A tiny scene in a play, just a few words, maybe a minute of your time.
Ha! who calls?
Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
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.
Beware the ides of March.
What man is that?
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Set him before me; let me see his face.
Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
Beware the ides of March.
He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
"Beware the Ides of March." World-renown, not just because it's from Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar," Act 1, Scene 2, Page 2, but because it refers to one of history's most famous murders, and resonates all the way to today as a portent of doom.
Shakespeare used the line for tension in the beginning of the play, a way for the main character, also the intended target of assassination, to be forewarned of his impending doom- and ignore that warning. If you're into horror movies, you've seen it many times. That creepy gas station attendant. The cryptic warning from a stranger- "If you go into (YOUR LOCATION HERE), you're going to die." The "Scream" movies do a great job making fun of that harbinger trope. For Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, it was a crazy dude on the street, a soothsayer, yelling it at him.
Did he heed the warning? Nopedy nopedy no.
In the play, he gets betrayed by the senators, and his confidante Brutus- "Et tue, Brute?" In real life, Caesar was in fact betrayed after only ONE YEAR in rule. He was stabbed forty-four times, and died on the steps of the senate in 44 B.C.
This explains the "doom" of the Ides of March...but the what heck are the "ides" of March? According to history.com, in 753 B.C., the earliest Roman Calendar had the year starting in Martius, or March. There were ten months in a year, and the dates were identified by how they fell in with the lunar phase of the month. The phases consisted of Kalends (the first day of the month); Nones (around the fifth day); and Ides (the 13th or 15th of the month). So, the Ides of Martius marked a new moon, aaaand roughly the 15th of the month.
It took a creative writer and his popular play to turn that date into a harbinger of doom. Yay to the entertainers of the world! Trope on, my friends.
And yay for Billy Shakespeare for giving us a great theme for our March podcasts. Yup, death is coming. Some crazy ways it happens, or- perhaps- only seems to happen, and some crazy ways to deal with it, would make that Soothsayer say "Beware the mics of March!"
Et tu, check us out? 😉
--Mark L. Groves