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Figurative Language in Julius Caesar

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Shakespeare's use of figurative language in Julius Caesar provides brilliant insight into human nature.

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    Review of Metaphors

    Enjoy these examples of metaphors in Julius Caesar.

    Metaphor: Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed / That he is grown so great? (I, ii, 149-50)

    Analysis: Cassius compares Caesar to a carnivore and the common citizens to meat, not a very flattering comparison.

    Metaphor: Let me have men about me that are fat, / Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights. / Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; / He thinks too much, such men are dangerous. (I, ii, 192-5).

    Analysis: Caesar compares Cassius to a wolf with a lean and hungry look, and one to be feared.

    Metaphor: No, Caesar hath not it; but you, and I, / and honest Casca, we have the falling sickness. (I, ii, 255-6)

    Analysis: Cassius compares Caesar's falling sickness--epilepsy, to their fall from power if Caesar becomes king.

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    Julius Caesar Metaphor: But 'tis a common proof / That lowliness is young ambition's ladder, / Whereto the climber-upward turns his face; / But when he once attains the utmost round, / He then unto the ladder turns his back, / Looks into the clouds, scorning the base degrees / By which he did ascend. (II, i, 21-7)

    Analysis: Brutus struggles about whether or not to join the conspiracy. He reflects on human nature by comparing a man climbing a ladder to a man receiving great authority.

    Metaphor: Pardon me, Julius! Here wast thou bayed, brave hart; here didst thou fall; and here thy hunters stand. (III, i, 204-5).

    Analysis: Marc Antony compares Caesar to a hunted deer and his murderers to the hunters. He cannot hide his true feelings despite his oath of loyalty.

    Metaphor: You blocks! You stones! You worse than senseless things! / Oyou heard hearts, you cruel men of Rome!

    Analysis: The play opens with Marullus' rebuke of the commoners, comparing them to blocks and stones. Marullus' opinion of the crowds is affirmed by the behavior of the mobs in Act III.

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    Review of Similes

    If you enjoyed examples of metaphors in Julius Caesar, you'll love these similes.

    Simile: The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks, / They are all fire, and every one doth shine; / But there's but one in all doth hold his place. / So in the world: 'tis furnished well with men. / And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive, / yet in the number I do not know but one / That unassailable holds on his rank, / Unshaked of motion; and that I am he. (III, i, 63-70).

    Analysis: The reader gains a glimpse of the arrogant Caesar, who compares himself to the Northern star, that the conspirators fear.

    Simile: Why man, he doth bestride the the narrow world / Like a Colossus, and we petty men / Walk under his huge legs and peep about / To find ourselves dishonorable graves. (I, ii, 135-8).

    Analysis: Cassius compares Caesar to the giant statue of the Greek god Apollo, which was reportedly large enough that ships could easily pass through its legs as they entered the port at Rhodes. Cassius clearly sees the diminished nature of his and other nobles' importance as Caesar's importance increases.

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    Find more Shakespeare study guides at brighthub.com.

References

  • Shakespeare, William. "Julius Caesar." The Language of Literature. Evanston, Illinois: MacDougal Littell. 2002. 690-793.