The play Julius Caesar abound in instances of Dramatic Irony

Like the Greek drama, Julius Caesar is pervaded by the notion of irresistible Destiny as the final arbiter of human affairs, more than any other play of Shakespeare. The Greeks believed in the will of the Gods as final arbiters of human destiny, in Nemesis, following inevitably human vice to its natural sequel, i.e., death and in the concept of man as a tool in the hands of Fate, his destiny being determined in the last resort by some tragic trait in his character or that of his ancestors. Nemesis, the goddess of retribution is responsible for punishing every evil action. The plot of Julius Caesar shows the working of Nemesis. It is this working that links the play with what went be- fore in Roman history. Pompey was a great Roman who was killed by Caesar. Caesar also defeated and killed Pompey’s two sons at the battle of Munda. After this, he came back to Rome in triumph. But while his triumph is being celebrated, the working of Nemesis has already begun. The Tribunes rebuke the people for making the murderer of Pompey their hero. The friends of Caesar provoke Nemesis still further by suggesting that Caesar should be made king. The conspiracy begins, the force are so strong against him that in spite of the efforts of Calpurnia and the warnings of the soothsayer and Artemidorus he goes to the Senate and is murdered there. But the tide turns after the murder. Brutus and Cassius were indeed agents of retribution. But they went farther than that; they posed as heroes. They declared that their action would bring freedom to Rome. They washed their hands in Caesar’s blood and announced the downfall of tyranny. This naturally provoked Nemesis and the rest of the play is concerned with their punishment for their inordinate pride. The conspirators commit blunder after blunder. Brutus and Cassius quarrel. The ghost of Caesar comes to break the spirit of Brutus who commits serious mistakes. Cassius becomes superstitious. Everything goes against them and they finally die with the consciousness that Caesar’s spirit is taking revenge upon them.

A thorough study of the play reveals that the whole play is permeated with the atmosphere of all-powerful Fate which sweeps everything before it. From the very beginning we feel that the events are being shaped not by the actions of men, but by some agency above human control. It is clearly seen in the case of Caesar. He never harmed his countrymen. He, of course, killed Pompey, but that he did in fair fight. The conspirators have no genuine causes against him. Yet their conspiracy matures surprisingly fast, as if some supernatural power is helping them. The storm comes as a God-sent opportunity to Cassius to muster up his forces.

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While everything goes in favour of the conspirators, everything turns against the well-wishers of Caesar. The soothsayer warns Caesar to ‘beware the Ides of March’, being the warning of an overcharging Fate. But Caesar heeded it not and dismissed it as a petty lie. The priests warned Caesar not to go to stir out. Calpurnia begged him not to go to the Senate. At last Caesar agreed and decided to send Antony to the Senate to tell people that he was not well. But Fate had determined it otherwise. Decius came first and cleverly induced him to go. In the way Caesar met the soothsayer again and tauntingly told him, “The Ideas of March are come.” But again Caesar heeded it not. In fact, he was being guided by an irresistible Destiny to his doom.

Then the warning of Artemidorus might have saved him. But luck made the professor say-

O Caesar read mine first; for mine’s a suit

That touches Caesar nearer.

Ironically, Caesar replies, “What touches us our self shall be last served.” The conspirators pushed him aside and he became silent. Artemidorus might have shouted: “Caesar! they want to kill you in the Senate. Beware of the enemies that surround you. Do not enter the Senate.” But the Fate would not so like.

We cannot help feeling that everything that is done against Caesar succeeds and everything done in his favour fails and we cannot but echo the words of Caesar:

What can be avoided

Whose end is purpos’d by the mighty gods?

The wheel of Fate turns against Caesar only so long as he is alive. After his murder Fate turns against the conspirators. Antony who had been dismissed by Brutus as a mere limb of Caesar and a “masker and reveler” turns out to be a great orator and leader. Octavius described him as a “peevish schoolboy” chosen by Destiny to be the first Roman Emperor. On the other hand, Brutus who was dreaming of bringing a new era of freedom has to run away from Rome. Their camp is torn in conflict. Brutus’ dear wife, “the soul of his soul,” dies. Brutus and Cassius ultimately begin to realize that they have not merely to fight with Antony and Octavius, but they have to contend with some supernatural powers which are determined to take revenge for the murder. When Brutus sees Cassius and Titinius slain he does not say that Antony is very powerful, but only expresses his belief in the power of the dead Caesar :

O Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet

Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords

In our own proper entrails.

Thus, Shakespeare specially emphasizes the idea of Nemesis by bringing about the murder of Caesar at the foot of Pompey’s statue and by making the ghost of Caesar appear to Brutus. The conspirators die with the name of Caesar on their lips. The Nemesis which victimized Brutus and Cassius at long last and established the triumph of Caesar’s spirit is nothing but the reflex of irony on some of their utterances in the earlier scenes of the play. The irony of Fate pervades throughout Julius Caesar.



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