Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Julius Caesar, then and now

My first encounter with Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar was watching the star-studded 1953 film in my 9th grade English class. James Mason was Brutus, Marlon Brando played Mark Antony, and John Gielgud played Cassius, he of the "lean and hungry look." I have to say, I was not particularly impressed then, and upon looking at Antony's famous "I come to bury Caesar not to praise him" speech (see it here on Youtube), I haven't really changed my mind although looking at the black and white clip, it's eerie how Marlon Brando seems a sculpture come to life, so faded is the whitee of the film. And oddly, too, he reminds me of James Purefoy as Antony in Rome. (If you're interested, you can compare it to Charlton Heston's version from the 1970 adaptation here.)

I never really liked the play. A couple of female characters make cameo appearances, but there's no one like Coriolanus' mother in my favorite of Shakespeare's political plays. Vanessa Redgrave played her in the Ralph Fiennes version, and she was in her full Vanessa glory in a meaty part. For some reason, almost every high school English program uses Julius Caesar to introduce the bard to their students. (Sometimes it's Romeo and Juliet but in four of the five high schools I attended, Julius Caesar was the first play offered. And it's a wonder anyone ever went on to another play.)
That's why I'm so interested in the controversy the Public Theater has generated with their politically charged interpretation depicting Caesar as looking like Donald Trump.

I went looking for a clip from that production but the only one that's up is a long shot of the stabbling scene and you can't really see much. However, there is this hilarious version of the same idea. (I love Youtube so much.)  It's an extremely well done satire.

Maybe it's time I took another look at the play. Or booked a flight to New York. If you've never read Julius Caesar, you can read it for free online here.

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