Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15th - The Ides of March

The Death of Caesar by Jean Leon Gerome (1824 - 1904)

Caesar, beware the Ides of March!

Well, we know that Julius Caesar didn't 'beware', didn't heed the old soothsayer. The Roman Emperor went forward to meet his death seemingly unconscious of the fact that the men around him all had daggers up their sleeves.

Maybe if the old man had been more specific in his warning.

But then, Shakespeare wouldn't have had fodder for a play and wouldn't have written the speech that Marc Anthony delivers - with the opening line that we all remember from school, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears..."

Here's a link to Marlon Brando's stirring rendition of the speech from the 1953, Joseph L Mankiewicz film. Perhaps not done as in classic Shakespearean precedent, but I've always found it very effective.

Brando puts heart and soul into the words, something occasionally left out in the quest to get the words across rather than their meaning. Link.

Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony


  1. I don't think you'll ever hear a better rendition of that speech.

    I remember Caesar each March 15th, and I thought of his words often during the events that lead to George W. Bush's foray into Iraq. Caesar said:

    “Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need of seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.”

  2. Omigod, this is chilling as Mark says it above, and it -- to me -- is relevant to the present day.

    I have not heard Marlon Brando give this speech, or else not in decades. I will watch and listen to it.

    It's a reminder that crossword puzzles, including the New York Times' puzzle, often have a few words in an answer, that comes from the famous lines of this play.

  3. Perhaps Bush had a Caesar complex. All these men in power, I suppose, are familiar with Caesar's teachings. Or at least, its results.

    So are we the people. :)

    Yes, I do agree that Brando is marvelous. Very much unappreciated in this role, I think. This is almost a forgotten film. I should write it up for one of my weekly posts.

  4. Kathy: I would imagine crossword puzzles are loaded with Shakespearean bits here and there. :)

    This is a magnificent speech delivered beautifully by an actor who completely understands the part.

  5. Wow! I just watched and listened to Marlon Branda giving that famous speech, which I had never gotten so much from until now.

    Oh, why wasn't I paying such rapt attention to Shakespeare's words in high school?

    Marlon Brando was amazing.

  6. Kathy: Marlon Brando in his prime, was a force of nature.

    We studied JULIUS CAESAR in high school - the play, I mean - so I was kind of familiar with the speech in a vague sort of way. Plus I'd seen this film many MANY years ago.

    But I was impressed again by the power AND understanding that Brando attaches to Shakespear's incredible words.


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