If you must break the law, do it to seize power. In all other cases, observe it.
In honor of the Ides of March (March 15th), Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and WVXU partnered to present a radio play of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which debuted last night, March 14th, but will be available on demand on the CSC and WVXU websites.
In the play, the Soothsayer warns Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March,” which in the ancient Roman calendar falls on the 15th of March. As noted in Encyclopedia Brittanica:
The Romans tracked time much differently than we do now, with months divided into groupings of days counted before certain named days: the Kalends at the beginning of the month, the Ides at the middle, and the Nones between them. In a 31-day month such as March, the Kalends was day 1, with days 2–6 being counted as simply “before the Nones.” The Nones fell on day 7, with days 8–14 “before the Ides” and the 15th as the Ides. Afterward the days were counted as “before the Kalends” of the next month. In shorter months these days were shifted accordingly.
Thus, every month has an Ides, on either the 13th or the 15th, depending on the month. But, we also know that the Ides of March mark the assassination date of Julius Caesar in the year 44 B.C.E., by Senators who believed that he intended to take the title of king and overthrow the Senate.
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar originates many famous lines or sayings that are part of common speech, including:
Et tu, Brute?
The fault, (dear Brutus), is not in our stars, but, in ourselves.
Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.
Let slip the dogs of war.
Did not great Julius bleed for justice' sake?
What villain touch'd his body, that did stab,
And not for justice?
And, of course, Marc Antony’s speech, so often used to teach rhetoric:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
If you want to learn more about Julius Caesar, subscribers to the Hamilton Law Library have access to HeinOnline through their membership, and on HeinOnline, you can find such articles as:
George Wilkes, Shakespeare from an American Point of View; including an Inquiry into his Faith, and His Knowledge of Law: with Baconian Theory Considered
Edward J. White, Commentaries on the Law in Shakespeare
Jesse Franklin Brumbaugh, Legal and Public Speaking: A Treatise on the Art of Public Speaking with Copious Illustrations and Models of Public Utterances and Jury Speeches
Jared Bennett, The Soothsayer, Julius Caesar, and Modern Day Ides: Why You Should Prosecute FIFRA cases
Peter Murphy, In re Julius Caesar, Deceased: Whoever Wrote Shakespeare Knew a Few Things about Closing Arguments
So, as you go forth into the day, do not forget to “Beware the Ides of March!”