Blood pours from the statue as Romans happily wash their hands in it. This descriptive passage from the play appeals to the audience's sense of sight and touch. The image of blood flowing from a statue is vivid and the idea of people washing their hands in blood is equally a strong image. Since the description is so clear, the audience is drawn in. The description makes the threat to Caesar so clear to the audience, and yet somehow, Caesar just does not see it.

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