Study Guide

Julius Caesar Gender

By William Shakespeare


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It's definitely a man's world in Julius Caesar. Characters who display any signs of weakness in the masculine realm of politics and warfare are considered sissies. Women are considered weak and irrelevant (as when Caesar totally disregards Calphurnia's ominous dream so he won't be thought of as a wimp). Portia, one of the play's twoĀ female characters, subscribes to the idea that women are feeble and erratic: her infamous declaration, "Ay me, how weak a thing / The heart of woman is!" hangs throughout the play like a cold, wet, misogynistic rag.

Questions About Gender

  1. How does the play portray Roman masculinity? Cite specific examples from the text.
  2. Why does Portia voluntarily stab herself in the thigh in Act 2, Scene 1?
  3. Why does Caesar ignore Calphurnia's advice to stay home? Would or could things have turned out differently if Caesar had taken advice from a woman?
  4. What kind of roles do Portia and Calphurnia play in Julius Caesar? Are they central to the action of the play? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Cassius attempts to undermine Julius Caesar's authority as a leader by attacking his manhood, which suggests that, in Rome at least, power and masculinity go hand in hand.

In Julius Caesar, women, who are excluded from politics and public roles, are associated with weakness and inconstancy.

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