Julius Caesar

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Themes and Colors
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Logic and Language Theme Icon
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
Politics and Morality Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Julius Caesar, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fate Theme Icon

The attitude Julius Caesar takes towards free will is paradoxical. On the one hand, the human capacity for reason plays a chief role, as many scenes involve characters going through careful decision-making processes or engaging in complex arguments—this suggests a world where events come about as a result of human free will. On the other, many of the play's key events are successfully predicted, both by humans with prophetic abilities, and by the natural world itself, which makes signs out of weather, animal behavior, and even the reversal of life and death—this suggests a world where fate is predetermined, or at least heavily influenced by an unseen force, possibly the Gods.

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Fate Quotes in Julius Caesar

Below you will find the important quotes in Julius Caesar related to the theme of Fate.
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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Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Related Characters: Caius Cassius (speaker), Julius Caesar, Marcus Brutus
Page Number: 1.2.140-142
Explanation and Analysis:

Talking in private away from the spectacle of "the order of the course," Cassius is carefully convincing Brutus to conspire against Caesar. Displaying skillful use of language, Cassius appeals to Brutus's sense of honor, morality, and love of Rome while belittling Caesar and ironizing his immortality and greatness. In this quote Cassius suggests that he and Brutus are subservient to Caesar not because of fate or any particular excellence in Caesar, but because of their lack of action.

This quote brings up the question of fate and reinforces the ambiguity that comes with attempting to answer it. Cassius does not say definitively that fate is meaningless. Instead he says that "Men at some time are masters of their fates." In this particular case, he argues, reason, action, and free will determine the outcome instead of fate and the stars. Cassius pairs this suggestion with an appeal to Brutus's sense of honor and duty to Rome in order to persuade Brutus to act and join the conspiracy.

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
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Related Characters: Marcus Brutus (speaker)
Page Number: 4.3.249-255
Explanation and Analysis:

Brutus and Cassius have both apologized to one another, and Brutus reveals that Portia, afraid that he would lose, committed suicide. Brutus is reminded of her death, but acts unaffected. In this quote, Brutus and Cassius are arguing again, this time about military tactics. Brutus thinks that they should strike now, while Cassius thinks they should allow the enemy to come to them.

Here, Brutus makes an extended metaphor about Fate, comparing it to the tides and a swelling ocean. He suggests that human lives are governed by Fate, and that without good fortune men would live only in misery. Since fate is now in their favor, they need to strike now, before the tide turns on them. He also argues that waiting will allow Antony and Octavius to recruit more troops and grow their armies.

Though he claims that he is unaffected by his wife's suicide, Brutus seems to be changed. Instead of arguing for the idealized, moral side, he is now using pragmatism (Cassius's usual domain). Brutus also now speaks of Fate as if events are predetermined, even though he was previously focused on reason and his own actions as he decided whether or not to kill Caesar. Ironically, though he turns towards Fate and suggests that fortune is on his side, Brutus will ultimately loose the war and commit suicide.