Posted by: bkivey | 15 March 2011

The Ides of March

Cinna: O Caesar, –

Caesar: Hence! Wilt thou lift up to Olympus?

Decius: Great Caesar, –

Caesar: Doth not Brutus bootless kneel?

Casca: Speak , hands, for me!

Caesar: Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar!

Ever since that particular 15 March in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was murdered at the hands of some 40 Senators in the Temple of Ptolomy, the day has held grim connotations. Save the vernal equinox, it may be the most famous date in the month, well-known to just about anyone who attended secondary school in the English-speaking world.

A few more people who had reason to dislike 15 March:

The English – In 1360 the French invade the south coast of England and capture the town of Winchell. In 1744 Louis XV declares war on England, and in 1781 the British Army suffers a decisive defeat at The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, NC.

The Mexicans – In 1916 Gen. John J. Pershing leads 15,000 troops into Mexico chasing Pancho Villa and stays ten months.

The Russian Monarchy – Tsar Nicholas II is forced to abdicate in 1917.

Residents of North Dakota – A blizzard in 1941 kills 151 people.

Citizens of Los Angeles – The Watts race riots started today in 1966.

Fun with Dates

Because the Romans were using the Julian calendar, as was the England of Shakespeare’s time, I decided to check and see what the Gregorian equivalent of 15 March (Julian) would be. It turns out the discrepancy is not as great as I would have thought, and 15 March 44 BC is 17 March under the Gregorian calendar. It was a Sunday.

Shakespeare’s Influence

While researching the header dialogue from my copy of The Unabridged William Shakespeare (1989 Running Press), I was surprised to see that I’d been exposed to no fewer than eleven of his plays in high school, along with the usual number of sonnets.

The plays are The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, All’s Well That Ends Well, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello.

Pretty standard fare at the time, but I wonder if today’s students get the same exposure to some of the greatest dramas and language English has to offer.

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