Hence! home, you idle creatures, get you home:
Is this a holiday? What! know you not,
Being mechanical, you ought not walk
Upon a labouring day without the sign
Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou? –Julius Caesar
Sometimes I tell my middle school students they must learn how to tell time. I draw this advice from Qohelet’s poem on time in Ecclesiastes 3 because it weds the appropriateness of an event to a particular time. You do not laugh when it is the time to mourn.
I tell my students this because I want them to pause and recognize who they are and where they are, and then determine what they ought to do – the three basic ingredients of any event.
“Telling the time” rightly marks a discerning step that can draw the appropriate act from a situation. Who I am and where I am inform what I should do.
For instance, if I am a student in a classroom, then my actions must properly mirror my situation. Jumping over chairs and groaning “Ooh” suits an animal in the jungle, but not a child in Latin class. Believe it or not, I have indeed witnessed this scenario teaching middle school students, and remain perplexed as to why they would endorse and entertain such behavior.
These three ingredients (character, setting, and action) must fuse if we are going to judge the rightness of any event. I must know my nature (being mechanical) and my setting (labouring day). Then I can discern the act that suits the situation (to be idle or work?).
To disturb any one of these three elements is to create a disharmony that will eventually lead to chaos and disorder.
The Tribunes in Julius Caesar have a right to fear, because Caesar’s actions have led men to fall out harmony, and such imbalance may cause everything to dissemble.
Yet, the beauty of Shakespeare comes from the cobbler’s reply that he is “a mender of bad soles.” Or did he mean “souls”?
Has Rome grown to such a sickened state? Is Caesar seeking only to restore health, to free the captives? For men ought not be mechanical, but idle and free to govern themselves, right?