Beware the Ides of March: Lessons Men Can Learn from Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare's work is full of lessons that, even hundreds of years later, we can relate to and learn from today. I must admit that teaching The Tragedy of Julius Caesar isn't my favorite Shakespearean play to share with students, but it does have some priceless gems that are hard to resist.
Comic by Mark Parisi.
   For example, one of the lessons we learn is to pay attention to others and your surroundings because they may be trying to send you a message. March 15th is the "ides of March," or middle of the month. The phrase "Beware the ides of March" is from The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, spoken by the Soothsayer as a warning to Caesar that something was going down on the 15th and he better watch out. But do you think big, macho Caesar listens to this blind crazy man? Of course not. And do you think he was paying attention when a tempest hits Rome or when an owl appears in broad daylight warning the people in the marketplace of imminent doom or when the beast he has sacrificed turns up heartless? Heck no! And neither do the other men in the play! For example, Casca sees these bad omens–the lion skulking past him in the street or the men in flames running through the streets of Rome–and Cassius assures him that those are just signs that they must kill Caesar, not that anything bad will happen to them.
  Now, I don't really like the fact that Shakespeare includes very few women in the play. (Come on, how 'bout an appearance of Cleopatra, at least!?) But, I will give him credit for making the women the most sensible people in the play. I think they are the ones who truly drive home the most important lesson in the play: always, always, always listen to your wife. It doesn't matter how cocky you are, how much power you have, or if you promised to keep a secret, because if you don't listen to your wife you'll just end up...well, dead. Look at Caesar: his wife had this awful dream that his statue would spurt blood as the Romans danced happily in it. Kind of sick, right? She begged him to stay home with her on the 15th. But noooooo, Decius had to call Caesar a girly-man who is whipped by his wife. I'll give Decius credit; he knew exactly what to say to Caesar to get him to disregard his wife's warning and insistence that he stay home. And we all know what happens next, right? I always imagine a new scene where Calpurnia hears the news of Caesar's assassination and says, "Well, duh! I coulda told ya he was gonna be killed! If he had listened to me, he'd still be alive!"
  Then there's our tragic hero, Brutus. While he's not at all conceited like Caesar, he still doesn't listen to his wife, Portia, when she begs him to tell her what is bothering him. He decides to keep it inside, deal with his decision to join the conspiracy all on his own. And where does that get him, do you think?  Well, he becomes a single man because Portia decides to kill herself by eating hot coals. Not only that, he eventually sees that taking Cassius's side was not the noblest thing to do, so he takes his own life in the end. Once again, if he had discussed the conspiracy with his wife in the first place, she may have been able to say, "Cassius is totally playing you! He is a forger and is using you so he can be the top dog!" But, once again, the men in the play are too stubborn, too proud, to listen to their wives.
  So on the eve of the ides of March, I always like to remind my students of the valuable lesson that can be learned in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar: listen to the woman (or women) in your life. They are always right! And you know what? Even if they aren't always right, you will most certainly be happier and, of course, alive if you do!

Teachers: You can find my lessons on The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by clicking on these links:
   Beware the Ides of March/Feast of the Lupercal Activity & Handouts
   Julius Caesar Facebook Activity Project
   Julius Caesar Introduction Powerpoint
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