A Rumination on the Ides of March

The call to “Beware the ides of March” is familiar from Julius Caesar 1.2, a play I first encountered while in sixth grade at a school that no longer exists. (The building still stands, unlike that I attended for high school, but the institution it had housed is no more, part of it swallowed back into the elementary schools from which it had been taken, part cast off for a time to float on its own before being subsumed into another already-existing school when it moved into its new building. There’s some backhanded statement made therein, but that discussion is one for another time.) And it was not in my English class, although I do remember that class kindly (thank you, Ms. Wise). It was, instead, my social studies class, and it was used as a way to do two things, one I recognized at the time (make things come more alive), and one I realize only later, for some years and no longer having been at the front of my own classrooms (pad out lesson planning). But the experience has stuck with me, certainly; I remember it nearly thirty years on, including my pubescent voice cracking on the beginning of Brutus’ speech that he loved his land more than its leader.

Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Death of Caesar from Wikipedia, for obvious reasons…

I will not launch here into an interpretation of the play as a whole or of the scene in particular, nor yet of its contexts of sourcing or composition or reception. I was never a specialist in Shakespeare, for one thing, though I have been conversant in his works–and I am out of practice, now, as should be clear. Nor yet have I the time to do the work as it would need to be done, with citation and close reading and careful study. There was a time in my life when I did have such time, and I spent much of it doing such things (although less frequently with Shakespeare than with other authors), but I did not have in my life then what I have now, and not all of what I have now is what I would set aside to have what I had then.

No, instead, on what is the traditional anniversary of Julius Caesar’s death, and what might well be thought of as the date of his seeming apotheosis–because there have been and continue to be many who look back to the man as among the greatest examples, if not the greatest–I collect my pay and pay out what I owe (and there is no shortage of the latter, to be sure). I do my work, and I think of my family and how I can better support those in it. I wonder what my daughter will encounter in the coming years that sticks with her as the old lines have stuck with me, what experiences will shape her across decades and how, and how much of such things I will see. It is, really, just another day, one of many such I have seen and of many more I hope to see.

I’m sure there’s some comment to be found in that, too. But this is not, I think, the place to make it.

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