January 30, 2011

“The evil that men do…”


“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”
       William Shakespeare (1564-1616) 
       This is one of several well-known quotes in Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar, from
Act 3, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. These two lines follow the famous opening words: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” The oration in the play is loosely based on a real speech Antony gave at Caesar’s funeral, a few days after Caesar had been assassinated by his political enemies on March 15, 44 B.C. (the “Ides of March”). A report on what Antony said was recorded by the Greek-born Roman historian Appian in his history of Rome’s civil wars. According to Appian, the Roman masses became so angry after hearing Antony’s subtly inflammatory speech that they burnt down the Senate building where Caesar was killed and went hunting for his murderers, who were forced to flee Rome. At left is a video of Marlon Brando performing the funeral oration in the 1953 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.


“If, as the theologians say, ‘the very act of free choice is traced to God as to a cause’...if ‘everything happening from the exercise of free choice must be subject to divine providence,’ must not the evil that men do be attributed to God as cause?”
       From a commentary on the philosophical debate over free will in
The Great Ideas volume of Encyclopedia Britannica’s multi-volume series about the great books and ideas of the Western World. (Edited by Mortimer Adler and first published in 1952.)


“It is sins of omission, not commission, that are most fruitful of harm; not the evil that men do, but the good they did not do, that lives after them.”
       Editorial comment in an 1889 issue of
The Railway Conductor’s Monthly
       Included in The Conductor and Brakeman Vol. 6, compiled by The Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen


“It’s not the evil that men do that outlives them; it’s the mischief that computers and genetic research can get us into when they are spliced together that we need to worry about.”
       A paraphrase of the views of technology critic Jeremy Rifkin
       In the book Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Business Ethics and Society (2006), written by Lisa Newton, Elaine Englehardt and Michael Pritchard


“Parson Fawcett said: the evil that men do lives after them; but the evil that women do goes on for countless generations through their breeding.”
       Catherine Cookson (1906-1998)

       British novelist
       In her period romance novel The Love Child (1990)

See more takeoffs and variations on “The evil that men do...”

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