Julius Caesar

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Omens Symbol Icon
The presence of omens and prophecies in Julius Caesar lends an air of the supernatural to the cold political machinery of Rome. From the Soothsayer's warning, to the storm, to the birds that presage Cassius's defeat, major events in the play seem inevitable, as if decreed by the Gods. Then again, things may not be as fixed as they seem—does knowing that the next day is the ides of March help make up Brutus's mind? And Cassius bases his suicide on a mistake—the bad omen was not accurate until he made it so by killing himself.

Omens Quotes in Julius Caesar

The Julius Caesar quotes below all refer to the symbol of Omens. 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 1, scene 2 Quotes
Beware the ides of March.
Related Characters: Soothsayer (speaker), Julius Caesar
Related Symbols: Omens
Page Number: 1.2.20
Explanation and Analysis:

The Soothsayer interrupts Antony's running of the course, a public demonstration, by shouting "Caesar!" The Soothsayer then delivers this famous prophesy, before he is ignored by Caesar and sent on his way. At first Caesar does not hear the prophesy, but Brutus (his eventual killer) and the Soothsayer both repeat the line. "The ides of March" refers to the middle of the month, March 15.

This quote is the first of many omens, and it introduces the question about Fate that will continue to develop over the course of the play: does human reason and decision-making cause events, or are they governed only by predetermined fate? The Soothsayer's ability to accurately predict Caesar's demise suggests the murder was fated, but since Brutus heard the prediction, it could also be said that his actions and decisions were what made the prophesy come true.

The exchange surrounding this quote also gives a glimpse into one of Caesar's infirmities (deafness), placing it in contrast with his image of invulnerability. Privately, Caesar is superstitious, as is revealed moments before this scene, when he asks Antony to touch Calpurnia for luck. But in public, Caesar projects invulnerable manliness, and dismisses the Soothsayer without a second thought.


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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
Caesar: The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not gone.
Related Characters: Julius Caesar (speaker), Soothsayer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Omens
Page Number: 3.1.1-2
Explanation and Analysis:

The conspiracy is under way. Caesar is now at the Capitol surrounded by conspirators, and will die in this scene. Caesar opens Act 3 by challenging the Soothsayer, suggesting that since it is now March 15 (the ides) and nothing bad has happened, the prophesy must have been wrong. The Soothsayer's cryptic response is to remind Caesar that the ides of March are not over yet—there is still time for Caesar to meet his fate.

This exchange reinforces Caesar's superstition. Despite his public dismissal of the Soothsayer's prophesy, Caesar remembers and has clearly been thinking about the omen. As the play moves towards his climactic death, it seems more and more Fated. At the same time, we still wonder at how Caesar seems to know his death is coming and yet does nothing to stop it. This exchange is the final moment where the living Caesar is tied to the supernatural, foreshadowing his return as a ghost.

Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
But this same day
Must end that work the ides of March begun;
And whether we shall meet again I know not.
Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why, then, this parting was well made.
Related Characters: Marcus Brutus (speaker), Caius Cassius
Related Symbols: Omens
Page Number: 5.1.123-129
Explanation and Analysis:

Brutus has been haunted by the ghost of Caesar, and the opposing armies are about to meet. Brutus and Cassius and Antony and Octavius have exchanged taunts; the battle is about to begin. In private, Cassius says that though he has never before believed in omens, he now believes that the crows circling above are a bad sign. In this line, Brutus is saying his goodbye to Cassius in case they never meet again. Brutus once more evokes the Soothsayer's prophesy and the assassination of Caesar. The two are afraid, fearing bad omens and Fate, but are at peace with one another.  Brutus acknowledges his uncertainty, not knowing how Fate and his own actions will impact the results of the day. This is also their final interaction, as both of them die in the war that follows.

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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