Monday, March 15, 2010

Observing the Ides

The winner of a free signed copy of Erin Hart's new novel is Deb Salisbury. Congratulations!

by Julia Buckley
First of all I'd like to say that I can't believe it's March 15. Every year seems to speed by at an even more accelerated pace. I guess I'll have to stop looking at the calendar, since it intimidates me so.

But there is a different reason that today's date is intimidating: it is the legendary Ides of March! Ever since I first read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I find this date more significant, mostly because of Shakespeare's powerful and memorable references.

Shakespeare paints Caesar as a man who refuses to acknowledge the plentiful warnings, a man brought down by his own hubris. According to Caesar, "a coward dies many times before his death," and so he insists upon fearing nothing, clinging to the illusion that his own might can ward off any danger.

Yet there are people in the play who warn him: the soothsayer, for one, who famously says "Beware the Ides of March!" Caesar laughs off the warning, and he dismisses the prophetic dream of his worried wife. At this point in the play I was pretty much rooting for the conspirators, since no man should dismiss his wife, nor should he chuckle at her instincts. :)

It's not only the bloody-minded conspirators Caesar should fear, though, but his own lust for power, which marks him for assassination in the first place.

When Caesar confronts the soothsayer again on March 15, he is triumphant, saying "The Ides of March have come!" The seer is undaunted. He replies, "Aye, they are come, but they have not gone."

It's impossible to read this scene from Julius Caesar and not be affected. Therefore, as a mildly superstitious person, I am always slightly uncomfortable on this day. I am not vain like Caesar, nor do I think I'm indestructible (in fact I am sometimes such a hypochondriac that I fear a slight wind). :)

But this is the power of language and rhetoric: because Caesar died on this day and Shakespeare chose to focus on it as an unlucky date on the calendar, I always remember it when it arrives.

How will you be observing the Ides?

(image: wikipedia, bust of Caesar)

6 comments:

Sandra Parshall said...

I share your astonishment at the rapid passage of time. Where have all the days, months, years gone? Kids are always wishing they were older--they have no idea how much they will regret the passage of time when they actually are older. I'll spend the Ides of March the way I spend most days: frantically trying to catch up!

Julia Buckley said...

Yes! Although some of my students tell me that they, too, are amazed by the fleeting days. A contrast to my experience in high school, when every day seemed to drag.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I was trying to figure out this morning when the Ides of March were. Thanks for reminding me! Happy March everyone, by the time you read this, it's liable to be June! Whew.

Julia Buckley said...

At least by June we'll all be wearing shorts. Hopefully we won't have the extremes in summer that we had in winter. A scary thought . . .

Deb Salisbury said...

I spent most of the Ides of March trying to recover from the time change. Shudder. Oh, and now that my eyes have uncrossed, writing. :-)

I'm thrilled to have won Erin's novel! Thank you so much!!!

Julia Buckley said...

Congratulations, Deb! Happy reading.