Book Review: Eve of Ides by David Blixt

Eve of Ides is a two-act play in which the author, David Blixt marries William Shakespeare and Colleen Mc Cullough. William Shakespeare, of course, wrote the play Julius Caesar, which, as Blixt points out, was more about Marcus Junius Brutus than it was about Caesar. In his playwright’s notes, Blixt states:
“It is hard to think of any historical figure more redeemed with a stroke of a playwright’s pen than Brutus. Before Shakespeare’s play, he lived in an icy lake at the bottom of Hell. Dante gave Lucifer three mouths, allowing the Devil to chew forever history’s greatest betrayers: Judas Iscariot, Caius Cassius, and Brutus. Right through the Renaissance, Brutus was a villain, the treasonous coward who killed perhaps the greatest military and political leader the world had ever known.
“Yet in an act of brazen daring, Shakespeare turns Brutus into a hero,”
Blixt’ play sets out to explore territory that Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, omitted. “Today we are not so well informed of the great and twisted personal relationship these men had. We do not know why Brutus repeatedly says he loves Caesar. Nor do we see how they got to the point where murder is necessary.” This is where Colleen Mc Cullough comes in. In her historical fiction novels about Rome, Mc Cullough sets the gold standard of writing historical fiction about Rome and Caesar, and she delves into the relationship between Caesar and Brutus’ mother Servilia, and the relationship between Brutus and Caesar’s daughter Julia. The former was a stormy amorous affair, and the latter was Brutus’ one true amorous passion, nipped in the bud by Caesar for political reasons, i.e. he needed to marry her to Pompey to gain him as a political ally.a
In the first act of the play it is the evening before the Ides of March. There is a dinner party at Lepidus’ house and Caesar, trying to get some work done to prepare for the next day’s senatorial meeting, has taken over Lepidus’ office. Brutus has been sent to summon him to the dinner. They have a frank chat. Brutus has been invited by his brother in law, Caius Cassius, into the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar and he has still not made his final decision. He advises the great man to give up absolute power and step down, much as Sulla eventually did.
Brutus: I’ve been wondering when we lost our way. When we stopped being the people we say we are. I’ve been wondering how the gods will restore the Republic.
Caesar: Is she lost? Forgive me, that was facetious. Believe it or not, Brutus, the gods work through me. I am their instrument.
Brutus: Caesar, the Republic cannot be restored by a dictator. His very existence refutes the notion. Democracy cannot be imposed.
In the end, of course, Brutus decides that the assassination is necessary.
The second act takes place in Brutus’ tent at Phillipi, the night before the battle between the forces of Brutus and Cassius and those of Anthony and Octavian. Brutus is visited by the ghost of Caesar. The ghost of Caesar seems to bear Brutus no ill will and they chat amiably. Brutus admits that his deed did not accomplish his noble end.
Caesar: You thought with me dead, everything would return to what they used to be. Back to normal. The scales balanced.
Brutus: nods
Caesar: And now it’s chaos.
Without having seen Blixt’s play performed, it would be difficult for me to say how well this play works, but for someone who if familiar with both Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and Mc Cullough’s Rome series, the play provides an abundance of interesting concepts to think about.

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