Metaphor in Julius Caesar

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  • 0:02 What Is a Metaphor?
  • 0:29 Dumber Than a Box of Rocks
  • 1:59 Cassius and Caesar the Wolf
  • 2:42 Caesar the Snake
  • 3:17 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.

Metaphors help writers compare two things that may not seem similar, without using the words 'like' or 'as'. In this lesson, we will examine several metaphors from William Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar.'

What Is a Metaphor?

'He's such a clown'. If you have ever heard someone say this, then you already know about metaphors. A metaphor is when two things are compared by stating that one thing is something else, without using the words 'like' or 'as.' 'She's a snake', or 'he's an angel', are two more examples. We know that although the people mentioned are not literally snakes, clowns or angels, the speaker is comparing them in a direct way.

Dumber than a Box of Rocks

In Act 1 Scene 1, Flavius and Murellus, two Roman officials, are clearing a party out of the streets of Rome. The party is celebrating the fact that Julius Caesar has defeated Pompey in battle. The officials believe that the celebration is unwarranted, since the people had previously loved and adored Pompey. Upon seeing this, Murellus strikes out, saying 'You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things.' In this example, he compares the commoners to rocks. Since rocks are not capable of sense, Murellus uses the metaphor to illustrate how thoughtless the people are.

Another example of metaphor comes in Act 1 Scene 2, when Cassius attempts to convince Brutus that Caesar is not worthy to become king. Cassius asks him if he can see himself. Brutus responds that he cannot see himself unless he is looking in a mirror. Cassius says:

And since you know you cannot see yourself

So well as by reflection, I, your glass,

Will modestly discover to yourself.

In other words, Cassius tells Brutus that he will be a mirror and show him how great he could be if it were not for Caesar. In this metaphor, Cassius compares himself directly to a mirror.

In the same conversation, Cassius tells Brutus that it is unfair for Caesar to be god while Cassius himself 'is a wretched creature and must bend his body' and bow if Caesar merely glances at him. In this passage, Cassius compares himself to a wretched creature. This metaphor shows how dissatisfied he is with the fact that Caesar is king, and that he must be subservient to him.

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