While all Shakespeare plays might be considered political or might be made so in performance, others simply are political in the very marrow of their bones. One of these is Julius Caesar, a historically rooted play about conspiracy, assassination, the manipulation of popular opinion, and the military outgrowth of political action. This is a play whose very blood—that which gives it life and motion—is politics. Yet the play has a vexed performance history and is widely considered to be flawed as the starting point of a piece of theatre which audiences will flock to: it is almost completely without humour, it has only two small female roles, it is low on visual spectacle and, most damning of all, suffers from the structural problem of the title character dying midway through the play, after which the story seems to lose its drive and dramatic appeal, ending in squabbles and piecemeal combat scenes populated by characters who were not part of the play’s first acts. These are valid complaints, and I have no interest in sweeping them under the rug here, looming large as they inevitably do in the mind of any director bold enough to tackle the play on stage. They are complaints, of course, which have not harmed the play’s utility in the classroom (where its lack of bawdy humour has actually increased its durability), but its use in schools has only furthered the play’s aura of dust and dryness on stage.
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- “Let him be Caesar”: Representing Politics
Andrew James Hartley
- Macmillan Education UK
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