Literary Devices in Julius Caesar

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  • 0:00 What Are Literary Devices?
  • 0:22 Allusion in 'Julius Caesar'
  • 1:43 Hyperbole in 'Julius Caesar'
  • 2:50 Allegory in 'Julius Caesar'
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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.

There are many different types of literary devices used in written works and their use has been prevalent for centuries. Explore three types of devices used in Shakespear's 'Julius Caesar,' and find examples from the play's text that represent the use of allusion, hyperbole, and allegory throughout the story.

What Are Literary Devices?

Literary devices are special techniques that writers use to make a text more interesting and to develop characters. Literary devices also give the audience a chance to interpret events on their own. While there are hundreds of literary techniques, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, allusion, hyperbole, and allegory are used most powerfully.

Allusion in Julius Caeser

An allusion is when a writer makes a reference to something about which they expect the audience should already know. For example, if someone says, 'He is the Snape of our school,' the person listening is expected to know who Snape is. Snape is the name of a professor at the fictional Hogwarts School of Magic from the Harry Potter books. The listener is expected to be able to reference Snape in their minds and know that the person in question may be unfriendly and grumpy. Allusion allows the audience some freedom to create their own understanding of the reference, saves time, and prevents an explanation from breaking the flow of speech.

In Act III Scene i of Julius Caesar, Antony has just discovered that his best friend, Julius Caesar, has been killed. After Antony pretends to make peace with Caesar's killers, he kneels at Caesar's side and delivers a soliloquy about how the world is going to crumble because of Caesar's death. He says that Caesar will ride with 'Ate' by his side. Antony does not explain who Ate is; instead, he expects the audience to know that Ate is the goddess of mischief, pain, and hostility. Through allusion, the audience imagines Caesar as a companion to grief and pain though it is not said directly. The image of Ate is more interesting than simply saying that Caesar's ghost will be unhappy.

Hyperbole in Julius Caesar

A hyperbole is an exaggeration used to make a point. If someone says, 'I've been waiting forever,' we know that they have not literally been waiting since the beginning of time. The hyperbole is used to show that the person has been waiting for a very long time. The exaggerated nature of hyperbole in a play also tells the audience how the speaker feels. In our example, the person is not factually stating that she waited a long time; she is complaining about it.

In Act I Scene i of Julius Caesar, two Roman generals are attempting to persuade a group of people to go home. The people are celebrating Caesar's victory over Pompey. These same people once loved Pompey and are now celebrating his defeat. One of the generals, Flavius, tells the crowd that they should not be celebrating. Instead, they should go to the Tiber River and 'weep into it until it overflows.' This example of hyperbole provides far more imagery than simply saying, 'You should be sad.' Flavius uses hyperbole to express how very sad they should be.

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