Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare
Main Ideas

Allusions

Main Ideas Allusions

Act 1, scene 2

Historical

Knew you not Pompey? (1.1.37)

This is an allusion to Pompey, a powerful Roman general whom Caesar had recently defeated, essentially paving the way for Caesar to become the emperor of Rome.

Mythological

I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor, Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber. (1.2.114–116)

This is an allusion to Aeneas, who carried his father, Anchises, to safety out of Troy during the Trojan war. Since Aeneas is the father of Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, Cassius here refers to him as “our great ancestor.”

Historical

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus, and we pretty men Walk under his huge legs and peep about. (1.2.136–138)

This is an allusion to the Colossus of Rhodes, a giant statue whose legs once straddled the harbor to the city of Rhodes. While no longer standing, the Colossus of Rhodes is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Mythological

When went there by an age, since the great flood, (1.2.153)

This is an allusion to the ancient Greek myth of Deucalion, a story very similar to the story of Noah’s ark, in which Zeus, angry about the atrocities committed by humankind, sent a flood to drown every man, woman, and child. The god Prometheus, Deucalion’s father, advised Deucalion to build an ark, which saved him and humanity.

Act 2, scene 1

Historical

My ancestors did from the streets of Rome The Tarquin drive when he was called king. (2.1.55–56)

This is an allusion to Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, who reigned from 535–509 BC. Brutus’s ancestor, Lucius Brutus, led a revolt that helped to expel the Tarquin from Rome.

Mythological

For if thou path, thy native semblance on, Not Erebus itself were dim enough To hide thee from prevention (2.1.85–87)

This is an allusion to Erebus, the personification of darkness. It is often referred to as a place of darkness in Hades.

Act 2, scene 3

Mythological

O Caesar, thou mayst live. If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive. (2.3.14–15)

This is an allusion to the Fates, also referred to as the three Moirai in Greek mythology, three wise goddesses who are responsible for weaving the destinies of every mortal being.

Act 3, scene 1

Mythological

Hence! Wilt thou lift up Olympus? (3.1.80)

This is an allusion to Mount Olympus, the home of the Olympian Gods, who were worshipped by the ancient Greek and Roman people.

Mythological

And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, With Ate by his side come hot from hell, (3.1.285–286)

This is an allusion to Ate, the ancient Greek personification of recklessness and folly, who entices those she encounters to make rash and reckless decisions. In some myths, Ate acts as an avenger, retaliating against those who commit terrible acts.

Act 3, scene 2

Historical

That day he overcame the Nervii. (3.2.168)

This is an allusion to the Nervii, a barbarian tribe from northern Gaul (modern-day France). Caesar defeated and nearly eradicated the tribe completely when he faced them in battle.

Act 4, scene 3

Mythological

Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts. (4.3.85)

This is an allusion to the Greek god Zeus and his weapon of choice, the thunderbolt.

Mythological

A flatterer’s would not, though they do appear As huge as high Olympus. (4.3.94–95)

This is an allusion to Mount Olympus, the home of the Olympian Gods, who were worshipped by the ancient Greek and Roman people.

Mythological

Within, a heart Dearer than Plutus’ mine, richer than gold. (4.3.105–106)

This is an allusion to Plutus, the Greek god of wealth.

Act 5, scene 1

Historical

But for your words, they rob the Hybla bees And leave them honeyless. (5.1.34–35)

This is an allusion to Hybla, a town on the island of Sicily that was renowned for its honey.

Historical

You know that I held Epicurus strong And his opinion. (5.1.78–79)

This is an allusion to Epicurus, a famous Greek philosopher who focused on creating a peaceful and happy life.