One Year Later: COVID-19 and the Ides of March

In modern times, the Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.

You’ve probably of heard the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name: “Beware the Ides of March.” 

Here are the actual lines:

  • Soothsayer. Caesar!
  • Caesar. Ha! who calls?
  • Casca. Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
  • Caesar. Who is it in the press that calls on me?I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
    Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
  • Soothsayer. Beware the ides of March.
  • Caesar. What man is that?
  • Brutus. A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
  • Caesar. Set him before me; let me see his face.
  • Cassius. Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
  • Caesar. What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
  • Soothsayer. Beware the ides of March.
  • Caesar. He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
  • Caesar. [To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
  • Soothsayer. Ay, Caesar; but not gone.

Not only did Shakespeare’s words stick, they branded the phrase—and the date, March 15—with a dark and gloomy connotation. 

It’s likely that many people who use the phrase today don’t know its true origin. In fact, just about every pop culture reference to the Ides – save for those appearing in actual history-based books, movies or television specials – makes it seem like the day itself is cursed.

There may be more to that than we think…

Take this event that occurred around March 15, 2003:

A New Global Health Scare, 2003
After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

The Smithsonian

Now what do you think about the Ides of March?

Especially the Ides of March, 2020.

Released earlier this week from Fortune is a fascinating recounting of 15 ways life has changed since COVID-19 pretty much shut the country down about this time last year.

Fifteen Fortune staff members reported on some of the most significant ways in which our lives have been altered, and the common denominator:

Virtually no one has been left untouched after 12 months of such dramatic disruption.

Here’s the list – but you will definitely want to read the full article.

  1. Work from home
  2. A distorted sense of time
  3. The way we work out
  4. Renewed gratitude for essential workers
  5. A chronology of pandemic-fueled shortages
  6. The many, many considerations working parents juggle
  7. A change of appetite
  8. Shining a light on inequality
  9. Remote learning
  10. A renewed relationship with nature
  11. The decimation of women in the workplace
  12. A mental health crisis
  13. A diminished college experience
  14. TikTok’s big moment
  15. The COVID class markers

It seems like the Ides of March has a new candidate for the top spot of gloom and doom.