Foreshadowing in Julius Caesar

Foreshadowing Examples in Julius Caesar:

Act I - Scene I 1

"May we do so? You know it is the feast of Lupercal...."   (Act I - Scene I)

Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival held in mid-February to celebrate the beginning of Spring. The festival honors Rome’s foundation story as well. The Lupercal is the mythical cave in which the she-wolf Lupa raised Romulus and Remus. There is a thematic analogy at play here. Shakespeare draws attention to the founding of Rome at the play’s beginning before showing us the fall of the Roman Republic and the dawn of the Roman Empire.

"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..."   (Act I - Scene II)

Cassius makes reference here to Virgil’s Aeneid. He portrays himself as Aeneas, the Trojan hero, and Caesar as Anchises, the crippled father. This comparison tells us two things. First, Cassius thinks of himself as superior to Caesar and thus deserving of political leadership. Second, by alluding to one of Rome’s founding fathers, Cassius foreshadows his intentions to overthrow Caesar and rebuild Rome anew.

"When these prodigies Do so conjointly meet, let not men say(30) “These are their reasons; they are natural,”..."   (Act I - Scene III)

Shakespeare makes dramatic use of the Roman tradition of augury: reading the future in the patterns of nature. Shakespeare has begun to toy with the play’s sense of realism. Casca claims to have seen supernatural figures around Rome: lions, “ghastly women,” “men all in fire.” The audience cannot tell whether these things exist in the world of the play or in Casca’s mind. The question of realism reaches a peak in Act IV, when both Brutus and the audience confront the ghost of Caesar.

"And for Mark Antony, think not of him, For he can do no more than Caesar's arm When Caesar's head is off...."   (Act II - Scene I)

Brutus’s estimation of Antony’s power proves to be pivotal in the ensuing acts. Brutus fails to see Antony as a potential catalyst. Indeed, thus far the audience has had little reason to doubt this opinion. Shakespeare limits Antony’s appearances in the first two acts, making it tempting to believe Brutus’s opinion that Antony is no more than Caesar’s puppet.

"O, pardon, sir, it doth, and yon grey lines That fret the clouds are messengers of day...."   (Act II - Scene I)

In another illustration of how subjective the readings of the heavens are in the play, Cinna sees the clouds as brows lined with worry over the events of the coming day.

"Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar I have not slept...."   (Act II - Scene I)

Shakespeare’s use of “whet” is a beautifully subtle choice that serves as both metaphor and metonymy. To whet a knife is to sharpen its blade. In this characterization of Brutus as a knife, we understand both the nature of his potential role in the assassination, as well as a more literal foreshadowing of the knife he will wield in the fateful event.

"Fates, we will know your pleasures. That we shall die, we know; 'tis but the time(110) And drawing days out that men stand upon...."   (Act III - Scene I)

In a fascinating address to the Fates themselves, Brutus speaks of the inevitability of death. On one level, he is justifying the murder of Caesar by pointing out how death comes to everyone. To kill a man is to free him of the dread of death. On another level, Brutus is foreshadowing his own death, as well as the deaths of his fellow conspirators. After all, he says, “That we shall die, we know.”

"If I were disposed to stir Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Here is another brilliant rhetorical move by Antony. What he wishes to do is stir the hearts and minds of the public to mutiny and rage. By framing the possibility of mutiny as a hypothetical condition, he plants the seed in the mind of the public. He then deftly backs away, citing the nobility of Brutus and Cassius once more.

"their names are prick'd...."   (Act IV - Scene I)

This is a clever reversal. To say the conspirators names are “prick’d” means they are marked by the pen for death, but specifically in a way that calls to mind Caesar’s stabbing.

"If we do meet again, we'll smile indeed;(130) If not, 'tis true this parting was well made...."   (Act V - Scene I)

Despite the tensions in the friendship of Brutus and Cassius, these characters part on touching terms. The audience gets the sense that this will indeed be their final encounter.