A Document in Madness

by Joe Curra (Circle 4)

In act 4 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Laertes comments on his sister Ophelia, who has fallen into insanity, by saying her antics are a “document in madness.” No other quote in the play characterizes as pointedly the text altogether. Obviously, Hamlet is a testament to the statement. Hamlet’s behavior throughout the play is documented by the characters around him as nonsensical. For example, how Ophelia reports his behavior to Polonius. Ophelia states that Hamlet, upon entering her room, looked as if “he had been loosed out of hell.” (2.1.1040) Lord Polonius chalks his disheveled behavior up to heartbreak, but this is one of the first instances where Hamlet is described as being “mad,” which Lord Polonius calls him in 2.1.1070. Readers understand at this point in the play that Hamlet has devised this characterization of himself, so the behavior he exhibits isn’t totally surprising. As the play progresses, though, the line in which Hamlet is pretending to be mad or whether he actually is mad blurs. An instance of this ambiguity between Hamlet’s self and devised self occurs in 3.4, where Hamlet kills Polonius, barrages his mother with insults (after the ghost of his father specified in act 1 not to leave her alone), and sees the ghost of his father again. Polonius’ death may have been an accident, but it shows how mad Hamlet has become, and consequently how carelessly he acts on things outside the realm of his goal. As upset as Hamlet is about his mother’s hasty remarriage, his main goal is to avenge his father by killing Claudius. Hamlet sidetracks himself by approaching his mother and pressing her guilt in 3.4. The ghost that Hamlet sees in this scene, a ghost that his mother doesn’t see (and no one else has “scene” since, other than Hamlet) even redirects Hamlets aggression by saying “Do not forget. This visitation/Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.” Hamlet’s purpose is even looked upon by the ghost of his father as dull, misdirected, and confused here. Hamlet’s display of misdirection, something his Father’s ghost witnesses, is even considerably “mad.” Hamlet has blurred the border between himself and who he’s pretending to be so much that the emotions of his actual being have convoluted the goals of his “antic disposition” (1.5.925).

Hamlet isn’t the only mad character in the play, though. In act 4, Ophelia parades around Gertrude, Claudius, and even Laertes, mostly in song. The stage direction dictates that Ophelia enters the scene as “distracted,” before she begins singing about the death of her father and her loss of love. This scene is, again, where Laertes says that her behavior is a “document in madness.” Not only are the readers able to understand this about Ophelia’s behavior, but the characters around her see it, too. In 4.7, it’s learned that Ophelia has drowned, whether she has killed herself or not, the death is a result of her own new found madness. She is “distracted.” She is distracted from the people around her, as well as the things surrounding her, madness making her ill-equipped in taking care of herself.

Furthermore, the premise that Gertrude and Claudius would marry so quickly after King Hamlet’s death is another trait of madness in the play. Neither character considers having a respectful amount of time between the funeral of King Hamlet and then the union between Gertrude and Claudius. Even madder is, as is learned after Hamlet meets the ghost, that Claudius killed King Hamlet. Subsequently, Claudius falsely, evading the consequences of his treasonous actions, inherits the crown and kingdom. Both of which, because Claudius killed King Hamlet, should be Hamlet’s, the original king’s heir.
The subtitles, “a document of madness,” isn’t only applicable to Hamlet. Arguably, this subtitle can be placed along with the titles of any of Shakespeare’s tragedies, as they deal contingently with the disruption of natural order. In writing Laertes line in act 4, Shakespeare seems to have redefined the genre of his tragic plays or, at least, found a more poignant subtitle.

Ophelia’s Madness

by Sam Ruck (Circle 5)

Ophelia in the fourth act of Hamlet is demonstrably insane, but the direct cause of her slipped sanity is something that remains debatable. While it is evident that Ophelia is grieving over the death of her father, Polonius, as Horatio says of her “She speaks much of her father, says she hears / There’s tricks in the world, and hems, and beats her heart” (4.5.4-5), a secondary cause of Ophelia’s madness may be in fact about her failed relationship with Hamlet as well.

The evidence suggesting that she is simply mourning her father is obvious, as lines from one of her many “songs” points towards grieving over an aged relative “His beard as white as snow / All flaxen was his poll” with flaxen here indicating a white or grayed head of hair (4.5.190-191). This line directly references an older man and because of this detail, Polonius’s death has obviously taken its toll on Ophelia’s psyche, causing her to spout such wild and woeful songs. Further explicit references to Ophelia’s father, such as “I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. They say a made a good end.” give more credence to Ophelia’s shattered mental state, as she is constantly fixating on the death of Polonius, so much so that every single thing reminds her of his passing (4.5.180-181). Ophelia’s madness is perhaps overtaking her so much so that she does not even recognize whom she is talking to in this instance–her brother Laertes. Because Polonius was such a vital figure in her life, she is likely bereaved beyond help and thus does not recognize her brother.

However, the explicit sexual references in Ophelia’s songs perhaps account for her obsession with the now absent Hamlet, as in “promising his love” to her earlier in the play and then being scorned, she is doubly heartbroken alongside the death of her father. With lines like “Young men will do’t if they come to’t / By Cock, they are to blame” signifies a strange and perhaps oblique reference to a promiscuous or simply flighty man who promises love (or sex here with the word “cock”) but backs out after a brief time (4.5.59-60). This is compounded on by a following line, “You promised me to wed, / So would I ‘a’ done, by yonder sun, / An thou hadst not come to my bed.” and it is this part of Ophelia’s song that likely damns Hamlet as a cause of her mental fracturing (4.5.62-64). Though the man in the song has promised the speaker that they will soon wed, he has left her for no apparent reason and like Hamlet’s alleged claims of love and marriage to Ophelia, so too has Hamlet broken those vows for reasons unbeknownst. It is likely that Ophelia has fixated upon Hamlet’s “detestable” oath breaking so much so that in not requiting her love, Hamlet has broken both her heart and her poor mind.

Ophelia exists as a tragic character in Hamlet and one that is entirely pitiable because of unfortunate circumstances that she has been put through.

Hamlet’s Character

by Kellie Balfe (Circle 3)

Hamlet has been one of my favorite plays we have read this semester filled with symbolism, emotion and deceit. What really caught my interest is Hamlet’s inability to avenge his father. He realizes that he will in turn die for doing so yet he has no will to live otherwise. Hamlet as a character is fascinated with difficult questions that are in his mind require meaningful proof, however when shown proof that his father was killed by his uncle, Hamlet obsesses with trying to get his uncle to prove his guilt before acting. For example, Hamlet tries to spy on his uncle during the play the visiting actors are preforming, which closely relates to the real situation. By seeing proof that his uncle is guilty, with his running out of the room and causing a scene, Hamlet still wants to be sure he is guilty.

Hamlet’s actions are somewhat pre-meditated and taken upon with swiftness, and in some situations completely erratic balancing on the boarder of madness i.e, when he stabs Polonius behind the curtain without checking who was there. His behavior repulses and causes concern for those he is around, disrupting the order of their everyday lives and selling himself out.

Hamlet is also very melancholy within the play. He provokes the emotions of the audience allowing us to sympathize with him. His mother married her late husband’s murderer who happens to be Hamlet Sr.’s brother, this very taboo. She also did not consider her only child’s well being in the process of making very large life decisions.

The afterlife and the mystery of where one’s soul goes after they die is a rather strong theme in the play. After Hamlet meets the ghost of his father he becomes obsessed with the afterlife, pondering the where abouts of souls in cemeteries. Hamlet questions suicide multiple times and contemplates whether or not it is morally legitimate to take one’s life to escape the pain in their world. He then concludes that religiously he will go to hell for committing suicide, and that may be worse than what he is currently enduring, (III.i). This I believe may interfere with Hamlet’s ability to act and avenge his father. He as a character needs ethical and emotional proof and motivation in order to act, as well as the other character’s in this play. Most of the character’s plans to take action are manipulated and misguided and ultimately end in demise, i.e Laertes’ vengeance was quickly changed by Claudius and ended in his own death.

What Makes a Son

by Danielle Tralongo (Circle 6)

When discussing Hamlet, one must note the parallels between the fathers and sons of the play. The two that must most notably be taken into account are those of King Hamlet and Prince Hamlet, as well as Polonius and Laertes. Both father-son dynamics are relatively similar, in both personality and relativity to the plot of the play. The most important parallel between these two dynamics is not presented until the end of Act 3, when Prince Hamlet kills Polonius. At this point, however, it is clear to the reader (or the viewer) that there is a comparison to be made between Prince Hamlet’s actions and Laertes’s actions.

Before encountering his father’s ghost, Hamlet merely grieves for his father; any other emotions about his father’s passing seem to be outweighed by his grief. In no way does he appear angry until he speaks to the ghost of King Hamlet. This is a rather importatn point: once Prince Hamlet finds out that his father was murdered, rather than merely passing, he begins to crave some sort of revenge on the king’s killer. In Laertes’s case, it is immediately known that Polonius was murdered, and therefore his emotions are immediately those of anger, a desire for vengance driving Laertes’s actions.

Another important parallel to note between the characters of Prince Hamlet and Laertes is the ability to commit to the action of avenging their fathers. Hamlet, though he promises his father’s ghost that he will take action against King Claudius and avenge his father’s death, has not yet done so in the first four acts of the play. He laments on this in Act 2, Scene 2, saying

“Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made. Am I a coward?”

Hamlet recognizes that he may not have the courage to take revenge, seeing as the proper way to do so for his father’s sake would be to murder King Claudius. Hamlet, in this moment, questions whether or not that is something he would be capable of doing. There is another moment in Act 3 where Hamlet has the oppurtunity to kill Claudius, but does not due to the fact that he is praying and would be sent to heaven rather than purgatory, where King Hamlet requested he be sent so the two brothers would suffer the same fate. The reader/viewer questions in this moment whether Hamlet would have been able to go through with this if Claudius had not been praying.

Laertes, on the other hand, seems to have no problem with his desire to eliminate his father’s killer. When Claudius asks what he would like to have done to his father’s killer, Laertes simply responds that he would like “To cut his throat i’ th’ church.” Considering this prompting, it is essential to note Claudius’s role in increasing Laertes’s desire for revenge. Claudius encourages Laertes, giving him suggestions such as challenging Hamlet to a duel. Considering that Claudius’s initial goal was to eliminate Hamlet, it would only make sense that he would help Laertes plan his death.

Both sons were very loyal to their fathers, and swear vengance on the man that killed him. The question that now remains is who of the two sons will make good on his promise.

Hamlet, the Torn Child

by Janet Roberts (Circle 2)

When I first started reading this play, something started kind of niggling at the back of my mind, especially when I came to the scene in Act 3 when Hamlet is confronting his mother about remarrying so quickly and then is (or pretends to be) accosted by his father’s ghost. Up until this point, it’s pretty believable to the audience that Hamlet’s madness is feigned, and we have no reason to believe otherwise because his reasons, as they are revealed to us, seem as logical as they can be. Yet here, we see (or, rather, I saw) a very different side to Hamlet than the calculating decisions made in Acts 1-2 and the clearly disjointed actions and words in Act 4. Here, Hamlet appears to be very deeply disturbed–cutting off his address to his mother completely when simply acknowledging the presence of the ghost would have probably been good enough evidence for madness–beyond the behavior he displays elsewhere. This, of course, is speculation–it’s also entirely possible that the encounter with the ghost is something staged by Hamlet to further his façade from confusion of mind to violent psychosis, thus rationalizing the eventual murder of the King–but nevertheless, it stood out to me as being a deeper kind of breakdown than the rest.

This revelation got me thinking about children from broken homes (that is, from families whose parents are divorced or separated). One of the damaging side effects of divorce to children is the tendency of parents to pit their children against each other, so that the child is forced to choose sides in a fight that is not his or her own. This also sometimes occurs after parents remarry–the child is caught between the mother and Dad’s new girlfriend, etc, etc. Hamlet, despite coming to his dilemma through different circumstances, seems to be similarly plagued. Like the child caught between two parents, Hamlet is caught between the wishes of his dead father and the combined authority of his mother and the new King. To preserve his own freedom by refusing to do away with his uncle would be a direct betrayal to his father–damaging his own legitimacy as his father’s son and failing his father personally. Yet to murder the new king will not only hurt his mother, but also likely send Hamlet to his captivity and eventual demise–the murder will, if all goes as planned, affix to him a label of madness and brand him for captivity; if his feigned madness fails, it will send him immediately to execution as a murderer and traitor to Denmark. In this light, it doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch to read Hamlet’s accosting of his mother as a manifestation of the psychological turmoil of being placed in this position, and by extension, his hatred of her quick marriage to her brother-in-law as (partially) coming from the fact that his lose-lose situation is kind of their fault. I’m interested to see how the rest of the play works out in terms of how Hamlet deals with his challenge.

Laertes vs. Hamlet

by Orr Klein (Circle 7)

One of the aspects of the fourth act that I really enjoyed reading was the contrast between Laertes and Prince Hamlet. They both have dead fathers that they wish to avenge yet they are so different in their demeanor, and how they want to go about their business. Hamlet is more introspective and thoughtful about his revenge, maybe to a fault because he can’t seem to actually get it done, but nonetheless is constantly thinking about the details of the revenge, and is willing to take his time to make sure it goes off perfectly. His thought process reveals a more human aspect of revenge, calling into question whether or not it is useful to act upon these acts of revenge.  Laertes, on the other hand,  is different because he is not as introspective and willing to reflect, he just wants to get it done. For example, there is a moment in Act IV where Claudius asks Laertes what he would do to show that he was really his father’s son and said “To cut his throat i’th’ church” (IV.vii. 98). This is a very revealing quote about Laertes’s character, willing to kill someone in what is considered a safe haven of God. Compare this to Hamlet, who is unwilling to kill Claudius when he sees him praying earlier on in the play. I feel like that’s what makes Hamlet’s revenge so appealing to readers, being able to delay and contemplate his actions make it different than any other revenge tragedy we’ve read so far.

Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy is an important change in thought process that shows how the army of Fortinbras is so willing to walk into their graves over something as insignificant as a small plot of land while he’s not able to carry out his revenge, which is something that he believes is justified.


When honor’s at the stake. How stand I, then,

That have a father killed, a mother stained,

Excitements of my reason and my blood,

And let all sleep, while, to my shame, I see

The imminent death of twenty thousand men

That, for a fantasy and trick of fame

Go to their graves like beds

(IV.iv. 9.46-9.52)


I think it’s pretty interesting to see how Hamlet’s and Laertes’s way of reasoning their acts of revenge are based on two different ideas entirely. Laertes instantly goes in full attack mode and immediately comes up with a plan to take down Hamlet in a duel. Hamlet, on the other hand, takes a lot longer to come around, only after he realizes that there are people out there that are willing to die for a lot less, he’s willing to finally go and act on what his father wanted him to do. After reading this play, I feel as if Hamlet is one of the most humane characters to come out of the plays we’ve read so far. I think most people would feel very similarly in Hamlet’s situation and his delay and contemplation shows that there is some source humanity applied to this messed up situation.


by Alyssa Merritt (Circle 1)

Like the other tragedies we have read so far, there is a strong focus on revenge in Hamlet. In Othello, the only person seeking revenge was Iago based on the fact that Othello didn’t make him lieutenant. In Richard III, although they aren’t main characters, Queen Margaret and Lady Anne want revenge on Richard for the death of their husbands. In Julius Caesar, Marc Antony tries to take revenge on those who murdered Caesar. However, in Hamlet there are three main characters who are seeking revenge. First off, Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes all want revenge for the deaths of their fathers. The revenge plot that should be focused on the most is that of Hamlet.
In act 1, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and talks Hamlet into taking revenge on Claudius for his death. After the ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him by poisoning him, Hamlet is eager seek revenge. However, he ends up having a difficult time carrying out the plan. Hamlet is stuck between wanting to take vengeance for his father and an inner struggle to do what is right. In act 2, Hamlet is not sure if this ghost is telling the truth because he could be the devil in disguise, so he devises a plan to make sure Claudius is guilty. Referring to his plan Hamlet states, “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (II.ii.627-634). Hamlet plans to watch King Claudius’ reaction to the play, Murder of Gonzago. If he acts uncomfortable during the murder scene then Hamlet knows the ghost is telling the truth. Also in act 2, after watching an actor deliver a speech so convincingly, Hamlet questions why he can’t show more emotion for his father. The actor is able to portray an image so well, without even really knowing the character, yet Hamlet is unable to avenge his father’s death without second guessing himself.
In act 3 Hamlet has the chance to kill Claudius while he is alone in his chamber, but decides not to because he thinks he is praying. In his soliloquy, Hamlet expresses his reasons not to kill him right then, stating that he’d actually be doing him a favor. Instead of sending him to purgatory with his father, he’d be sent to heaven because he is praying. By deciding to postpone killing Claudius, Hamlet causes a lot of trouble for himself and others around him. The first person this affects is Polonius. While talking with his mother Hamlet mistakenly kills Polonius who is hiding behind a curtain. Yet he seems to show no remorse for killing an innocent person, he just drags him away and hides his body. Polonius’ daughter Ophelia is also affected because she becomes so distraught over her father’s death she ends up falling into a brook and drowning. “Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, / Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay / To muddy death.” (IV.v.178-181), this quote depicts Ophelia laying in the water with her dress becoming fully drenched, thus, pulling her into the water, to her death, all while she continued to sing. By describing her death this way it makes it seems as though she wasn’t even aware of what was happening. Ophelia had been so consumed with her song, she didn’t notice or care she was drowning.
With the ending of act 4 it seems as though both Hamlet and Laertes are going to get the revenge they were looking for. Although I have not yet read act 5 I feel certain Hamlet will kill Claudius and Laertes will kill Hamlet.

A Synchronicity of Spectral Spectacles in Shakespeare

by Timothy Smajda (Circle 5)

In theme with the recent Halloween festivities, I think it’s interesting to note that we have a sequence of three plays which feature ghosts as characters with stage appearances. We had the number of ghosts appear to Richard and Richmond in the fifth act of Richard III, we had the ghost of Caesar appear to Brutus at the end of the fourth act of Julius Caesar, and in our next play we have the ghost of Hamlet’s father appear to the titular character and a few others. Although I have not read the play of Hamlet, I am familiar with the play’s story having read a prose version found in Tales from Shakespeare. The only other play I am familiar with which features a ghost is Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth, which I read in the last class I took with professor Mulready. For this post I want to explore, compare, and contrast some running themes found in the details of all of the ghost’s appearances.

What is the most prevalent trait shared by all of these ghosts? They are all victims of murder. the train of people that were steamrolled to ensure Richard’s possession of the crown, Julius Caesar, whom was the object of political controversy to the conspirators, Hamlet’s father, who stood in the way of Hamlet’s uncle’s desire for the crown and the king’s wife, and Banquo, whom Macbeth assassinated to prevent Banquo from ever wearing the crown. Are they all ghosts because their lives were cut short before their “appointed times”? Was Shakespeare playing off of the idea that ghosts are the souls of people who still had matters to attend to after the time of their deaths?

Also note that most of the ghosts only appear to a select number of people. In Macbeth, the titular character is the only person at the dinner table who is able to see Banquo’s ghost, much to the confusion of his dinner guests. In Julius Caesar, all of the other characters have fallen asleep and Brutus is the only one who has seen Caesar’s ghost. In Richard III, both Richard and Richmond perceive them in their sleep. Hamlet is an odd exception, because he hears of his father’s ghost first from the night watch, but later when the ghost appears again, the mother does not perceive it. But for each of these appearances, save the night watch from Hamlet and Richmond, the characters who perceive the ghost end up dying.

There are a few more details of the effects of ghosts which exist in the plays. When they appear in Richard III, King Richard speaks of the candles’ flames turning blue. And in a similar moment, Brutus notices that the flames have changed with no specificity of them turning blue. (As a fun aside, shortly after reading the scene in Richard III where the candles turn blue, I was playing a videogame which took place in a spooky world. In it I saw a ghostly character which held a blue candle, so kudos Shakespeare for still making a cultural impact.)

So with exploring all of these ideas about ghosts, what can we infer when a ghost appears in his plays? We can say that the ghost is of someone who left the earth tragically early (e.g. murdered), and that whom they appear to is in trouble! I wonder how many fictional works which have ghosts still stick to this general pattern of guaranteed death? Beware!

Mark Antony in Julius Caesar; not the singer

by Samantha Mitchell (Circle 6)

In our groups today, after watching the scene I was still struggling with Mark Antony and his motive with the plebeians. I didn’t understand why all of a sudden the people of Rome went into rage, and I was lost when it came to what Mark Antony was saying. After some group discussion on why the Roman people decided to go after Brutus, and the conspirators, and destroy everything on their way, I fell upon these lines again:

“…Then burst his mighty heart,

And in his mantle muffling up his face,

Even at the base of Pompey’s statue,

Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.

O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!

Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,

Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.”

(3.2 180-186)

Realizing that Mark Antony was not on the side of Brutus and the conspirators helped me understand what he was sating in these lines, and I was able to understand the scene. Antony is telling the plebeians now that Caesar has fallen, the rest of us will fall if we do not take care of the people that have caused this great leader of ours to no longer exist. Mark Antony helps the people realize that Brutus was the leader of the conspirators, and he should have to pay for the suffering he has caused. I find it interesting as well as too

Antony as a character is very intense, he is able to speak to the people and turn an entire crowd against the conspirators and Brutus with jus the way he speaks. Antony speaks of how great Caesar was, to his friends and to the people that he ruled over. During the speech at the funeral Mark Antony is able to persuade the entire crowd of plebeians, to withdraw their support of Brutus, and he used only three props to do so. He spoke about the will Caesar left, and then he shows everyone the dead body of Caesar, and lastly he shows the robes that he was wearing he when he was killed. He will that Caesar left states that he is leaving the countrymen with money and that he wants his gardens to become a public place so people can enjoy them as much as Caesar did while alive. Mark Antony was a fantastic politician, and that is shown by the way he can speak to the people. He is able to speak to the people on based on what the people want to hear. He is also is very skilled in rhetoric and he is able to use is to his advantage to convince the people that Caesar was better than Brutus will ever be.

After Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral, Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus go through and determine who is to blame for Caesar’s death. Antony also seems to take responsibility of the plebeian people, and everyone accepts Antony as the new person in power. All the plebeians say, “Peace, ho! Hear Antony, most noble Antony” (3.2 225) they want him to speak the truth about Caesar and the misfortune he had faced. The way that Antony talked to the people makes him such an interesting character to discuss, and one of the better characters in this play.

Emotional Backdrops

by Katie Gantley (Circle 7)

Within Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, there are only two women who hold underlying yet highly significant roles. Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, serves as a form of foreshadowing to her husband’s death. Meanwhile, Portia, Brutus’ wife, has an interesting role within the play overall. Both women are unable to impact the events occurring outside of themselves and their marriage. Regardless of their efforts, neither woman is able to even get through to their husband. This is especially important in Calpurnia’s case because had Caesar heeded her warnings based on her dreams he would have lived to see another day. Somewhat similarly, Portia attempts to reach out to Brutus about his “cause of grief” before the murder of Caesar, but he pushes her worries aside, as does Caesar with Calpurnia. It is apparent that the two women in this play serve as a contrast to the strong male figures. They play the role of concerned and gentle housewives.

Portia is an interesting character because we are only given what she feels and thinks once, and this pertains to the well-being of her husband, Brutus. Clearly, the women during this time were to tend to their husbands and the household and to leave outside business to the men. In this case, Portia pleads to Brutus, even going down onto her knees, to find out what has had him so moody as of late. She states:
“And too impatiently stamped with your foot.
Yet I insisted; yet you answered not,
But with an angry wafture of your hand
Gave sign for me to leave you. So I did,
Fearing to strengthen the impatience
Which seemed too much enkindled, and withal
Hoping it was but an effect of humour,
Which sometime hath his hour with every man.” (2.1.243-250)
“I should not know you Brutus. Dear my lord,
Make me acquainted with your cause of grief” (2.1.254-5)

This speech from Portia is particularly endearing to me because it is such an honest and heartful scene of a woman expressing her frustration in attempting to understand her husband and his recent behavior. I find this to be a significant scene because Portia is reaching out to Brutus to find the root of the problem. I cannot help but wonder, had Brutus shared his plans and ideas for murdering Caesar, if Portia would have talked some sense into him.

Calpurnia, quite similarly to Portia, is just attempting to keep her husband safe. We are told that Calpurnia is having nightmares of Caesar’s murder. In fact, these nightmares are enough to keep Caesar from being able to fall asleep. If this isn’t a large enough sign to not leave your house the next day, then I don’t know what is. Regardless, it takes a great amount of pleading on Calpurnia’s part to finally persuade her husband not to go to the Senate that day. Shortly afterwards, Decius comes to convince Caesar to come to the Senate that day to be crowned. Ambition and pride seem to overshadow his wife’s worries and warnings and he agrees again to go to the Senate.

In this scene with his wife, Caesar continues to refer to himself in the third person. In response to Calpurnia’s concerned argument Caesar states:

“What can be avoided
Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?
Yet Caesar shall go forth; forth these predictions
Are to the world in general as to Caesar” (2.2.27-30).

Caesar attempts to liken himself to the rest of the world, assuming that it could not be him that these messages of doom are being sent for. This is interesting because it is almost as if he no longer sees himself through his own eyes, but through the eyes of the public.

Calpurnia and Portia play importance roles within this play particularly because they present us with a back drop of “real life.” By this, I mean that the presence of the wife to these high status men shows us that these men are still human. The wives provide some emotion to the events that occur within the play. Without them, I feel that Julius Caesar would be quite a blunt, straightforward and emotionless play. To further bring this point home, I noticed the role that women played in the movie clip of Mark Antony’s speech in this past Tuesday’s class. The camera focused on the women in the crowd when Antony revealed Caesar’s wounded body, and of course it was only the women to whimper or cry, which (for me at least) was effective in making the scene more meaningful and sad.