Elements of A Shakespeariean Tragedy
Shakespeare wrote many tragedies, which included The Tragedy of Julius
Caesar. He chose to take an important event in Roman history, the death of
Julius Caesar to write a play for the Globe Theater in 1599. The people who
lived during the Renaissance were very interested in the play and the story of
Julius Caesar’s death. People’s views of the play dating from 1599 to the
present may be very different and continually changing. Though the elements of
Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar and other Shakespearian tragedies are all
the same. A Shakespearian tragedy is comprised of several elements; two
include a tragic hero and supernatural elements.
In a tragedy, the tragic hero is of high social position. The tragic
hero has a destructive flaw which in turn brings about his downfall. There is
much argument over who the tragic hero is in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.
Some scholars say that the tragic hero is Julius Caesar, while others say it is
Marcus Brutus. A case can be made for both of the characters. Both Brutus and
Caesar are of high social and political status. Caesar was the dictator for
life of Rome and Brutus was an honorable Senator. Julius Caesar had two tragic
flaws. Caesar was said by Brutus to be ambitious, which led directly to his
downfall – ” But as he was ambitious, I slew him.” (Act 3. Scene 2. Line 28)
Caesar was also arrogant, he believed that he was too great to be harmed, Caesar
said ” Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death
but once.” (Act 2. Scene 2. Lines 34-35) Brutus too, had a tragic flaw.
Brutus was an idealist, not a realist. Brutus was an optimist, he always wanted
the best for Rome. Although sometimes, Brutus couldn’t see things for what they
really are. This flaw prevented him from making good decisions.
The supernatural elements present in the play all foreshadow events to
come. Three different characters show supernatural predictions. The Soothsayer
has an insight of trouble for Julius Caesar and he warns him – “Beware the Ides
of March.” (Act 1. Scene 2. Line 21) On March 15, the date that Caesar was
warned of, his wife, Calphurnia had bad dreams. Calphurnia cried out in her
sleep “Help ho, they murder Caesar!” (Act 2. Scene 2. Line 3.) Calphurnia knew
that her dreams were a sign of what was to come. After Caesar’s death, another
supernatural event occurred. Marc Antony and Octavius were at war with Brutus
and Cassius. Brutus was in his tent where his army was camped when the ghost of
Caesar appeared. During their encounter Brutus asked the ghost of Caesar “Why
com’st thou?” (Act 4.Scene 3.Line 326) The ghost of Caesar answered, ” To tell
thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.” (Act 4. Scene 3. Line 327) During the
battles there is a mistake, Pindarus, Cassius’ slave, mistakes a situation.
Pindarus thinks that Titinius has been captured. Cassius, distraught over the
information, ordered his slave to kill him in return for his freedom. Titinius
found Cassius dead and killed himself. When Brutus finds both Titinius and
Cassius dead he senses the ghost of Caesar present and says “O Julius Caesar,
thou art mighty yet; Thy spirit walks abroad and turns our swords in our own
proper entrails.” (Act 5.Scene 3.Lines 105-107)
Of all the elements in this Shakespearian tragedy, tragic heroes and
supernatural elements were the most predominant. Internal and external
conflicts were also major elements in this tragedy. Other readers may view the
factors of this tragedy in different ways, but all the elements of a tragedy
are present in this play.