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'Beware the Ides of March' Meaning

With a degree in Literature, Margaret Minnicks has the skills to review books and other publications to give readers important information.


People who are superstitious may believe some days are unlucky. For instance, some people think Friday the 13 is an unlucky day. Another day some people think is unlucky is March 15 because the English playwright William Shakespeare said in his play, Julius Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March."

The Latin word "ides" means "to divide." Therefore, if you divide the number of days in March, the ides will be on March 15. Also, that date usually falls on the first day of a full moon.

Have you ever wondered why March 15 is considered to be an unlucky day and why Shakespeare would give such a warning?

William Shakespeare warned Julius Caesar about March 15 because on that date in 44 BC Julius Caesar a soothsayer prophesied that he would be killed. The day was unlucky for him, but not for us. However, the warning has been heard on March 15 for generations.

Portrait of William Shakespeare

Portrait of William Shakespeare

Scene From Julius Caesar

Act 1, Scene 2

Shakespeare writes about a meeting between the dictator and a soothsayer, a person who can predict the future.

The soothsayer says, “Beware the Ides of March.”

Caesar asks, “What man is that?”

And Brutus, Caesar’s loyal friend answers, “A soothsayer says to you to beware of the Ides of March.

Caesar should have listened to the warning, but he does not listen

Act III, Scene I

Caesar says to the Soothsayer, “The Ides of March are come.”

The Soothsayer answers, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.”

Caesar’s friend Brutus was among the attackers who killed Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.

When Caesar sees that his friend Brutus has turned against him, he says, “Eh tu, Brutus?”

Julius Caesar did meet death on the Ides of March when he was betrayed by his friend just as the soothsayer had warned.

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Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by a group of more than 60 conspirators led by the Senators Brutus and Cassius, former friends who had turned enemies because of the Emperor's failure to govern justly. As Caesar was dying, he looked at his friend and questioned him, "Eh tu, Brutus?” This means “You too, Brutus?”

Perhaps we should beware of our friends so we will never have to say to one of them, "Eh tu, Brutus?"

No Need to Worry

This article has been a teaching tool about a quote from one of William Shakespeare's tragic plays as March 15 approaches.

Therefore, there is no need to worry about March 15 whether you are superstitious or not. The prophecy was a warning only for Julius Caesar, a Roman Emperor, which you are not.

If the subject comes up on any televised game shows such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! America Says, People Puzzler, or Common Knowledge, you will know the answer without having studied Shakespeare's plays.

Familiar Lines From Shakespeare's Plays and Sonnets

You probably know some of William Shakespeare's famous quotes from his plays or sonnets. Some of his quotes are well-known for their beauty, truths, and wisdom.

See how many of the following quotes you know. You might have heard some of them without knowing they are quotes by Shakespeare.

  1. "To be, or not to be: that is the question." (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1)
  2. "All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts."(As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7)
  3. "Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2)
  4. "What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2)
  5. "The better part of valor is discretion." (Henry IV, Part 1, Act 5, Scene 4)
  6. "All that glitters is not gold." (The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7)
  7. "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." (Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2)
  8. "A horse! a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" (Richard III, Act 5, Scene 4)
  9. "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate." (Sonnet 18)
  10. "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once." (Julius Caesar, Act 2, Scene 2)
  11. "Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5)
  12. "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)
  13. "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2)
  14. "Beware the Ides of March." (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2)
  15. "Et tu, Brute?" (Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1)

As an English major in college, I had to study all of William Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. It was a requirement to learn long passages from each one, stand in front of the class and recite them.

That was a great experience for me.


Shakespeare's Famous Quotes

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