Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Julius Caesar - Act II, Scene II


(Julius Caesar - Act II, Scene II. Questions taken from Julius Caesar Workbook for ICSE by Xavier Pinto, published by Morning Star. Suitable for students of class IX and X. If you have a query, drop a comment in the comment box at the end of this post. Please leave your mail id if you need a personal response - else if will post my reply in the blog.)



i. In what mood does Calphurnia speak to Caesar? Why does she warn him? When earlier had he been warned of this day?
Calphurnia speaks to Caesar in a very frightened and disturbed framed mind. Calphurnia had cried out in her sleep the previous night that Caesar was being murdered. Now, she begs him not to go out of the Palace at all. She warns him because she feels that there are too many omens which indicate that something is about to go wrong. She tells Caesar that a lioness had given birth on the streets. Graves had opened up to give up their corpses. Clouds had rained blood on the Capitol. Horses neighing and dying men and groaning were, according to Calphurnia, indicators of something terrible to happen. Caesar had been earlier warned of this day during the feast of Lupercal. A soothsayer had warned Caesar to be careful about the Ides of March.

ii. What has Caesar noticed this is about the night? What did he ask his servant to do then? Why?
Caesar had noticed that the previous night was not a regular peaceful night. He had noticed that the omens that night did not appear to portend well for the future. He, therefore, asked his servant go to the priests to make them give a sacrifice immediately and get him their opinion on the result this sacrifice. He wanted to know whether the sacrifice indicated whether the omens were good or bad.
He wanted the opinion of the priests because he was not very sure about interpreting the omens himself.


iii. Caesar says: "Caesar shall forth." On what are Calphurnia's fears based? State two unusual things which she has heard to have happened.
Calphurnia's fears are based on her dreams the previous night. The previous night Calphurnia dreamt that Caesar was being murdered. It was also based on the very frightening omens that people had been witnessing since the previous evening. The two unusual things that she had heard to have happened were of the lioness giving birth on the streets and of graves opening up and giving up the corpses in it.

iv. What does Caesar say later about cowards? What does he say in the extract to show that he is not threatened?
Caesar says that cowards die many times in their imagination even before their actual death. However, brave men experience death only once. In order to show that he is not threatened, he tells Calphurnia that things looked threatening only because they looked only at his back. He also tells Calphurnia that these threats would no longer look formidable once they came face to face with him. He also tells Calphurnia that danger knows very well that Caesar was more dangerous than danger itself. Caesar tells Calphurnia that both the danger and Caesar are lions born on the same day and he was the more dangerous of the two. He tells Calphurnia that to stay home would be like behaving like an animal without a heart.

v. What aspect of the character of Calphurnia as well as of Caesar is hinted at the extract.
From the extract it is apparent that Calphurnia is meek and mild-mannered. She is superstitious and is influenced significantly by omens which she believes portends forthcoming events. She believes that one should pay heed to omens for one's own good. However, Julius Caesar does not believe superstitions, omens and other similar practices. Julius Caesar is a very confident person he depends on his abilities to tackle things as they come. Julius Caesar fears nothing. He feels that there is no situation or difficulty which he cannot tackle with his skill and power.

2.
i. What is meant by, "I never stood on ceremonies"? What is Caesar's normal opinion on such things?
Calphurnia says that "I never stood on ceremonies". By this she meant that she normally did not believe in omens was not superstitious in nature. She, however, says that the omens this time were so scary that it was not wise to discard the meaning of these omens. Caesar's normal opinion on such things was one of disdain. Caesar had only marginal belief in superstition. Even if he believed the superstition he would not turn his back to event just because the omen did not portend well for him. Julius Caesar was that brave man he would go and face the event even if the signs did not bode well for him.

ii. Mentioned any three other signs enumerated by Calphurnia in her speech. Why does she narrate such sights at this time?
The three other signs enumerated by Calphurnia in her speech are about violet soldiers in flames fighting on the clouds in perfect battle formation. Clouds raining blood on the capital the neighing of horses. She narrates all these sights to Julius Caesar at this time because she thinks that by telling Caesar about these unnatural happenings would make him reconsider his decision about going out on that day.

iii. What does Calphurnia's speech reveal about her character?
From the extract it is apparent that Calphurnia meek and mild-mannered. She is superstitious influenced significantly by omens which she believes portends forthcoming events. She believes that one should pay heed to omens for one's own good. Calphurnia speech also reveals that she genuinely cared about the well-being of Julius Caesar.

iv. What is Caesar's reaction to Calphurnia fears? What does he decide to do?
Caesar says that cowards die many times in their imagination even before their actual death. However, brave men experience death only once. In order to show that he is not threatened he tells Calphurnia that things looked threatening only because they looked at his back. He also tells Calphurnia that these threats would no longer look formidable once they came face to face with him. He also tells Calphurnia that danger knows very well that Caesar was more dangerous than danger itself. Caesar tells Calphurnia that both danger and Caesar were lions born on the same day and it was he who was the more dangerous of the two. He tells Calphurnia that to stay home would be like behaving like an animal without a heart. He therefore decides to go out and face the events.

v. What does Caesar a little later do to indicate that death is inevitable?
Caesar says that death is inevitable. He also says that cowards die several times even before their actual death. He says that death will come its appointed time. He also says that danger knows very well that he himself is more dangerous than danger. In order to prove that he was not afraid of any danger he decides go to the Capitol against the wishes of Calphurnia.

3.
i. Where are Calphurnia and Caesar at this moment?
Calphurnia and Julius Caesar are their palace at this moment.

ii. State two reasons offered by Calphurnia for wanting Caesar to stay at home.
The first reason offered by Calphurnia for wanting Caesar to stay was that all omens indicated that something frightful was about happen. The second reason that Calphurnia offered for wanting Caesar to stay at home was that his wisdom was eaten up by his self-confidence. Calphurnia also told Caesar , on her knees, to allow her to have her say in this matter.

iii. Bring out three arguments Decius puts forward to make Caesar change his mind.
The three arguments that Decius put forward to make Julius Caesar change his mind are :
a) that senators would laugh at him if he told them that Caesar would not be going to the Capitol, without assigning any reasons.
b) the second reason that Decius gave was that Calphurnia had interpreted her dream incorrectly. According to Decius, the interpretation Calphurnia's dream was that Rome would receive a new life from Julius Caesar.
c) the third reason that Decius gave Julius Caesar was that the Senate had decided to give the crown on that day. Decius felt that if Julius Caesar did not accept the crown the same day, the senators could even change their mind till Caesar's wife had better dreams.

iv. Explain clearly in your own words the meaning of "your wisdom is consumed in confidence". Was Calphurnia correct in her judgement of her husband? Why?
The meaning of "your wisdom is consumed in confidence" meant that Julius Caesar was making an error of judgement based on the confidence of his abilities tackle things they came. Calphurnia was absolutely correct in her judgement of her husband. We can say that Calphurnia was correct in her judgement her husband because of the events that followed. According to Calphurnia all the omens indicated that something evil was about to befall Julius Caesar. Caesar, of course, did not subscribe to these views fully. However, the assassination of Julius Caesar and the subsequent civil war in the country indicated that all these would not have transpired if Julius Caesar had listened to the pleas of Calphurnia.

v.What is revealed of Calphurnia's character in the above words? How is she contrasted with Portia who appears in the scene?
From these lines we can say that Calphurnia was genuinely concerned with the well-being her husband. We can say that Calphurnia was a good interpreter of omens.She could correctly decipher what was likely to happen on the basis of omens. From the lines it is also very clear that Calphurnia was a very persuasive person. Caesar was never an easy man to convince. Yet, Calphurnia managed to convince to stay back in the palace on the 15th of March - till Decius appeared on the scene. From these lines it is also apparent that under normal circumstances she had no say in the plans of Julius Caesar. It was only under special circumstances like these that she was able to exert some authority.
If we compare Calphurnia's character with Portia we find that Portia was a more forceful and a more determined woman. Portia demanded equality with Brutus. Portia even demonstrated to Brutus liability to withstand pain by cutting off a piece of flesh from her thigh letting the wound bleed without any treatment. However, both women were equally concerned with the decision-making and abilities their husbands. They knew that their husbands did not always take the right decision under stress.

4.
i. Where other speakers at this moment? What day is this?
The speakers are at Julius Caesar's palace this moment. This day is the 15th of March i.e. the Ides of March.


ii. What does Calphurnia dream? How did she interpret her dream? How does Decius interpret her dream?
Calphurnia dreamt ,the previous night, that the statue of Julius Caesar sprouted blood at a hundred places and that many strong and vigorous Romans came smiling and bathed their hands in it. She interpreted these as warnings and omens of disasters which were about to happen. However, Decius told Julius Caesar that this interpretation her dream was not correct. According to Decius, the sprouts of blood indicated that Rome would receive a new life from Caesar and that the Romans would crowd around Julius Caesar for colours to be added their coats of arms, objects of reverence, and badges of service.

iii. What other reasons did Calphurnia state for not wanting Caesar to go to the Senate?
The other reason that Calphurnia is stated for not wanting Caesar to go to the Senate was that according to her his wisdom was eaten up by his self-confidence. According to Calphurnia,Caesar was not acting rationally taking into account whatever the situation warranted.


iv. What other statements did Decius make to convince Caesar that he should attend the Senate. How was it that Decius has come on this scene at this time?
The Decius first tells Julius Caesar that Calphurnia had interpreted her dream incorrectly. Decius tells Julius Caesar that her dream indicated that he would give Rome a new lease of life. Roman life would prosper under him. Decius also tells Julius Caesar that the Senate had decided to give the crown that day. If Caesar did not go to the Capitol to accept the crown it was even possible that the Senate may even decide not to give the crown to Julius Caesar. Decius had come to this scene in pre-planned manner. It was decided earlier, when they had met at the residence of Brutus, that should Caesar decide not to go to the Capitol, on that day, for reasons of superstition then Decius would talk Caesar into making the trip to the Capitol.
v. What is your opinion of Caesar at this point in the play? Express your feelings for him when he's assassinated?
In my opinion, Caesar has been a very unreasonable person at this point of the play. It is important for the ruler of a country to heed to the advice of well-wishers. In this case, Julius Caesar was originally warned by the soothsayer to be careful of the ides of March. Subsequently, his wife Calphurnia beseeched him not to go out because the omens were very bad indicating that something was amiss. Not only that, Julius Caesar's own sacrifice animals by his priests indicated that he should not venture out on that day. However, Julius Caesar discarded all advice from well-wishers proceeded the capital for his coronation.
My feelings for him, on his assassination, are mixed. I feel sorry that he was assassinated for he may have proved to be a good ruler for his country. At the same time, I also feel that the deserved the fate that he met with. No ruler of any country can hope to govern well if he continuously ignores well-intentioned advice from people who love the ruler. In this case, he ignored well-intentioned advice paid the price for ignoring important advice. I therefore feel that also deserved the fate that he met with.

5.

i. What had Decius assured that the Senate was proposing to do on that particular day?
Decius had assured Caesar that the Senate was proposing to offer the crown on that particular day. Decius also told Caesar that in the event that he did not go to the capital the Senate could even change its mind about offering the crown to Julius Caesar.


ii. When was a similar thing already offered and what was the reaction of Caesar that time?
The crown was earlier offered to Julius Caesar during the feast of Lupercal. However, at this point of time he declined to take the crown though the crown was offered to him. Julius Caesar declined to accept the crown at this point of time because he wanted a bigger consensus to be built within the people of the country about his coronation before he accepted the crown.

iii. What interpretation had Decius offered to Calphurnia's dream what was his motive?
The interpretation that Decius had offered about Calphurnia's dream was that under the rule of Julius Caesar role would prosper. Decius said that the interpretation of blood gushing from his statue indicated that would infuse new life in Rome and that the people of Rome would thrive under his rulership.


iv. Earlier in the play, Caesar had expressed once to Antony and once to Calphurnia, other thoughts on the topic of fear. Described as closely as you can, anyone of the things that he says about fear.
Julius Caesar's had said that the danger knows very well that he was more dangerous than danger itself. He said that both danger and he were like lions born on the same day it was he who was the elder and the more terrible of the two.

v. Explain in your own words the meaning of the phrase "it were a mock/to be rendered". What is revealed by Decius character the passage.
The meaning of this phase is that if the Senate came to know that Julius Caesar did not turn up to accept the crown on account of Calphurnia's bad dreams, then the Senate could well joke that they should wait to give Julius Caesar the crown till such time his wife had better dreams.
These words revealed Decius' sinister character. Decius is a very skillful orator who can turn a situation with the use of his words. The conspirators have made very good use of Decius's skills b by bringing him the scene at the point where Caesar had almost decided not to go to the Capitol after having been warned by many well-wishers. However, Decius used his interpretation of Calphurnia's dreams to convey to Caesar that he would miss the chance of his life if he did not go to the Capitol on that day.

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