“..Hold thee my sword,
While I do run upon it,
Wilt thou, Strato?….
……Caesar, now be still..”
And then, while his loyal servant, Strato, held out his sword in his hands, Marcus Junius Brutus ran himself through
It is likely Brutus really didn’t say those exact words – I took them from Billy Shake’s tragedy ‘Julius Caesar’.
Brutus’s mom was one of Caesar’s many mistresses for a while and despite the fact that Caesar was only 15 when Brutus was born, some historians still believe that Caesar was his biological father. After all, when you’re 15, you can get a broad pregnant if you want ta. I could have. If I hadn’t been so virtuous.
Be that as it may, it must have been a slow death. Try to stick a knife into your gut – it will slice effortlessly into your small intestines and if you twist it this way and that, it will tear your spleen, liver, kidneys apart and cause massive internal hemorrhaging. But it’ll still take you a long long time ta die, trust me. As your blood pulsates out, in tandem with the desperate beating of your heart, you’ll feel an excruciating pain as if your blood-starved brain is being split apart. You’ll feel a million pin pricks too, at your nerve ends all over your body.
Pity Brutus couldn’t pack a Glock in those days, but my sense is that even if he did pack one, he would still want ta run himself through with a sword. Because that’s what he thought was the proper heroic way ta die in those days.
Running through must have had something to do with the mindset of the day. Spilled blood had this aura of faux chivalry, unlike other modes of suicide of the time, such as poisoning, which somehow seemed too sneaky, too easy. Hemlock in honey or toxic mushrooms could do you in quickly and frequently did in those days. You’d be dead before you began saying,” What the f—k did you put in my dr…”
I guess the dictum of the day was that dying had to be ‘worthy’ of respect and in order to accomplish that, it had to be painful and slow, not swift and painless.
Crucified? Awesome! Takes five days, give or take, if you’re crucified. Its slow, real slow. Five days of unbelievable agony. Do you think Jesus or Spartacus would be the heroes that they are taday, if they had simply been poisoned?
Burnt on a stake? Hot, but cooool! What’s the only thing we remember about St. Joan d’Arc – that she died real slow.
Hanged, drawn and quartered? Wowy! In medieval England only men went through this excruciatingly slow, barbaric execution. For reasons of public decency, women were never meted this punishment. They were burnt at the stake instead. The only reason why we all remember Guy Fawkes is because he was hanged, drawn and quartered.
Impaled on a spear and left to gradually slide down a the spear head or a sharpened wooden stake that enters through your rectum and gradually shoves aside tissue and bone and blood vessels and finally pokes out through your adam’s apple? Ooooh, I’m cummin’!! The Romanian ruler, Vlad III (Dracula) loved ta sentence traitors to this form of punishment and even had medics at hand to keep the man alive as long as possible, so the pain could be maximized.
Getting back to Brutus’s suicide, sure enough for his slow and painful demise, Brutus was lionized even by his vanquishers. After Strato broke the news of Brutus’ suicide, Mark Anthony was all teared up and had this ta say –
“…His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world,”This was a man.”
Octavian (later to be Rome’s first emperor, Augustus/Octavius) didn’t want to be outdone by Mark Anthony’s eloquence, when he held forth….
“…With all respects and rights of burial
Within my tent his bones tonight shall lie
Most like a soldier, order’d honorably…”
If instead, Brutus had swigged down some hemlock and croaked it, the very same Octavian might have said derisively,” Chuck the bastard into the Tiber and lets get the hell outa here. I don’t want to be late for tanight’s orgy. Those broads I got from my Spanish campaign can really give head.”
What’s with this hullabaloo about the most honorable way to die? If you’re dead, you’re just another sucker who’s dead, that’s it. Does it matter how you died? Evidently it does.
But that’s Shakespeare for you. Shakespeare is replete with mayhem and that’s because Elizabethan audiences reveled in gore. While a good comedy once in a while didn’t do no harm, the common folk of 16th century England overwhelmingly went for treachery, debauchery, deceit and gore. Violence was the primary reason why Shakespeare became so famous.
And Willy Shakes knew how to keep audiences titillated, with ingenious new ways in which ta die. Cleopatra shoved her hand inside a basket of dates that had an asp inside. Goneril (King Lear), a real bitch by even Elizabethan standards, took hemlock, a popular poison of the day. If you were a member of the glitterati and went to the friendly neighborhood pharmacist in those days, your shopping list had ta have a pitcher of concentrated hemlock, oh yeah. And its antidote of course. You would be a shmuck not ta order the antidote and keep it safe, just in case somebody in your household poisoned you. Antidotes those days were even more valuable than gold and silver.
Mark Anthony and Cassius fell on their swords. The Home Depots of the day must have had this contraption on sale that you stuck into the floor and then jammed the haft of your sword in and you just fell on it and felt it pierce your stumik, sever your spine and come out the other side. You would take a while ta die, for sure, but that would be just great. Willy Shakes would write a tragedy on you.
Ophelia, driven insane by Hamlet’s murder of her beloved father, plunged from a tree branch into the current below. Actually she slipped and didn’t know how ta swim. But Elizabethan England would have labelled her a nitwit, so Willy Shakes wrote it in as a suicide.
Shakespearean plots were always very complex, with rivalries and deceit, temporary alliances and treachery, cowardice and chivalry – all woven inside a huge cauldron of blood and gore. One moment you see two characters thick as thieves and after a couple of acts they are at each other’s throats.
Other than his Titus Andronicus, which was fiction, all of Shakespeare’s tragedies were based on history. If Willy Shakes had been alive, he would surely have found in the situation in Syria the perfect fodder for a tragedy –
Take a look at the mess in Syria…
Bashar Assad has just put down an armed insurrection with the help of his Shiite friends, Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah and his long-term ally and benefactor – Russia. On the other side, America along with the Gulf Arabs and Turkey wanted regime change – they wanted Assad to go. To this end they had been arming and training many of the rebels in the insurrection.
Not all rebels were being armed equally though. While America and Turkey were arming moderate rebels, the Saudis and the Qataris were arming the Islamist rebels. And the Saudis and Qataris were supposedly friends of America.
And here is where it begins to get complicated – one of the insurgent groups was ISIS whom the whole world hated and therefore all these protagonists seemed to have a common cause, right? Wrong. Russia said it was bombing ISIS but it actually targeted the other rebel groups who were fighting Assad, some of which were being funded by the Saudis and the Qataris, rivals of Iran.
Meanwhile, the Turks wanted Assad gone but they didn’t want to bomb him. Instead they were bombing the ISIS (a bit) but also bombing the Kurds (a lot). But the Kurds were allies of the Americans, who were in turn allies of Turkey, which by the way hated America because it thought America was behind the recent coup attempt.
And within all this is the murderously evil Saudi Arabia, winking and nodding at the Islamic fanatics in this cesspool, telling them ‘we are okay with you as long as you don’t do your job inside Saudi Arabia’.
So, friends’ friends are fighting their enemies who are actually their friends since they are fighting their friends enemies. And in the midst of all this is a trillion-dollar arms industry that is laughing all the way to the bank.
All of the above is ideal fodder for Willy Shakes, no?
If the 2016 US Presidential hopeful, leader of the nutcase Libertarian Party, Gary Johnson said in an interview, “What is Alleppo?” it was really an understatement. Things have been so bizarre in the Middle East of late, I would have said instead, “Who the f–k is Alleppo?” I think maybe Johnson had valid reason to be stumped. He could never have understood Shakespeare.