Portia in Julius Caesar
In William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, the character Portia, second wife to Brutus, seemed to be one of the most burdened with secrets. There were only two women in the play, and Portia was the one who proved strength over most of the male characters, both physically and mentally. Portia was born between 73 BC and 64 BC and loved philosophy and had an obvious understanding of courage (Wikipedia.org).
Portia was the only wife in the play who knew about the plot to kill Caesar. Brutus divorced his first wife, Claudia Pulchra, to marry Portia. Brutus’s mother, Servilia, was jealous of Brutus’s love for Portia (Wikipedia.org). Every character in this play intertwines as a soap opera would. Most marriages were for political reasons and arranged, but Portia and Brutus married for love. Portia represents a woman who sees herself as strong as a man and tries to prove her strength throughout the play, (Wikipedia.org). When Brutus refuses to tell her secrets saying she would not be strong enough to handle such things, Portia stabs herself in the leg.
This is her effort to not only prove her pain can be hidden, but she can also keep a secret. This symbolizes her strength and loyalty. Men are usually seen as the violent characters in the play. Portia shows more self-inflicting pain than any other character. She’s torn before Caesar’s murder, because she knew about the murder plot. She may have been the powerful one who could have prevented Caesar’s assassination, if she had told someone or warned Caesar. Her loyalty to Brutus may have also been the death of her. Although she’s dead by Chapter IV, Portia still plays a huge part in this chapter, as far as showing Brutus’s character. Portia only appears in the entire play a few times, but her role plays a huge significance. Brutus mentions Portia, during his conversation with Cassius as they prepare for their final battle. Brutus shows his own conflicting feelings about his role in Caesar’s death and his guilt for also contributing to Portia’s suicide (Shakespeare.mit.edu/julius_caesar). Brutus says, No man bears sorrow better. Portia is dead when explaining to Cassius how Portia was stronger than any man, but she was now dead from swallowing the hot coals.
In Act 4: Scene 3: Brutus’s tent, Cassius asks Brutus during their emotional conversation, how Portia died, Of what illness? (Shakespeare.mit.edu/julius_caesar). Brutus replies blaming himself for being absent during Portia’s grief, blaming himself for her suicide. During this conversation, Brutus tells Cassius to get him bowl of wine, so he can bury all unkindness or unwanted feelings. (Shakespeare.mit.edu). Brutus acts completely different when he speaks to Cassius in private. Brutus is a completely different man when in the public eye. Many historians argue about the exact timing of Portia’s suicide. Contemporary and modern historians also argue whether she actually swallowed hot coals or died of carbon monoxide poisoning (Wikipedia.org). Contemporary historians believe she killed herself after hearing Brutus died following the second battle of Philippi and modern believe she may have died from the plague (Wikipedia.org).
By reading Shakespeare’s play, it is seems as if Portia died from grief. She was torn the day of Caesar’s assassination, knowing her husband was involved, but could not be comforted. She had to keep these worries to herself. Portia’s role in the play represents the deep pain and sorrow inside of Brutus’s conscious by the end of the play, (Shakespeare.mit.edu). Portia, being a woman, was not trusted to keep the plot to kill Caesar silent. To prove her loyalty to silence, she inflicted a wound upon her thigh with a barber’s knife. She left the wound untreated for over a day (Wikipedia.org). Feeling the pain of her wounded leg in silence. She used this example to prove she could endure physical and emotional pain, while keeping her secrets to herself. She could keep this secret from her husband, Brutus (Wikipedia.org). Portia’s loyalty to her husband is proven over and over throughout the play. She has so much anxiety the day of Caesar’s assissination, she faints. She worries about her and sends messengers to mahusbanke sure he’s still alive (Shakespeare.mit.edu).
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