Elements of a Shakespearian 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.

Category: Shakespeare