Julius Caesar Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
[To the soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
Ay, Caesar; but not gone. (3.1.1)
Geez, could Caesar be any more arrogant or misguided? After being warned in advance to watch his back on March 15 and blowing off Calpurnia's ominous dream about being killed, Caesar ventures out to the Capitol (on the Ides of March!) and mocks the soothsayer. Of course, we all know what happens to him a few lines later – he's stabbed by the conspirators, who wash their hands in his blood. We do, however, wonder: even if Caesar had paid attention to the warnings, would it have made any difference?
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy
(Which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue)
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds,
And Caesar's spirit ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial. (3.1.7)
When Antony stands over Caesar's mutilated body, he prophesies that civil war and chaos will ensue in Rome. So does Antony have magical powers or something? Not really – he's just motivated by Caesar's death and has a huge stake in making his prediction come true. When he delivers a carefully crafted speech at Caesar's funeral, he inspires the crowd to revolt against the conspirators.
Why then, lead on. O, that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known. (5.1.7)
We don't know how any given day will end, but we do know that it will. This is a truism, but it's a beautiful observation nevertheless: Men never know their fates, but that should be no reason to hang back from acting and living.