Symbols in Julius Caesar

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  • 0:00 Why Symbolize?
  • 0:36 Caesar's Feathers
  • 1:08 The Crown
  • 1:43 The Storm
  • 2:22 The Public
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ryan Hultzman
Writers use symbols to make their writing more interesting and to express complicated ideas in more simple way. In this lesson, we will examine several important symbols from William Shakespeare's play 'Julius Caesar.'

Why Symbolize?

Tongue removal. This was one of the punishments available during Shakespeare's time. Many activities that were illegal involved speaking about a subject to blaspheme or suggest a rebellion. One way a writer could keep his tongue was to use symbolism. Symbolism is when a writer uses one idea to stand for another. It was not always a matter of avoiding punishment. Another purpose of symbolism was to be able to discuss more than one idea at once. In the play Julius Caesar, Shakespeare often uses one idea or action to stand for another.

Caesar's Feathers

One of the first symbols in Julius Caesar appears when two Roman officials decide to tear the decorations off of Caesar's statues. The officials break up a celebration for Caesar's war victory and then decide to march around the neighborhood and pull decorations down wherever they find them. This act is symbolic of their desire to pull Caesar from power and at the very least, squash some of his support. Flavius, one of the officials, even says that the decorations are like feathers that have allowed Caesar to fly too high. By plucking the feathers, Caesar will have to come back to Earth.

The Crown

Another symbol in Julius Caesar is the symbol of a crown. One of the reasons why the conspirators want to kill Caesar is because they believe he is about to become king. If this happens, they believe he will become too powerful and destroy Rome. Throughout the play, the idea of a crown being offered Caesar is repeated. In Act I Scene II, Caesar's friend offers him a simple crown. Caesar refuses it three times. Since the crown was not an actual crown, it in itself symbolizes a larger crown. Then, the concept of the crown symbolizes a position of power for Caesar.

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