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Misinterpretation: the Role of Omens, Divination and Superstition in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
Religion and Theology
Pages 5 (1255 words)
here are many religions in which omens and superstition play an important role. There are likewise many Shakespearean plays that deal in these things: they are excellent plot elements to keep the interest in plays where the audience perpetually knows that the entire cast – or at least much of it, is eventually going to die.
Yet in Julius Caesar, omens, divination and superstition take on a larger role even than they often do in other Shakespearean tragedies. Omens, divination and superstition are, at their most fundamental levels, attempts to know things that are unknowable: to predict the future. They vary widely in supposed predictive powers; superstitions are things that give people temporary pause but may or may not be disregarded: they are the least potent of the three. One step up are omens – these are things that are known and generally believe to have predictive powers of some sort, but are often vague in their predictions; a certain thing might mean that it will be a bad year for agriculture, for instance, but might not tell of a specific event (the same is true of windfalls, the positive cousin of omens, which are, by definition, ill). Divination is supposedly the most strongly predictive of the three, seeing directly into the future. ...
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