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The Role Of Women In The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar

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From the augmentation days of ancient Rome to the fall of the Roman Empire, women have always been belittled to living moderate lives and being subjacent to the dominant men. In Rome, their roles are to stay at home and be a caretaker and a lover to the husband. The same goes in Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Calpurnia plays an underlying yet significant role. Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, serves as a form of foreshadowing to her husband’s death. Women are unable to affect the actions happening on the outside and their marriage. ‘I meddle with no tradesman’s matters nor women’s matters…’. Despite many efforts, Calpurnia was unable to get to her husband because Caesar and others think that her opinion isn’t as valued as much as men are. This is especially important in Calpurnia’s case because had Caesar heeded her warnings based on her dreams he would have lived to see another day. After Caesar’s murder, we don’t hear much from her. In male-based worlds such as Julius Caesar and the Roman world, women act as helpers and have no say in anything; however, the disregard of women foreshadows the tragic downfall of the tragic heroes. Shakespeare defines the role of women in Julius Caesar to be there to help out the family, foreshadow what is to come and to highlight their husband’s weakness. Shakespeare intends them to try to explain important events to come and for the husbands not to listen to them. Also, he specifically chose this character to be a woman because they were not treated with the utmost respect, so he makes Caesar treat them that way. ‘Alas, my lord, Your wisdom is consumed in confidence. Do not go forth today. Call it my fear That keeps you in the house and not your own.

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We’ll send Mark Antony to the Senate House, And he shall say you are not well today. Let me, upon my knee, prevail in this’. Calphurnia tries to prevent Caesar from going to the Capitol and he listens to her. She had a dream that he would die so she doesn’t want him to go. Then Decius says, “Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck Reviving blood, and that great men shall press. For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance. This by Calphurnia’s dream is signified”. Decius wants Caesar to come so he won’t stay at home and be a coward. The last way Caesar would ever want to be is a coward. So Caesar responds by, “How foolish do your fears seem now, Calphurnia! I am ashamèd I did yield to them. Give me my robe, for I will go”. Caesar disregards what his own wife has to say and goes along with Decius. She tells Caesar to blame it on her emotions because women are prone to pathos. Caesar could have died many times but he never did so he thinks that he is invisible. Shakespeare uses Calpurnia perfectly in this instance because Caesar isn’t going to listen to what she has to say even though not going to the Capital is important. This instance will clearly foreshadow more events to happen in the future and highlights Caesar’s weaknesses and flaws. Throughout almost every interaction between Caesar and Calpurnia, Calpurnia has a fear for Caesar yet he never listens to her because of character. She tries to help him out and tell him what’s to come but he doesn’t listen. “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come”. Caesar disregarded Calphurnia’s concern for him going to the capital. He acts like he doesn’t even care what she has to say. Caesar gives Calphurnia no right in what he does even though she is his wife. Calpurnia is foreshadowing that Caesar will die in the future and that he can change that.

Caesar is too worried about his public figure and that he wants to die a brave man than a coward. Because of their limited public role, women are named less frequently than men by historians. But, while Roman women held no political power, those from wealthy or political families could and did exert influence through private negotiations. More times then not, women left a smaller mark on history than men did. This was because their roles were much smaller than men. They were to sit at home and care for belongings and be a lover to the husband. According to Mark Cartwright, ‘The duty of looking after the home and to nurture a family, in particular, to bear legitimate children, a consequence of which was an early marriage, (sometimes even before puberty but typically around 20 years old), in order to ensure the woman had no sexual history which might embarrass the future husband. The Roman family was male-dominated, typically headed by the most senior male figure. Women were subordinate and this is reflected in Roman naming practice’. Ancient Rome was an extremely male-dominant world. Same with Julius Caesar. This passage explains how women had roles to stay home and care of their family. The roles these women had in Rome were the same as in Julius Caesar. Why would the Romans keep people from helping out in more of a grand scheme way? They did this because they thought that they were too womanish and they were incapable. This was very wrong and was a key part of both Caesar’s and Romes demise. The role of Calpurnia in the tragedy of Julius Caesar is important and minor as it showed us the true character of Caesar and one of the many reasons for Caesar’s demise. Calpurnia shows us Caesar as a husband and a man who rejects the side of him that he needs to listen too and then dies because of the side of him that is the soldier and politician.

Works Cited

  1. Cartwright, Mark. ‘The Role of Women in the Roman World.’ Ancient History, 22 Feb. 2014, www.ancient.eu/article/659/the-role-of-women-in-the-Roman-world/. Accessed 6 June 2019.
  2. Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2011.
01 February 2021

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