Beware the Ides of March through the Ages

On the Ides of March, exactly 2,063 years ago, Julius Caesar was smug, at least according to Shakespeare.

“The ides of March are come,” he tells a soothsayer in Act III.

“Ay, Caesar,” the Soothsayer replies, “but not gone.”

And sure enough, later in the day, Caesar is assassinated – “Et Tu, Brute” – validating the prophecy in Act I:

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR: What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

The Ides of March have come to be a synonym for a prophecy of doom. But historians love to point out the actual catastrophes that have occurred on March 15th.

Between 1918 and 1955, the Ides of March marked tax day in the United States.

On March 15, 1938, Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.

In 1941, a blizzard killed more than 150 people in Minnesota and North Dakota.

The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization issued warnings for SARS, a deadly type of pneumonia, in 2003.

Protests erupted in Syria on March 15, 2011, that led to the beginning of the country’s civil war.


To return to the topic of death by Shakespeare, here’s an infographic, courtesy of Open Culture


Photographs courtesy New York Public Library, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Royal Shakespeare Company.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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