Ides of March: Canadian Content

by | March 15, 2014

Oxford Dictionaries’ Oxford Words blog marks the Ides of March, with a post entitled “Beware the Ides of March! Get up to your elbows in the language of Julius Caesar .

[Today, March 15] is the Ides of March, a day made infamous by the prophetic soothsayer from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. With a “Tongue shriller then all the Musicke,” he warns the skeptical emperor to “Beware the Ides of March” at the top of Act One.  Eight scenes later, the Ides arrives and (spoiler alert) Caesar is slain on the floor of the Senate.


As a concept, there is nothing particularly inauspicious about the Ides of March or of any other month. It was a perfectly ordinary element of the Roman calendar, intended to mark the occurrence of the full moon (which actually falls on the 16th this year). For a Protestant audience like Shakespeare’s though, the invocation of a “Romish” means of telling time, especially with its rather pagan dependence on the lunar cycle, would have sounded more than a little ominous. Mix in a mysterious stranger, a lion wandering the Capitol, and a “Statue spouting blood,” all with just a dash of political assassination, and it’s no surprise that the Ides has become the most memorable date in all of Shakespeare’s canon.

Equally memorable, for those old enough to remember, is the Canadian comedy duo Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in May 1958. Wayne and Schuster

performed “Rinse the Blood Off My Toga,” a wry historical parody of the type they excelled at. In tough detective-story style, private eye Flavius Maximus (Wayne) pursued Brutus (Shuster) for the murder of Julius Caesar.


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