Friday, March 15th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Beware the Ides of March

Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on March 15, 44 BC. He’d been warned by a soothsayer, but apparently failed to take precautions.

Worse, he was stabbed in the back by his good friend Marcus Brutus.

Shakespeare’s responsible for gifting us with memorable lines from his Tragedy of Julius Caesar, such as those for the soothsayer (Beware the Ides of March!) and Caesar’s famous last line, “Et tu, Brute?” (And you, Brutus?)

Brutus takes backstabbing your friend to a whole new level. He stepped up to the plate “for the good of Rome,” once it was agreed that Caesar was getting too big for his britches. He’d compared himself with Alexander the Great and grabbed as much power as he could.

These days, our friends and family would hold an intervention.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • This works for novelists, poets and memoir writers: write a scene where one character back-stabs another. Bonus points if you can work in Caesar’s famous line (“Et tu, Brute?”) without is sounding cheesy. If you’re a poet, write about betrayal. If you’re writing memoir, journaling or even family history, now’s the time to tell about the family fued: who stabbed whom in the back and why?
  • Write a scene with “Beware the…” as the jumping off point.
  • If Julius’ tragedy doesn’t float your boat, choose any one of Shakespeare’s hundreds of quotes and use them as a jump start. ENotes has them all listed by play. Pick one at random.
    If you’re feeling lazy, here are just a few:

    • Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow… (MacBeth)
    • Give me my robe, put on my crown… (Antony and Cleopatra)
    • And thus I clothe my naked villany (Richard III)
    • The world’s mine oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
    • I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you (The Merchant of Venice)

Good Luck!

2 comments to Writing Prompt – Beware the Ides of March

  • Kelly, great post! I loved the part “These days, our friends and family would hold an intervention.” You’re so right…it seems so much more boring than simply stabbing the self-important egomaniac. We’d hold an intervention; it might be reenacted on some reality show, and would be soon forgotten. Instead Brutus and Shakespeare gave us something for the ages.

    I know your post is mainly about betrayal and Shakespeare quotes, but I was also struck by your mention that Caesar “apparently failed to take precautions.” In fairness, you have to admit the soothsayer wasn’t very specific. If someone told you to beware the 15th of March, what exactly are you supposed to do? Or not do? Basically, I’m calling on all soothsayers everywhere to step up your game! Give us something to work with here!

    • Hi Steve!
      Thanks for the kind words.

      You’re right, of course, about soothsayers. In my youth, I would have probably ignored such a warning. These days, I might have just stayed home and written a few thousand words. (Great excuse to get more writing in, eh?)

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