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In Act I, Scene II, of William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, the titular character is approached on the street by a “soothsayer,” who warns Rome’s increasingly autocratic ruler to “beware the ides of March.” The soothsayer, of course, is warning Caesar of his impending doom. Caesar, unbeknownst to him, has become the subject of political intrigues by those to whom he is closest, including Brutus. Prominent Romans, members of the Senate, are concerned about Caesar’s growing popularity among Rome’s citizens and fear that the he will develop tyrannical powers if left unchecked. Caesar does appear to be developing what could be called a “cult of personality,” in that he has begun to associate his personal ambitions with the welfare of the republic. The soothsayer who approaches him in the public square is warning the self-important ruler that, on March 15, something very bad will occur.
As Shakespeare’s play progresses, the conspiracy targeting Caesar continues to take shape, with the main conspirators, including Gaius Cassius and Brutus, successfully recruiting others to their cause. As Act III, Scene I, begins, Caesar observes the gathering of senators and, spying the soothsayer nearby, suggests that perhaps the latter’s dire warning was for naught. The scene, as written by Shakespeare, reads as follows:
SCENE I. Rome. Before the Capitol; the Senate sitting above.
A crowd of people; among them ARTEMIDORUS and the Soothsayer. Flourish. Enter CAESAR, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, CASCA, DECIUS BRUTUS, METELLUS CIMBER, TREBONIUS, CINNA, ANTONY, LEPIDUS, POPILIUS, PUBLIUS, and others
[To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
The soothsayer is warning Caesar that the ruler should not relax or become complacent as the day is not yet done. Something bad still has time to occur on the ides of March.
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