In the summer of 2001, I was working as a dramaturg on a Georgia Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar which was set in the American south of the 1930s. One of the play’s most disturbing scenes takes place right after Mark Antony has inflamed the crowd during his funeral oration over Caesar’s corpse. Subtly manipulating the people’s sympathies and loyalties, Antony is able to take an assembly of ordinary citizens, invert their leanings entirely, and turn them into a ravening and murderous mob. Once unleashed, they tear through the streets of Rome looking for anyone who might have been connected to the conspirators who assassinated Caesar. When they happen on a man who shares a name—Cinna—with one of the conspirators, they assault and kill him, knowing full well that he is merely a hapless poet who has nothing to do with the corpse Antony showed them in the forum. It’s a chilling study in mob violence run amok, a moment so unsettling that it was consistently cut from all eighteenth- and nineteenth-century productions.
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Andrew James Hartley
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