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Ides of March

CaesarWe want kids to love Shakespeare because the stories are timeless, the language is brilliant and the sword fights are to DIE for (cue moans).

Let’s not forget, however, that many of the plays are based on actual historical events.  March is a perfect time to break out a copy of Julius Caesar and to run around the house yelling, “Beware the Ides of March!”

                  Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2

Caesar:  Who is it in the press that calls on me?

I hear a tongue shriller than all the music

Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

In our melodramatic version of Caesar, it goes a little different, something like this:

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What the heck does that mean?

Soothsayer: It means watch your back buddy, or you’ll find a knife it it!  (soothsayer exits moaning creepily)

The word ‘Ides’ comes from a Latin word meaning “half-division,” so the Ides of March is halfway through March, or the 15th.  Don’t tell March, but there’s also an Ides of all the other months, since they all have a middle.  The reason the Ides of March is so famous, of course, is because it is the day Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC.  Another fun fact:  before he was killed, he created his own calendar, the Julian Calendar (I mean, what else would you call it? Can you say EGO?).

So from here, whether you’re a teacher or a parent, there are tons of things to explore.  Why was Caesar murdered, anyway? What in the heck is a soothsayer?  How long ago, exactly, was 44 BC? Did people really dress in those funny robes back then? (Yep.) Did Julius Caesar invent the Caesar Salad? (Nope.) If your kids are anything like mine, they will jump at getting in some computer time.  Maybe it’s the inner nerd in me, but if I can combine Shakespeare, history, Google, and kids, I call that a successful and enjoyable evening.

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By Khara Oliver

first fell in love with Shakespeare in 8th grade after reading Hamlet, and she has been an avid fan ever since. She studied Shakespeare’s works in Stratford-upon-Avon, and graduated with a degree in English from UCLA. Khara is lucky to have a terrific career and a charmed life on the Central Coast of CA, but what she cherishes most is time spent with her husband and children. She is delighted to have this chance to help kids foster their own appreciation of Shakespeare in a way that is educational, entertaining, and most importantly, fun!

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