Beware the Ides of March


(and this is where I wish I could put a graphic of daggers dripping blood.  really.)

OK, most of us at some point have heard someone say “beware the ides of March.”  Or maybe we’ve even said it ourselves.  But what does is actually mean?  Where does is come from?

Simple answer: it’s what the psychic says to Julius Caesar (in the play of the same name by Sir William Shakespeare) to predict Caesar’s death.  It means watch out for the middle of March.  That’s all.  SPOILER ALERT: the ides didn’t work out so well for Julius.

So today, to celebrate the ides of March, I’ve got Shakespeare tamers.  The Bard (Shakespeare) created some amazing stuff, and there’s lots of entertainment to be had in it, and lessons to be learned.  As a result, Shakespeare, especially a few really popular plays, have been studied half to death.  And this is kind of sad, really.

Shakespeare wrote his plays to be watched, not read.  And slogging through a couple of hundred pages of Elizabethan English is not (in my humble opinion) the best way to enjoy the fun.  So here are a few ways to sample the magic of Shakespeare and (hopefully) find yourself interested in seeing a bit of his work for yourself.


Gary Blackwood’s The Shakespeare Stealer and Shakespeare’s Scribe give a great sense of Shakespeare’s time and surroundings, and an excellent look into the world of Elizabethan theatre.  Fun characters and storylines, lots of ambiance.


Looking for some romance but not quite ready for Romeo and Juliet yet? (Neither was Shakespeare – he wrote R&J when he was younger and later mocks his own work with several scenes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. True thing.)  Laurie Lawlor’s The Two Loves of William Shakespeare examines another true thing – Shakespeare had marriage certificates issued on two consecutive days to two different women.  No-one knows the real backstory, but Lawlor does a great job of weaving a tale around the mystery. Suzanne Harper’s The Juliet Club travels to Verona, Italy for a romantic and thoughtful summer whirl – beach book right here.


If you’d like to follow some of Shakespeare’s characters outside the pages of the plays themselves, Julius Lester’s Othello and Grace Tiffany’s Ariel are both great.  Othello follows the story of the play fairly closely, but Lester has thrown in some new perspectives on the relationships.  Arial is more of a prequel and parallel story, but still sheds lots of light on The Tempest.

And of course, graphic novels let you SEE the action unfold – much more what Shakespeare had in mind.  I honestly think if he were alive today, the Bard would have read and written mountains of graphic novels and manga.  Two pretty amazing examples of graphic adaptations are the Classical Comics Tempest and Garth Hind’s King Lear.  The Lear has the better artwork by far, but the Tempest is very true to the original text, so they both have their plusses.

Finally, if you just really want to watch the stories play out, modern adaptations in film can be fabulous.

Favorite picks for the plays using Shakespeare’s words in accessible settings: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, any Shakespeare done by Kenneth Brannagh, Radford’s Merchant of Venice, and even though the setting is sort of old, the Roman Polanski MacBeth.

For the stories retold:  West Side Story, Ten Things I Hate About You, Get Over It, and Prospero’s Books.

So there you have it.  And if you’ve survived this long a blog post you can certainly get through the ides of March.

Just stay away from people who take baths with daggers.