Gender Roles’ Dynamics In Julius Caesar
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar opens on the simultaneous celebrations Caesar’s defeat by Pompey’s and the annual fertility Festival of Lupercal. The importance of gender characterisation is clearly highlighted by the combination of these two historically distinct events, which each celebrate different gender roles. The patriarchal society of Rome demands that a leader embodies the virile spirit and leadership qualities of the state. Caesar, who returns victorious from battle, assumes the leadership role. Caesar’s enemies will have to reduce his masculinity if they want to eliminate him as Rome’s strong ruler. Roman society regards women as the embodiments weakness, believing that their physical and mental inferiority makes them ineffective beyond reproductive purposes. This explains why aspirants to Rome’s throne feminize male warrior figures to make him unfit for the role.
Portia (the female character) and Calphurnia (the male character) capture the stereotypes about women. Calphurnia Caesar’s spouse, shows women’s predisposition toward fearfulness. Calphurnia, who believes fear is a feminine trait, asks Caesar to use her anxiety as an excuse and says, “Do no go forth today.” Calm it your fear.” (2.2.50). Caesar accepts this temporary arrangement, but only after he has acknowledged the reality. It is a rhetorical challenge relating the fact that Caesar is “afeard of telling the graybeards and the truth” (2.2.67). Caesar shows his weakness right away when Decius quickly persuades Caesar that he should reverse his previous decision. Caesar greets the senators and displays inconstancy, another dangerous trait associated women. Portia exhibits the same behavior in accession and displays a low expectation for women. Lucius Brutus is shocked to learn that she has been a fraud and that she is untrustworthy. Caesar is made to feel resentful by Cassius, who associates Caesar with the weak willed woman. Roman society considers masculinity the standard for determining Roman worthiness. Cassius begins by listing Caesar’s weak points in his past that illustrate his feminine tendencies. Cassius seeks to degrade Caesar’s virility to help him understand the moral motivation behind the plot. Cassius’ revelations raise the question of what “[a] man should do/ So get to the start of the magnificent world” (1.2.129-132). Cassius rescues Caesar after he shouts, “Help! Cassius or I drown!” ‘” (1.2.111). Cassius also reveals that Caesar is a “sick girl” who cries out for water (1.2.128). Cassius continues the attack and tells how Caesar, just like a woman, has become superstitious (2.1.195). Cassius’ projections are the catalyst for Brutus joining the cause, and Caesar’s vulnerability is revealed.
The conspirators use Caesar’s physical infirmities as indicators of female weakness to counter the complaints about Caesar’s rigid, rigid leadership. Caesar could be deaf (1.2.213) or have difficulty hearing someone talk (1.2.17). Caesar can also experience epileptic fits, adding to the problem. Caesar’s inability to perform at his duties as a leader adds credibility when he falters just before he receives the crown (1.2.247-254). “It seems he hath fallen-sickness,” Brutus’ comment, both literally and figuratively, foreshadows Caesar’s gradual devolution in masculinity that ultimately leads to his death.
Caesar’s final moments are etched with bloody images and tears. This imagery is similar to a birth process in the which the mother’s life is made a sacrifice for her child’s survival. Caesar’s death may allow him to create a new Rome. This interesting twist adds to the rivalry for leadership between his sons Brutus (and Anthony). Antony’s prediction, “Domestic fury/Fierce civil strive/ Shall cobble all of Italy’,” announces that Caesar is about to be murdered. The use of the term “domestic”, which is used to refer to the woman who is the ruler of domestic realm, inadvertently puts Caesar in a feminine position. Caesar is symbolically the highest authority in a female entity. Rome is a feminine adjective. Antony’s comment that “mothers must but smile when their infants are quartered with war hands” (3.1.1) is an additional domestic metaphor. 267-68). Shakespeare gives Caesar a mother-like character, perhaps allowing him to conceive the children Calphurnia was unable to. Calphurnia fears that Caesar’s statue will be destroyed by Calphurnia. She dreams that Caesar would become a nurse and that he would revive the nation’s blood. Caesar may be considered a reproductive person in a variation of the discussion about Caesar’s body. This discussion is distorted by the phrases “all while ran blood” (3.2.191) as well as “bleeding business” (3.1.168). Shakespeare gives a strange and bizarre description of sexuality if Caesar is successful in his mutated reproduction.
Caesar’s figure becomes more feminine when it no longer reflects the ideal valiant warrior who inspires men. Instead, his wounded make him feel pityful. Brutus’ remark that “HadI as much eyes as thou wilt/ Weeping as fast thy blood streams forth/” (3.1.200-01), relates how a world formerly armed with weapons and armor was transformed to state reduced tears. Caesar is likened a woman who has been victim to the cruelty of cruel hunters. She needs a male-like figure who can vindicate the injustice she has done. Calphurnia used the expression “lusty Romans” earlier to add a sexualized dimension of regicide. It allows for the possibility that the hunters metaphorically commit rape on Caesar. It’s as if they celebrate the hunt’s success by ritually covering their bodies with Caesar’s blood. Antony accuses the conspirators of being predatory and bestial hunting and portrays Caesar as the victim.
Villians! Your vile daggers were not yours.
In Caesar’s side, they hacked each other.
You showed your teeth and fawned ape-like, (126.96.36.199). Caesar’s dead body is an expression of sympathy for his oppressors. Antony’s glorifying of Caesar’s corpse makes Caesar a woman. He needs a man in order to make his case to society. This strong figure is not accessible and has to be supported by the fickle masses.
Poor, dumb, and sweet Caesar’s woundeds!
Let them speak for themselves. But were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony was an Antony
This will make you smile and laugh.
Every wound of Caesar should be moved
The Stones of Rome will mutiny. (3.2.227-232)Calphurnia whose warning goes unheeded by Caesar demonstrates the impotency of a woman’s voice. Caesar’s voice dies with the sound of a woman. His body is distorted and he projects the image of mouths. Antony’s reference about tongues also has sexual implications. When kissing takes place, the first sight of contact is made by the mouth and tongue. This sexuality further strengthens the analogy between Caesar’s birth and the reproductive process.
Caesar’s transformation from a male figure to one of female weakness results in a complex and misleading message about sexuality. Because Caesar’s final fate merges strength with weakness, no traits are inherently masculine and feminine. It is a strange paradox that wounds, which were traditionally associated with femininity and vulnerability, have been equated to masculinity in the play. Portia’s decision not to self-inflict wounds demonstrates the admiration and awe that wounds can inspire in masculine spheres. Brutus reveals the secrets to the conspiracy to Portia after seeing the wounds she has inflicted. Caesar can also win his vindication through his wounds. The crowd moves to take action against the conspirators, which allows for leadership by injury. The symbolism of the sword is a phallic-like sign that Caesar is alive, which allows him to be transformed into a man of masculinity. Brutus acknowledged, “O Julius Caesar. Though art mightly yet/ Thy Spirit walks abroad and transforms our swords/ Within our proper entrails. Cassius and Brutus will be able to end their lives with the sword that killed Caesar. Cassius exclaims in his suicide, “Guidethou the sword Caesar, thou art wicked,/Eve with that which killed you” (5.3.45-46). If Shakespeare wants his play to reflect Roman culture, then this is the right outcome. Only the services they provide that benefit the masculine community are of value to women. The conspirators had to have grounds to make Caesar unfit for their position. Feminizing Caesar provides a helpful mechanism. The retransformation and affirmation of Caesar is reflected in Octavious’ declaration that Caesar was a man (5.5.75), which reinforces the idea that the masculine spirit will rule in Roman society.