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Beware the ides of March

“Beware the ides of March” is a quote that can be found in William Shakespeare’s history play, Julius Caesar. It refers to the day that Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. 

The ides of March is the 15th of March. On the Roman calendar, it is the 74th day of the year and is marked by numerous religious holidays. Today, it is remembered for its connection to the death of Julius Caesar at the hands of Brutus. It is a turning point in Roman history, one that is described in the powerful language in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. 

beware the ides of march

“Beware the ides of March” Meaning

“Beware the ides of March” is used in Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays.

It is a warning directed at Caesar about his impending death. It is delivered by a soothsayer who can see the future and knows that those around the leader (history reports up to sixty people) will conspire to kill him. 

The “ides,” or the 15th of March, is a date that is now synonymous with Caesar’s death. He was stabbed as many as twenty-three times. 

Below is a painting of the fateful day, March 15th, 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was assassinated. In the painting, the artist depicts Brutus and the other conspirators.

the death of julius caear by vincenzo camuccini
The Death of Julius Caear by Vincenzo Camuccini

Important Vocabulary to Know

  • Ides: the day that falls in the middle of the month on a calendar. The word originates from the ancient Roman calendar. It refers to the 15th of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th of all other months. 

Where Does Shakespeare Use “Beware the ides of March?” 

The phrase “Beware the ides of March” appears in Act I, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar. The short line is spoken by a soothsayer or someone who can see the future. Rather than telling Caesar exactly why he should fear this date or be wary of it, they simply use the word “beware.” 

Caesar hears a noise, that of the soothsayer calling his name. He depends: 

Who is it in the press that calls on me? 

I hear a tongue shriller than all the music 

Cry “Caesar.” Speak. Caesar is turned to hear.

He tells the man that he’s there, ready to listen to whatever is about to be shared. The soothsayer shares his warning, and Brutus explains that it was a “soothsayer” that bids “you beware the ides of March.” The soothsayer comes forward and repeats his message. Caesar calls him a “dreamer” and says they should “leave him” and forget what they’ve heard. As is the case multiple times in the play, Caesar’s stubbornness and belief in fate prevent him from heeding anyone’s warning about his impending fate. 

Why Did Shakespeare Use “Beware the ides of March?” 

Shakespeare chose to specifically use the word “ides” to reference the Roman calendar techniques. The Romans did not number every day of the month. Instead, they counted forward or back from three points. The “nones,” or the 5th, 7th, or 9th, the day before the middle of the month, the “ides” or the middle day of every month, and the “kalends,“ or the first day of the following month. 

The soothsayer’s warning is a great example of allusion and foreshadowing. Shakespeare and the audience know exactly what fate will befall Caesar, but he doesn’t. His assassination at the hands of someone he considered a friend is just around the corner. In the play, as in reality, Caesar was killed on March 15th, 44 B.C. 

Later in the play, Caesar notes that the “Ides of March are come” in Act III. He believes, at this moment, that maybe he’s safe. That the day has come, and nothing has happened. The soothsayer is there with him and reminds him that the day is “not gone.” 

Caesar goes up to the Senate house after line eleven of Act III, Scene 1 and is stabbed to death by the conspirators. First by Casca, and then by the others. Cinna proclaims after the leader’s death: 

Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! 

Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets. 

Some of the conspirators are more troubled than others by what has played out in their own direction. The rest of the play is a result of what occurred on the ides of March. 
Some of the conspirators are more troubled than others by what has played out in their own direction. The rest of the play is a result of what occurred on the ides of March. 

Other Quotes from Julius Caesar 

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