Beware the Ides of March -- what does it mean
"Beware the Ides of March" is a great quote. It's short, has an ominous tone and a sense of the supernatural. Unfortunately, it's also greatly misunderstood. Most people know it's related somehow to Shakespeare. But what the heck is an Ide anyway, and where can I buy one?
So here's a primer: -- The quote comes from Act I, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," as the Roman leader stands amid a crowd and hears a warning from a seer. (When I read this I can't help picturing a beleaguered U.S. president slouching towards his helicopter, as brash TV reporter Sam Donaldson shouts out questions about some embarrassing scandal.) Here's the exchange:
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.
-- What does it portend? This is the day in 44 B.C. that Caesar will be assassinated by conspirators including Brutus and Cassius. Caesar shrugs off the warning and heads off on his political business. If only recliners, TVs and DVDs had been invented then.
-- So what's an Ide? It's a term of the ancient Roman calendar, signifying a division based on the moon's phases. It falls on the 15th of March, May, July and October, but on the 13th of the other months.