Write note on the use of Supernatural Elements in Julius Caesar Or, What part does the Supernatural play in Julius Caesar? Undoubtedly, the first name in English literature is that of an Elizabethan poet and dramatist? William Shakespeare? whose skill in transforming human character and action into art created a world of unforgettable people, phrases and incredible situations. He is considered to be the master of human psychology and employs several agencies to heighten the dramatic actions in his plays.
The supernatural elements and superstitions in ‘Julius Caesar’ have been introduced to reflect the prevailing social beliefs and taboos, and to cater to the crude taste of the groundlings. The people living in the age of Shakespeare believed in black magic and supernatural appearances. They believed that the ghost, witches and fairies actively interfered in human affairs and controlled the destiny and actions of man. This belief was shared by even the most learned man of 16th century. The dramatist has made use of this belief in his plays for a dramatic purpose and with miraculous results.
The introduction of the supernatural in his plays adds an element of mystery and deeper moral significance to the drama. It stands as a symbol of mysterious relationship existing between the world of matter and the world of spirit. He has very successfully employed it in his many plays. The supernatural machinery plays an important role in the plays like ‘Hamlet’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Cymbeline’ and does it most effectively in ‘Julius Caesar’. In ‘Macbeth’, it intensifies human action. In this play the supernatural agency does not originate any course of action.
It quickens the impulse which is already in the mind of the hero? Macbeth. But in ‘Julius Caesar’, the ghost of Caesar gives a definite shape and intensifies some elements always present in the mind of Brutus. It intensifies the sense of failure present in Brutus’s mind and urges him a step forward towards his doom. The ‘ghost of Caesar’ has evoked considerable interest among the Shakespearean critics. They are of the view that the ‘ghost of Caesar’ is subjective rather than objective. It is the fear-haunted and anguished mind of Brutus.
The ghost did not appear objectively. They prove their contention on the basis of the argument that none except Brutus saw the ghost of Caesar. The ghost was a mere creation of the troubled mind of Brutus is proved by the speech of Brutus himself when he says: “Now I have taken heart, thou vanished. ” Hudson cites this line as an evidence of the contention that the ‘ghost’ is subjective. Caesar’s ghost has also a symbolical significance. It symbolizes the vast posthumous power of the great dictator.
The living Caesar dominates the 1st part of the play. The angry and revengeful spirit of Caesar dominates the later part of the drama. So the unity of the play is achieved through the supernatural machinery? the introduction of the ghost of Caesar. Another example of the use of supernatural in the play is the storm, tempest and the unnatural portents preceding the murder of Julius Caesar. The storm too stands as a symbol of the political and psychological turmoil of Rome and in the mind of the conspirators.
The tempest dropping fire, the common slave with his flaming hand, the surly lion, the owl hooting in the marketplace during daytime, the sacrificial beasts lacking a heart? all these supernatural factors are clubbed together as a “preface to the catastrophe of the Ides”. One can very well notice apprehensions of the bad omen in the mind of Caesar’s wife: These ill-omens pre-occupy the mind of Calphurnia and she asks her husband not to go “A lioness hath whelped in the streets, And graves have yawned and yielded up their dead.
Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds In ranks and squadrons and right form of war, Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol. The noise of battle hurtled in the air. Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan, And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets. O Caesar! These things are beyond all use, And I do fear them. ” to the Senate. Her reason is: “When beggars die there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of King. ” But Caesar is misguided by Decius and goes to the Senate to meet his doom ‘on the Ides of March’.
Soothsayer’s warning is of no use for Caesar. Even in the battlefield, the ghost of Caesar appears in Brutus’s tent at the dead of the night and says it would meet him again in the battlefield. Next day when Brutus is engaged in bloody fight, it reappears and hastens the doom of Brutus. Not only this. The prevailing superstitions are also used by the dramatist to intensify the dramatic effect. Prophecy is the part of Roman people. The warnings given by Soothsayer and Artimideorous which suggest supernatural intervention in human affairs are highly ignored by Caesar.
He dismisses it by saying: “He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass” But these words rebound on the speaker with catastrophic effect and the audience is thrilled by its dramatic irony. Even Caesar is not above superstitions. He makes his wife stand in the course of the race so that Antony might touch her while on the run. The superstition was that, touched in that manner, the barren mother would cast off her barrenness. Believing in dreams is another instance of the prevailing superstition of the age.
Calphurnia’s dream of the statue of Caesar spouting blood and the Romans washing their hands with it has been very symbolically treated in the play. The dream suggests the premonition. It prepares the mind of the audience for the oncoming murder of Julius Caesar. Similarly, dinner with a dead man was ominous. Cinna did have it and the day proved fatal for him. Thus we see supernatural elements and superstitions play very important roles in the life of a man. The dramatist has shown this contemporary belief very, very successfully in Julius Caesar with his deft artistic touches.