Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “Julius Caesar” with the man himself looking uncannily like Donald Trump has caused a stir. So much so in fact that some of the corporate sponsors have decided to withdraw financial support. These include Bank of America and Delta Airlines with the latter stating “No matter what your political stance may be, the graphic staging of ‘Julius Caesar’ does not reflect Delta’s values.” I wonder what on earth this means. So let’s dig a little further into why a play written more than 400 years ago could create such a reaction.
To begin with, Shakespeare can rightly be called the most contemporary of all playwrights. His characters describe psychological types and states of mind that even Freud thought were extraordinary. His plays can be staged in any number of ways from period costumes to modern dress, from demure Elizabethan backdrop to the Fascist brutalism of the1930s. His ideas are so vast and his understanding of our humanness so all consuming that his plays can fit any age and any approach. Somehow he always provides the opportunity for the essence of his drama to survive and shine no matter how radical the treatment. He was a careful politician in his time when a careless word or action could lead to terrible reprisals. His only slip was a re-staging of “Richard II” specially requested by the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth’s erstwhile favorite who was about to fall from power and end up on the block. “Richard II” is about a sovereign who looses his crown and staging it at a time of possible national insurrection by Essex was an unwise move.
Then there is Shakespeare’s political handling of the character of Julius Caesar. This had nothing to do with government but […]