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'Beware The Ides Of March,' And 8 Other Bad Omens In Literature

First Posted: 03/15/2012 1:36 pm   Updated: 03/15/2012 1:36 pm

March 15 is a day to be wary of, as we're taught by high school English teachers and the Bard himself.

In William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," a soothsayer warns our ambitious protagonist of the Ides of March. Caesar dismisses this, as well as a dream his wife has about his statue flowing with a fountain of blood, providing a macabre bath for Roman citizens.

He goes into work that day anyway, probably whistling smugly, and is thus murdered (stabbed 23 times, according to Shakespeare) by members of the Roman Senate.

This got us thinking: Do literary characters ever pay attention to the bad omens they encounter? Probably not - then we'd have no dramatic irony. Still, we're pretty sure if we had a run-in with a scraggly black dog or a poisoned horse swarming with flies, we'd head for the hills.

Here are some of our favorite bad omens in literature. What are yours?

"Macbeth" by William Shakespeare
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I don't know about you, but if three rhyming witches who spoke in unison warned me about my future, I'd probably take heed. Macbeth not only takes heed, he takes action, using their words as justification for murdering the King of Scotland.

The Weird Sisters visit again, informing him he will be safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle, a prophecy he assumes will insure his invincibility. But soon, the English army approaches with weaponry made from Birnam Wood, and Macbeth is slain by Macduff, a vengeful c-section baby.
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Filed by Madeleine Crum  |