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|Friday, 22 April 2005 06:12|
Caesar's Ghost visits Brutus before the Battle at Philippi: California Shakespeare Theatre (see Performance Gallery 188.8.131.52). Courtesy of Jay Yamada.
STAGING JULIUS CAESAR
This play is often favored because it broadly answers neoclassical critics like Sidney who question the decorum of the Elizabethan stage. In dealing with a high topic, Caesar's murder, it does not observe the unities of time and place but does sustain a severe style, avoiding the mixture of comedy and tragedy. Nevertheless, it does not focus narrowly on the life of Caesar, but rather covers the causes and consequences of his murder, making this a political play rather than a conventional Aristotelian tragedy. It is often interpreted in the light of the society of the audience. In 19th-century America Brutus was seen as the heroic defender of the Republic against the threat of monarchy and empire, like founders of the USA. However, Elizabethans might have seen it as the failure of murderous rebels against the establishment. Moderns tend to recognize the speciousness of Brutus arguing for punishment of hypothetical usurpation, noting not only the cynicism of Cassius, but that the assassination does not prevent the creation of an empire (Octavius becomes the Emperor Caesar Augustus) but brings it into being under the worst conditions: civil war becoming international. Despite (or because of) its severe tone and consistency, the play has always been surprisingly popular considering its divergence from the Shakespearean norm of tonal diversity, not to say tragicomedy. Fascination with its notoriously flamboyant assassination scene is probably the key. ©HMR
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Julius Caesar at Talkin' Broadway.
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