2056 years ago on this day — the Ides of March — Julius Caesar was killed in full view of the Roman Senate by some two dozen conspirators. Depending on who you ask, the killers were motivated either by jealousy, or by a patriotic desire to save the Republic from devolving into a tyrannical monarchy.
If you know anything about the Ides of March, you know that in Shakepseare’s telling of the story, Caesar called out to his friend “et tu, Brute?” before collapsing. But the story of Caesar’s death was already a juicy, enthralling piece of drama before Shakespeare got to it.
Nearly all the crazy, inane sh!4 that goes down in Shakespeare’s play — from the fake letters Cassius leaves on Brutus’s chair to stroke his ego, to the portentous dream Caesar’s wife has the night before, to the conspirators’ strange fascination with making sure they all bathe their arms in Caesar’s blood, to the ghosts that haunt Brutus, to their dramatic suicides — is taken, unmodified, from Plutarch’s detailed Greek account written just a few generations after the event: