Essay on Foreshadowing in 'Julius Caesar'

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People go through difficult situations in life and while some may want to give up by committing suicide, most choose to struggle through life because the consequences of death are unknown and might be too great. In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the main protagonist Hamlet, after finding out that his father was murdered by his uncle, must avenge his death, and in the process of doing so, goes insane according to the people around him. Both of Hamlet’s soliloquies in (1.2.129) “O that this too sullied flesh would melt..” and (3.1.57) “To be or not to be, that is the question…” relate to this key idea. In the first soliloquy, Hamlet is in absolute disbelief and disgust as he witnesses Claudius announcing his marriage to Gertrude. The entire situation is unbearable to witness because Hamlet’s mother is marrying his dead father’s brother, that too so quickly as his father has not been dead for very long, it all seemed too surreal. In the second soliloquy, quite possibly his most famous soliloquy, Hamlet is wandering around contemplating whether death is an easier option or if it is nobler to suffer through all the terrible things fate has thrown at him. This soliloquy gives a deeper outlook on death itself as Hamlet continuously tries to decide on whether one option is better than the other or he’d receive the same outcome from both options as he believes that nothing is going his way. Hamlet’s soliloquy that is said in Act 3 scene 1 closely relates to the theme that death is inevitable, in other words, no matter what we try to do to avoid imminent death, it is unknown and unavoidable as we have no power over death because, throughout the play, Hamlet comes to terms that everyone is destined to “return to dust”.

Before the first soliloquy is said, King Claudius delivers a speech to his courtiers stating his recent marriage to Gertrude. Claudius claims that he mourns his brother’s death, but has chosen to become king to stabilize Denmark. Claudius questions Hamlet and wonders “why the clouds still hang upon him” (1.2.66). Claudius says that every son loses their fathers at some point in their life and that Hamlet is ultimately showing an unmanly side to him for continuing to grieve over his father’s death and reminds him that he is next in line for the throne that Claudius now is bestowed upon. With this in mind, King Claudius tells Hamlet that he does not want Hamlet to go to school in Wittenberg, but only agrees to stay for his mother’s sake. This leads to Claudius deciding to celebrate with festivities as everyone in the room leaves except Hamlet which is when he delivers his soliloquy. His first soliloquy makes it obvious that he is depressed and is considering suicide, he says that he wishes he was dead and that his body would just melt away. He has lost interest in everything that used to give him pleasure and is contemplating suicide, but he is somehow stopped because he simply cannot just “disappear”. He also cleverly brings out the fact that God has forbidden him to act on his wishes to die and turn into “nothing”. Hamlet feels betrayed, he does not understand why his mother would remarry so quickly, especially after his father’s recent death, or rather, murder. This soliloquy relates to the theme because Hamlet contemplates suicide and he underestimates death itself. He believes that death is nothing but a word and that he can just end his life without possibly suffering any consequences. He feels as if he has power over death, he thinks he could just commit suicide which shows that he thinks he can end his life whenever he wants. Rather than thinking that death will soon come for everyone no matter what, he thinks that he can control death as if he’s the superior one.

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Before the second soliloquy that is said by Hamlet, Claudius, and Polonius come up with a plan to figure out why Hamlet has been acting too strange. Polonius suggests using Ophelia as bait as he believes Hamlet is mad because of his love for Ophelia. The plan is to hide and see what will happen after Hamlet sees Ophelia walking around as Polonius instructs Ophelia to walk around pretending as if she is reading a book. Hearing Hamlet approach, everyone disperses so that Hamlet can privately speak to Ophelia. During the soliloquy, Hamlet is evidently in his most melancholy and depressed state as he ponders between living and death. He is wondering whether it is more noble and righteous to suffer and face all the cruel and terrible things that he believes were thrown at him by fate and unwelcoming circumstances, or to fight them off, and, in doing so, end things completely. This relates to the theme because Hamlet believes that with life, there is a lack of power. Everyone around him is deceiving him and playing with his mind as if he were some fool with no control over himself. However, death in his eyes, is immensely empowering because compared to life, where others are controlling you, killing oneself is a way of taking action, opposing, and by doing so, therefore “defeating the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” (3.1.58) His entire philosophical way of thinking about the topic of death shows his deeper understanding of it in a way. Compared to his soliloquy in (1.2.129), he shows no demeaning ignorance towards dying as much as he does towards living. He comes to an understanding that death, is something desirable, it is a perfect closure to all the pain and suffering, but it is still a great unknown and could be way worse than life itself. So rather than claiming that killing himself will be best for himself and that he can choose when to do so, he ponders the nature of death to achieve a deeper understanding. He decides to face his problems rather than face the uncertainty of death and the afterlife. This is where Hamlet fully understands that death is imminent and unavoidable, he learns that death will make its way to him as it does to everyone and that it isn’t exactly a choice. “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pal cast of thought.” (3.1.85)

In the first soliloquy, the atmosphere in the Danish court is full of energy to get rid of the mournful aura while Hamlet somehow manages to surround the atmosphere with melancholy. The tone in the scene is extremely tense, but it does shift from being very pleasant to tense which is caused by Hamlet. When Claudius and Gertrude speak to Hamlet it seems as if Hamlet is fine, but in Hamlet’s point of view, everything has lost its worth. Hamlet’s soliloquy dives into betrayal disloyalty, and a demeaning view of living. The tone drastically changes as shown in his soliloquy. Shakespeare does use a metaphor when Hamlet says that he wishes to disappear, “o, that this too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into dew.” (1.2.129) The imagery that is used to describe both Claudius and Gertrude’s relationship is unapproving and quite dark. “Fie won't ah fie! Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.” (1.2.135) In this particular quote from the soliloquy, Hamlet uses a metaphor where he compares the world to an unweeded garden that produces things “rank and gross in nature”. “So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr.” (1.2.140) Hamlet uses an allusion to compare his father whom he thinks is excellent to his deceitful uncle. In the second soliloquy, Hamlet uses a metaphor where he compares slings and arrows to life’s problems. “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles…” (3.1.60) Hamlet uses allusion when he sees Ophelia, “The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons, be all my sins remembered.” (3.1.90) Imagery is also used in this soliloquy, “to die, to sleep- no more and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks...)” (3.1.62) Hamlet compares death to sleep because when we are asleep, we don’t think unless we dream. Shakespeare’s many uses of figurative language in these two soliloquies give a deeper understanding of the theme.

Both soliloquies relate to the theme that death is inevitable, as it is unknown and unavoidable since we have no power over death. The first soliloquy has Hamlet wishing to kill himself after he witnesses the announcement of the marriage of his mother and his uncle after his father’s death. He shows his disgust and feels betrayed by his mother, and because of this overwhelming feeling of melancholy and anger, he thinks about killing himself right then and there after everyone leaves the Danish Court. The second soliloquy has Hamlet showing a deeper acknowledgment of death, which will make its way to him in due time when fate decides on it, and that he is merely a human, he has no power over death. There is a huge development in his way of approaching the topic of death as he goes from being ignorant and demeaning to being understanding. Throughout the play, Hamlet comes to terms that everyone is destined to “return to dust”. His fear of “what may come” is resolved with his understanding that death should not be spoken of lightly and that it is a part of life. Even prominent figures such as Julius Caesar, who was mentioned in the play are merely just humans in the face of death. “A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, the graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets…” (1.1.114) Caesar’s death shows foreshadowing as it can be connected to Claudius’s death at the end of the play. The fall of Rome is also correlated to the fall of Denmark. Horatio’s mentioning of Caesar is a hyperbole because, in Act 1 Scene 1, he believes the ghost of Hamlet’s father resembles an omen like that foretelling the fall of Julius. The foreshadowing of Polonius is also represented by another mention of Julius Caesar by the great and deceitful Polonius himself. “I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’ th’ Capitol. Brutus killed me.” (3.2.95) The referencing of Julius Caesar is an allusion as he can be compared to both the fall of Claudius and Polonius. When Hamlet sees Yorick’s skull (symbolism), he can see death’s vengeance, he can visualize it. Yorick is lively and is mostly positive from what Hamlet says while Hamlet is melancholy and wishes to die, yet Yorick himself is the one that is dead. This helps Hamlet understand the deeper meaning of death as he learns that all mankind will be consumed by death at some point in their life whether they desire it or not. “Alas poor Yorick! I knew him. Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and no, how abhorred in my imagination it is!” (5.1.168) There is no doubt that the second soliloquy is the better choice because that relates to the major theme of the play.

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Essay on Foreshadowing in ‘Julius Caesar’. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-foreshadowing-in-julius-caesar/
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