This morning Mr. Robinson walked into the room, wandered up and down the aisles and just looked at us, a rue smile on his face, without saying anything.
When he completed a full round of the class, he paused in the front of the classroom, and in a very low voice, what he later explained was a “stage whisper” he said: “Beware the Ides of March. The Ides of March are come.”
After another long pause he asked: “What’s wrong with what I just said?”
A couple of the students in the class knew exactly what he’d been referring to, and clapped. Sarah, of course, was one of them.
Someone, I’m not sure who, spoke up. “The Ides of March was last week.”
Mr Robinson clapped his hands together. “Exactly,” he said. Then he went on to explain to the rest of the class that last Wednesday was the 15th or the “Ides” of March and that he was quoting from Julius Caesar. He explained the soothsayer’s prophecy, the basic story of Julius Caesar, and the fact that, while it would have been cooler to do this lesson on the 15th, that it had been March Break and not at all cool to be in school.
After telling us a bit about how the “Ides” referred to the 15th of some months and the 13th of other month, he talked more about Julius Ceasar and Shakespeare. Then he had students come up to the front of the class with a shortened script in hand and act out both the soothsayer scene where Caesar is warned and then the scene where he is killed and betrayed, even by his friend Brutus.
He picked me to play the role of Caesar.
I’ve never acted before, but man did I ever love it.
My favorite part, the very best moment was when I was pretending to be dying and I grabbed Bobby Shay by the scruff of his shirt, pulled myself up to his face and said. “Et, tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!”
It was a complete riot. I haven’t enjoyed talking about or studying Shakespeare so much as this. I love how Mr. Robinson jumped us into it by explaining what the “Ides of March” meant and having us act out some of the scenes.
Then he did something completely strange. Once we all settled back down into our seats from the Caesar death scene, he talked about how literature and storytelling in general often was self-reflective and that many newer works often made reference to classic pieces.
He said he would return to this motif often; try to show us how something recently written could be an ode to an older work. So he pulled out this book he said he bought at Chapters at a book signing several years ago. It was a book by an author who supposedly grew up in the Sudbury area. In Levack, of all places.
The book was called “One Hand Screaming” and the author’s name was Mark Leslie. The story Mr. Robinson read to us was called “Ides of March.” It was about these snowmen that have come alive, steal a truck and are trying to gather as many other snowmen as they can while driving north, desperately trying to avoid spring.
It was a darkly humorous sort of tale, and not something that I thought I would enjoy. But it was okay. Maybe because of the wonderful way that he read the story. Mr. Robinson went on to explain how the author, who he’d chatted with at the book signing, described using the title of the tale to be an allusion to a scene out of literature and incorporated the alluded to warning with the oncoming spring as an ominous element. He explained that this same author had a similar snowman story paired with this one in the very same book and that the author was trying to apply the same theme that Mary Shelly had explored in her novel Frankenstein.
Mr. Robinson said that while this particular author wasn’t one of the best he had read it was important to note the author’s local stature to illustrate that even modern writing by local authors or even stories written in so called “ghetto” genres, like horror, could be reflective of great classic works.
He asked us to look for such references in things that were available to us in the mass media. Asked for us to come up with comparisons between our favorite television shows and movies or perhaps even commercials and great works of literature.
“And saying the movie ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which is based on a book by Jane Austin, doesn’t count.” Mr. Robinson said, smiling. “Take whatever TV show that you watch or one of your favorite movies and let’s talk about it tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be able to find some sort of allusion or reference or derivative from a classic work.”
This guy just continues to blow me away.