Julius Caesar

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Body, Blood, & Pain Symbol Analysis

Body, Blood, & Pain Symbol Icon
In Julius Caesar, the human body echoes the body politic: the conspirators call Caesar's autocracy a sickness that must be cured; the sleepless Brutus speaks of a rebellion in his body mirroring the rebellion he plans; and Calpurnia's dream about Caesar's bleeding statue is reinterpreted to mean that Rome draws its life from Caesar, as if his health were synonymous with the city's. Physical strength and weakness is important too. Portia courts pain as a means of proving her worth, and Caesar's great power is contrasted by infirmity—he's epileptic and partially deaf.

Body, Blood, & Pain Quotes in Julius Caesar

The Julius Caesar quotes below all refer to the symbol of Body, Blood, & Pain. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the The Folger Shakespeare Library edition of Julius Caesar published in 1992.
Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
I grant I am a woman; but withal a woman that Lord Brutus took to wife; I grant I am a woman; but withal a women well reputed, Cato's daughter. Think you I am no stronger than my sex, being so father'd, and so husbanded? Tell me your counsels, I will not disclose'em. I have made a strong proof of my constancy, giving myself a voluntary wound here, in the thigh: can I bear that with patience, and not my husband's secrets?
Related Characters: Portia (speaker), Marcus Brutus
Related Symbols: Body, Blood, & Pain
Page Number: 2.1.315-325
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Brutus has decided that Caesar must die, and he and the other conspirators have planned to commit the murder at the Capitol the next morning. Portia (Brutus's wife) notices that her husband has been acting strangely, getting up at all hours of the night and seemingly pacing and musing at random. She sees that he is not physically ill, but rather has some "sick offense within [his] mind." She begs him to open up to her, and to share what is causing him and his many visitors (the other conspirators who have just come and left in the middle of the night) to act so strangely.

Portia tells Brutus that as his wife, she can be trusted with his secrets. In order to prove herself, she gives the men around her as references for her status as a special woman. She concedes the contemporary belief that women are inferior to men, but claims that as the wife to Brutus and daughter to Cato (a famous Roman), she is "stronger than [her] sex." What's more, she stabs herself in the thigh to prove her manliness and her "constancy" (trustworthiness). This self-inflicted wound foreshadows both her suicide and her husband's eventual suicide at the end of the play.

After this display, Brutus consents to share his secrets with her, telling her to go back to bed and that he'll tell her everything soon.

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Act 2, scene 2 Quotes
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Related Characters: Julius Caesar (speaker)
Related Symbols: Omens, Body, Blood, & Pain
Page Number: 2.2.34-39
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene we see the marriage of Caesar and Calpurnia in contrast with the marriage of Brutus and Portia. Opposing Brutus's secrecy, there is an open dialogue between Caesar and Calpurnia. Calpurnia tries to convince Caesar not to leave the house that day, listing the many omens that have been seen throughout Rome. To that list she adds her own prophetic nightmares in which she foresaw Caesar's death, linking her to the supernatural elements of the play.

In this quote, Caesar says it is far better to die valiantly and honorably than to be a coward, as cowards suffer and "die" constantly. Caesar is trapped by his public persona. He is privately superstitious, and since he believes himself so important, he assumes that the omens are for him—but he cannot act cowardly without bringing about the "death" of the public Caesar and of his self image.

Caesar also reveals his opinion on Fate: death is "a necessary end" that comes to everyone; there is nothing you can do to stop it. For this reason, he argues, death is nothing to be feared. Again, this opinion is paradoxical, because by accepting his death as Fated and refusing to act to prevent it (by staying at home, for example), Caesar allows his 'fated' death to occur. Ultimately, Caesar ignores Calpurnia's warning to save his public image and his self image as fearless and infallible.

Act 3, scene 1 Quotes
Et tu, Bruté? — Then fall, Caesar!
Related Characters: Julius Caesar (speaker), Marcus Brutus
Related Symbols: Body, Blood, & Pain, Rome
Page Number: 3.1.85
Explanation and Analysis:

The conspirators have surrounded Caesar, each kneeling before him, pretending to plea for the reversal of Publius's banishment. Despite their pleas, Caesar refuses to change his mind, remaining "constant as the Northern Star." Beginning with Casca and ending with Brutus, the conspirators then rise one by one and stab Caesar. Supposedly, Caesar stopped defending himself when he realized that Brutus was in on the plot. Caesar then utters the beginning of this line in Latin, shocked at the betrayal of his dear friend Brutus. The Latin translates to "and you, Brutus?" or "You too, Brutus?" Caesar's final living sentence is the dramatic proclamation of his fall. He dies after speaking this line.

Though Antony will ultimately defend Brutus at the end of the play, this deep betrayal of Caesar is the reason that Dante puts Brutus in the deepest circle of hell in his famous poem Inferno. The conspirators justify the murder by reason and logic, seeing it as political necessity for the public good, but Caesar's last line suggests that he felt it instead as a private betrayal. This "rational" murder is also extremely bloody. After the conspirators stab Caesar in excess, they literally bathe in his blood, smearing it all over their arms and their swords to take ownership of the assassination.

The scene is also extremely meta-theatrical, meaning that it shows awareness of itself as theatre. The quote, Caesar's final line, is dramatized by the use of Latin and the climatic final sentence. While the conspirators are bathing in Caesar's blood, Cassius says "How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!" The line calls out attention to the fact that it is being spoken in a scene in a play. At the same time, it also shows how the characters felt during the historical events, reinforcing the idea they lived in the public stage of Rome, and that their actions would be recorded and remembered as history.

Finally, note that even though the play is named for Caesar, he dies at around the halfway point. The remainder of the play must work out tragic deaths for the conspirators.

Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war.
Related Characters: Mark Antony (speaker)
Related Symbols: Body, Blood, & Pain, Rome
Page Number: 3.1.299
Explanation and Analysis:

Anthony has entered and seen Caesar's dead body. He his overcome with emotion, offering his life to the conspirators, but he is also calm and strategic. Antony shakes hands with the (literally) bloody conspirators, pretending to make peace, and asks only to speak at Caesar's funeral. Cassius, who wanted to kill Antony from the beginning, thinks it is a bad idea, but Brutus, who is convinced that the assassination was for the good of Rome, agrees to let Antony speak on the condition that he does not speak badly about the conspirators.

After the conspirators leave, Antony gives a soliloquy revealing his true intentions. He shows that he only acted civil with the "butchers" to allow for revenge. He predicts that war will break out because of the murder, and even suggests that Caesar's spirit will return to "Cry havoc" and unleash war so that his foul murder will be avenged. Antony is ultimately right about the return of Caesar's ghost and the war that will soon begin. He will soon harness his raw emotions in a public oration that will incite the very war he here predicts.

Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest, —
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men, —
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
Related Characters: Mark Antony (speaker), Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus
Related Symbols: Body, Blood, & Pain, Rome
Page Number: 3.2.82-96
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote is excerpted from one of the most famous speeches in Shakespeare. Brutus has already spoken to the public, beginning with "Romans, countrymen, and lovers." Brutus says that he loved and honored Caesar, but killed him because he loved Rome more. The public responds well, even to the point of wanting to crown Brutus. But Brutus makes the crucial mistake of leaving before Antony speaks. Antony, a powerful orator, makes an incredibly skillful speech in which he appeals to emotion, and turns the public against Brutus and the conspirators.

He begins by referring to the public as his friends, stressing immediately his difference from Brutus. Antony then goes on to "bury Caesar," seeming to respect the wishes of the conspirators but actually reminding the public of their love for Caesar while simultaneously casting doubt on "Brutus and the rest." Antony repeats Brutus's name many times, and ironically suggests that Brutus is "honorable." By using his skill with language and making public displays of his private emotions—at one point he pauses in his speech theatrically because he is overcome with emotion and tears—Antony is able to refute Brutus and turn the populace against him, beginning the civil war he predicted in his soliloquy. He carefully reveals Caesar's will and describes the murder with gruesome detail, even displaying Caesar's bloodied body, until the people are so riled up that they begin to riot. All the while, Antony maintains a show of innocence, claiming that he is a bad speaker and doesn't want to cause a commotion.

Act 5, scene 5 Quotes
This was the noblest Roman of all
All the conspirators, save only he,
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He only, in a general honest thought,
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man."
Related Characters: Mark Antony (speaker), Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus
Related Symbols: Body, Blood, & Pain, Rome
Page Number: 5.5.74-81
Explanation and Analysis:

Cassius is dead, and the conspirators' armies are defeated. Believing that he deserves to die, Brutus runs on his sword and commits suicide. He justifies his death saying that it is not to avoid capture, but is rather honorable and a just punishment for his crimes. In the quote, Antony speaks having discovered Brutus's corpse. Antony claims that Brutus was the only conspirator who truly believed he was acting with honor and for the good of Rome, saying that the others only envied Caesar.

While he previously referred to Brutus as honorable ironically, here Antony is being genuine, and Brutus is given an honorable death rite. These lines make a good case that this play can be seen not as the tragedy of Julius Caesar, but rather as the tragedy of Brutus, as his death and failure are in ironic contrast to his virtuous character. Antony praises Brutus, saying that the elements were mixed in him especially well. By elements, Antony refers to the Renaissance belief in bodily "humors"—substances that governed one's temperament and character. His final sentence, attributed to nature, is enigmatic: "This is a man." Brutus is not a great man, or a much beloved one like Caesar, but nor is he described as evil. In the end, Brutus is characterized as simply a man. Recalling his desire to be a dog over a dishonorable Roman, Antony's characterization of Brutus as an honest man leaves Brutus's virtue and philosophy in tact, though his army has fallen and his life over.

Act 4, scene 3 Quotes
Remember March, the ides of March remember:
Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?
What villain touch'd his body, that did stab,
And not for justice? What, shall one of us
That struck the foremost man of all this world
But for supporting robbers, shall we now
Contaminate our fingers with base bribes,
And sell the mighty space of our large honours
For so much trash as may be grasped thus?
I had rather be a dog, and bay the moon,
Than such a Roman.
Related Characters: Marcus Brutus (speaker), Julius Caesar
Related Symbols: Omens, Body, Blood, & Pain, Rome
Page Number: 4.3.19-29
Explanation and Analysis:

The two sides are preparing their armies, Octavius and Antony against Brutus and Cassius. But Cassius and Brutus are losing trust and getting frustrated with each other. In this quote, Brutus and Cassius are speaking in private: Cassius is mad at Brutus for punishing one of their officers for a small offense, and Brutus is accusing Cassius of taking bribes. Here he evokes the prophesy of the ideas of March and the ideals for which they murdered Caesar: justice, honor, and the good of Rome. Brutus claims that they assassinated Caesar for being corrupt, and that it would be extremely hypocritical for them to be corrupt in turn. A man of honor and principles, especially Roman principles, Brutus claims he would rather be a dog than a hypocritical man.

Like Caesar, who died in part because of his unwillingness to change his principles or sacrifice his self image of invulnerability, Brutus begins to hurt himself by sticking so firmly to his principles. His insistence on being honorable and his firm belief that the killing was purely logical and justifiable is the reason that Antony was allowed to live, despite Cassius's objections. Now Antony has turned the people against the conspirators, and Brutus and Cassius are fighting amongst themselves because of Brutus's stubborn honor.

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