Throughout history, a woman’s role in society has been viewed differently by different perspectives across the world. While women in today’s modern, western society enjoy relative equality, women in the past were viewed as inferior to men, solely useful for bearing children and maintaining the home. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, women are seen as overly emotional, not constant, superstitious, and had no voice in their homes or in the political world.
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Shakespeare in Julius Caesar uses Calpurnia and Portia to portray the struggle between the perceived nature of women during Roman times and the true nature of women.Calpurnia represents the power of womanhood that is underestimated because of stereotypes of women during Roman times. Calpurnia has ominous dreams of Caesar’s impending murder and tries to convince him to not go forth today and even gets on her knees to prevail in this (Shakespeare 2.2.54-55, 58).
Calpurnia tries to persuade Caesar to stay home out of her own love and concern for him. She embodies wifely love and support and encompasses the true power of womanhood by even getting down on one knee to convince him. Once Caesar is convinced to stay home, Decius, one of the conspirators, convinces Caesar to come to the Senate by manipulating Calpurnia’s description of her dreams saying that they signified reviving blood, and that great men shall press/ For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance (Shakespeare 2.2.94-95). Caesar is quick to recoil on what his wife told him, asking, How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia! and states he is ashamed I [Caesar] did yield to them (Shakespeare 2.2.110-112). Caesar quickly discounts Calpurnia’s thoughts over the thoughts of another man’s even though Calpurnia is his wife and has his best interests at heart.. Calpurnia’s power as a wife and a woman is taken from her and underestimated, and seen as womanish superstition (Plutarch: Life of Caesar).
The underestimation of women in Roman times, specifically Portia,
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