When Edwin Booth opened his famous long run in New York on Christmas Day, 1871, both he and the play were well known and popular. Julius Caesar had been a staple of the American stage since the American Revolution, its content well suited to republican sympathies. And Edwin Booth was the most famous actor of a notable theatrical family. ‘The three sons of the great Booth’ gathered to perform Julius Caesar as a fundraiser in 1864 (‘the great Booth’, by then dead, was their barnstorming father Junius Brutus Booth, named after the founder of the Roman Republic; see I.ii.158–61): Edwin played Brutus, Junius Brutus Jr. played Cassius, and Antony was played by John Wilkes. Ironically, John Wilkes Booth would only a few months later carry out the real-life assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
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