Beware the Ides of March


  • Ceasar: The ides of March are come.

    Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar, but not gone.

    Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1.



    The word ides is derived from the ancient Roman calendar and comes from the Latin idus, which, as Oxford explains it, means “a day falling roughly in the middle of each month (the 15th day of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th of other months) from which other dates were calculated.”

    In the beginning of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar has this premonitory exchange with the soothsayer:

    Soothsayer: Caesar!

    Caesar: Ha! who calls?

    Casca: Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!

    Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me?
    I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
    Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.

    Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

    Caesar: What man is that?

    Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

    Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.

    Cassius: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

    Caesar: What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

    Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

    Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

    Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2.



    The soothsayer, as you know, is soon vindicated.

    And yet, as Nabokov noted, it’s not for his stories that we primarily love Shakespeare, but rather:

    “The verbal-poetical texture of Shakespeare is the greatest the world has ever known, and is immensely superior to the structure of his plays as plays. With Shakespeare, it is the metaphor that’s the thing, not the play.”

    (Click-click)




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The sawed-off shotgun of literary pulp.

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