Imagery in Julius Caesar

Imagery Examples in Julius Caesar:

Act I - Scene III 1

"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.

"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.

"Why, now, blow and, swell billow, and swim bark! The storm is up, and all is on the hazard...."   (Act V - Scene I)

Cassius evokes a nautical image that serves as a reiteration of Brutus’s “tide” metaphor from the previous scene: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Cassius is implicitly saying that high tide is nigh; it is time to set sail. Note too the dense internal rhymes of the first line.

"This day I breathed first: time is come round, And where I did begin, there shall I end;(25) My life is run his compass...."   (Act V - Scene III)

It is not clear whether the day of the battle marks Cassius’s birthday, as he hints. In any event, he understands the imminence of his death and takes on a circular perspective of his life. Time becomes a compass whose needle has spun its full course.

"Now is that noble vessel full of grief,(15) That it runs over even at his eyes...."   (Act V - Scene V)

This is a beautiful image of Brutus as a bowl or chalice, brimming with tears. This marks the first instance of Brutus demonstrating his sorrow so outwardly.