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Simile 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.

Similes are a type of literary tool that authors use to compare two things. In this lesson we will look at several examples of similes in William Shakespeare's ''Julius Caesar''.

Definition

A simile is when two things are compared using the word 'like' or 'as'. For example, If you said 'My adopted kitten is as sweet as sugar,' you created a simile by comparing your kitten to sugar, using the word 'as'. Similes make writing more memorable and interesting.

Cassius and his Smack Talk

One of the first similes in Julius Caesar comes when Cassius is bad-mouthing Caesar. He wants to convince Brutus that Caesar does not deserve to be the leader of Rome. Cassius tells of a time that he and Caesar jumped into a raging river and raced across the current together. Cassius said that they both fought the waves until Caesar asked Cassius to help him cross the river or else he would sink. Cassius says:

I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor, / Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder / The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber Did I the tired Caesar.

In other words, Cassius emerged from the river carrying Caesar, just as Aeneas, a Trojan hero, carried his elderly father from the flames of a burning city. With this simile, Cassius paints Caesar as an old feeble man and himself as a hero.

As Cassius continues to talk smack about Caesar, he tells Brutus of a time that Caesar had a fever. He explains that Caesar was weak, sick and pale. He was thirsty and asked for some water. When Caesar called out for water, his voice was shrill and weak 'as a sick girl.' This descriptive simile works to further portray Caesar as someone who is not fit to become king.

Casca's Fears

In act 1 scene 3, Casca is extremely frightened after seeing a number of disturbing events. As a storm rages outside, he sees many supernatural signs that he cannot explain. Cicero finds Casca stumbling around in a panic with his sword drawn. Cicero asks him why he is so worried and Casca responds by asking Cicero if he would be afraid when the earth shakes like an unfirm thing. Cicero dismisses this, asking if he has seen anything other than a simple earthquake. Casca continues to explain that he has also seen a slave who:

Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn Like twenty torches joined.

Casca uses similes in this passage to explain how serious and disturbing the events of the night were.

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