I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Beware The Ides Of March


I seem to have survived the Ides of March today relatively unscathed. I hope it's the same for all of you. Julius Caesar however was not so lucky:
Caesar. The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer. Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
Shakespeare's Caesar seems quite phlegmatic about death a short time before his assassination:
Caesar. Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
The conspirators stab Caesar, Brutus being the last to plunge in the knife, Brutus - Caesar's angel and his best loved senator:
Caesar: Et tu, Brute? - Then fall, Caesar!
Marc Antony laments Caesar's death:
Antony. O mighty Caesar! dost thou lie so low?
Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,
Shrunk to this little measure?

There follows a battle of words between Brutus and Marc Antony which Antony wins hands down. Antony's speeches before the crowds in the Roman Forum are some of Shakespeare's greatest speeches - masterpieces of rhetoric, models of subtle insinuation and audience manipulation:
Antony. Friends, Romans, countrymen. lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar. not to praise him.


Antony. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on...

He keeps repeating that Brutus is an honourable man - the ironic repetitions casting doubt on the literal truth of this.
Antony wins over the hearts and minds of the Roman people, and the final outcome is curtains for Brutus - the noblest Roman of them all, as Antony ambiguously calls him at the end of the play.
One of the many great things about this drama is Shakespeare's complex portrayal of Brutus as patriot, misguided idealist and murderer.
(I was lucky enough to see a production of Julius Caesar performed by the RSC at Stratford in 2006.)

4 comments:

Val said...

I really enjoy never knowing nor having any expectations of what I'm going to get when I hop over to your site!

Shakespeare, Hardy, Celtic music, a poem about your hot dentist...

Keep it coming!
: )

The Weaver of Grass said...

My first marriage took place on the ides Robert (it would have been 57 years yesterday) - so they hold no fears for me!

Bella said...

Agree with Val - I really enjoy the eclectic range of topics on your blog!

The Solitary Walker said...

Val & Bella - thanks for your enthusiastic comments! Tho' I fear such eclecticism is the recourse of the dilettante and the product of a grasshopper mind.

Weaver - did you know there are also the Kalends (1st day of the month) and the Nones (5th or 7th day) as well as the better known Ides (13th or 15th) on the Julian calendar?