LINCOLN (SNR) – In preparation for the Ides of March (March 15), the eighth-grade class at Sacred Heart School in Lincoln studied William Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Caesar.”
Over the course of a month, the students read, analyzed and memorized lines from the famous death scene in Act Three, Scene One of the play. Throughout the process of reading, they would check their understanding and make sure that all the nuances and slight idiomatic differences between Shakespeare’s English and modern English were understood.
The school’s Latin program, taught by Levi Baus, provides opportunities for students to engage with the Latin language and culture, and the history of the Catholic Church.
“Each grade has a different project they work on,” he said, “to try to understand the lives, history and culture of ancient Romans—from learning about the daily life of an ancient Roman to wearing togas, reenacting ancient warfare, reading the Latin Mass, and reading and acting out scenes from influential and important literature.
“They take the time to discuss topics that people have tried to grapple with for thousands of years,” he said.
As the Ides drew near, the eighth-graders selected roles to act and began to memorize their lines. Baus said the process was made easier by the fact that the school works on memorization of Psalms, portions of the Bible, poetry and famous speeches.
For the March 15 reenactment, the students donned togas and sheathed daggers. The school gathered to watch their eighth-graders present a historically important work in action.
Before they began, the eighth graders gave some introductory information about William Shakespeare, his play “Julius Caesar,” as well as information about Julius Caesar the man, and the importance of the play.
Now that the Ides date has passed, Baus said the students will read through the play as the school year finishes. The eighth-graders will discuss and debate whether Brutus is the hero by his opposition to Caesar’s kingship or Caesar, the greatest military and civic leader of his time, is the tragic hero of the play, killed by men who misunderstood his intentions.
“They will discuss liberty, freedom, democracy, tyranny, and good versus evil,” Baus said. “These students are entering the arena of debate and discourse which takes its roots from ancient civilization. “Now, more than ever,” he continued, “are discussions like these vital for students to engage in, and they are fostered by reading and grappling with some of the greatest literature that has ever been composed.”