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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: August ::
Re: *JC* at Globe
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0815.  Monday, 4 August 1997.

From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Sunday, 3 Aug 1997 11:56:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0811 Re: First Globe
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0811 Re: First Globe

Dear Gabriel Egan and others,

Gabriel Egan raises an interesting question, and one I have not
considered in the intriguing way he frames it: were one willing to
stipulate that "Julius Caesar" may have been purpose-written for
performance on the Summer Solstice in 1599, what evidence is there in
the playtext that this performance took place at the Globe, rather than
at the Curtain?

I believe a persuasive argument that JC was purpose-written for the
Globe stage can be deduced from "Caska's almanac":

Decius. Here lyes the East: doth not the Day breake here?
Cask. No.
Cin. O pardon, Sir, it doth; and yon grey Lines
        That fret the Clouds, are Messengers of Day.
Cask. You shall confesse, that you are both deceiv'd.
Heere, as I point my Sword, the Sunne arises,
Which is a great way growing on the South,
Weighing the youthfull Season of the yeare.
Some two moneths hence, up higher toward the North
He first presents his fire, and the high East
Stands as the Capitoll, directly heere. (731-42)

Internal evidence suggests Shakespeare attached a great deal of
significance to where Caska pointed. His speech is particularized to the
compass, and the playwright has embedded a stage direction which
requires the actor to draw his sword and point-which would lengthen and
sharpen the gesture.  Shakespeare also insists on the "high" east - that
is, precisely east as the compass points-and abruptly introduces a
reference to "the Capitoll." This latter has special significance, I
think, given the physical surroundings in which the conspirators find
themselves. They are met within the walls of Brutus' orchard. We know
they cannot see the city beyond its walls because Brutus could not see
the conspirators before they entered through the upstage door.
Therefore, any structure which Caska envisions must retain a presence
even though invisible beyond the wall. The audience at the Globe are in
an analogous situation; they cannot see the city beyond the three-story
walls of the theater. But an examination of the geography of
Shakespeare's London reveals that, had Caska pointed to the "high East,"
he would have been pointing toward a building which dominated its
quadrant of the skyline and would have remained a looming presence in
the minds of an Elizabethan audience: the Tower of London. The Victorian
scholar W.A. Wright appears to have been the first to detect this
correspondence between the Roman Capitoll and the Tower: "It is worth
remarking that the Tower, which would be the building in London most
resembling the [Roman] Capitol to Shakespeare's mind, was as nearly as
possible due east of the Globe Theater on Bankside."

This Caesar-Tower-Elizabeth connection explains at least one other set
of anomalies in JC: the bizarre references to lions wandering the Roman
streets and haunting the Capitol. At line 452 Caska reports to Cassius,
"Against the Capitoll I met a Lyon." At 513 Cassius confirms the
presence of lions in the Roman Capitol when he alludes to a man who
"roares, As doth the Lyon in the Capitoll." At line 1004 we learn that
the lion Caska encountered was female; Calphurnia recounts "A Lionnesse
hath whelped in the streets." Of course, there were no lions kept in the
Roman capitol. However, lions were kept in the Tower of London.  Stowe's
Annales (5 August 1604) records that "a Lionesse named Elizabeth, in the
Tower of London, brought forth a lion's whelp."  In both an historical
and metaphorical sense the Tower is the locus where the Roman and
Elizabethan strands of Julius Caesar converge. The Tower was the London
landmark most closely associated with Julius Caesar (cf.  references in
R3). The Tower was also emblematic not of Queen Elizabeth's glory but of
her power.  In the context of Caska's almanac, Shakespeare's glance at
the Capitol-Tower nods us toward two monarchs who imposed the Julian
calendar.

The Curtain playhouse, by contrast, was located almost due North of the
Tower. Therefore, an actor pointing to "the high East" to make the
Capitoll - Tower connection could only do so from the stage of the
Globe. Perhaps "Caska's almanac" effectively discourages a connection
between "Julius Caesar" and the Curtain, and supports the suggestion
that the play was purpose-written for the Globe.

All the best,
Steve Sohmer
 

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