ideas of march
“Beware the Ides Of March”, said the Soothsayer. Did Caesar listen? Why should he? According to Plutarch, the main inspiration behind Shakespeare’s Roman plays, a combination of arrogance, fatalism, and a misplaced sense of invulnerability was behind Caesar’s decisions to ignore warnings from sources both supernatural and worldly.
A new theory reported in last week’s Sunday Times, however, suggests that Julius Caesar knew about the plot, and walked into it with open arms. It’s well-known that he suffered from epilepsy, but it’s been suggested that the symptoms included chronic diarrhoea, making his life a misery and seriously affecting his public standing. He may have been off-balance enough to imagine that his death would create a legend, and commit the ancient equivalent of “suicide by cop”. Another researcher has gone to the trouble of mapping out all 23 stab wounds inflicted on Caesar, and pinpointed the fatal one, giving some credence to Plutarch’s report that Brutus did indeed strike the fatal blow. Caesar wasn’t wrong about the legend, though, was he?
Though we had done The Merchant Of Venice before, Julius Caesar was my first real experience of Shakespeare, and still my favourite of his plays. We took a school trip to see the 1948 film version starring Laurence Olivier, while studying it in English class. It’s seriously overdue for the kind of treatment given to Richard III and Romeo & Juliet in recent years; if I had my way, I would relocate the story to some banana republic dictatorship, with El Bruto and Cassiena as flawed revolutionaries who go a bit too far in their attempt to free their country from the aging dictator Julio Cesaro. Or how about the gypsies? “Friends, Roma, Countrymen, lend me your ears…”
Back in the 20th Century, it was 70 years ago today that Adolf Hitler proclaimed the foundation of the Third Reich. Was the date a coincidence, or was Der Fuhrer thinking of another Emperor? No, I’m not a Nazi sympathiser, I just have an almanac on my PC, the same one that tells me today is Ry Cooder’s 56th birthday.
As seems to be an occasional pattern these days, I’m half-watching TV as I type this. The film just finishing is The Client, based on the John Grisham novel. I’ve never read any of his, but I remember seeing the Gingerbread Man movie. This one didn’t look half-bad – a legal thriller with about 5 minutes of court time in a two-hour film, the rest spent watching Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones grapple with a smart trailer-park kid who witnessed a murder, but didn’t know who to trust with the information. OK, but not my thing. The one I’m recording is Burnt By The Sun, a recent Russian film set in 1936, at the height of the Stalin era and the rise of the NKVD. Worthy stuff, and subtitled, so I can watch it at double-speed if required. (Sacrilege!)