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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: August ::
That "Julius Caesar" Production
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0737  Friday, 25 August 2006

[1] 	From: 	L. Swilley <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 24 Aug 2006 16:25:48 -0500
	Subj: 	That "Julius Caesar" Production

[2] 	From: 	Hardy M. Cook <
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	Date: 	Friday, August 25, 2006
	Subj: 	That "Julius Caesar" Production


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		L. Swilley <
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Date: 		Thursday, 24 Aug 2006 16:25:48 -0500
Subject: 	That "Julius Caesar" Production

Dr. Cook has given us a delightful report of his visit to England. Like 
him, I would love to return to London where, as a student for a year, I 
was able to attend any or all of the plays. (Those days are certainly 
gone when students could find standing room at the Old Vic for the 
equivalent of 35 cents U.S. and witness, for example, Olivier and McEwan 
and the like perform over and over again such wonders as Strindberg's 
"Dance of Death.")

But let me ask the good Doctor about that production of "Julius Caesar" 
he saw. As many here may remember, I have been puzzled by the play's 
Caesar. All characters - save Cassius - speak with admiration of the 
"great" Caesar (especially Mark Antony in that famous soliloquy), yet 
the character we are usually shown is not great at all, but pompous, 
egotistic ("I rather tell thee what is to be feared, than what I fear; 
for always I am Caesar" and "I am as constant as the northern star, 
etc." Indeed!), and so undiplomatic as to insult those on whom he 
depends for a desired appointment ("I could well be moved, if I were as 
you, etc."). That Brutus, then, - and especially narrow-eyed Antony - 
should soliloquize about Caesar's "greatness" makes them seem duped by 
this would-be tyrant, ignorant of what the audience is given to know 
about him. The consequences for *their* characters, then, is so 
devastating as to make their suffering over this loss incomprehensible, 
lugubrious, ridiculous, and their persons stupid. (But, of course, this 
will not do.)

My question to Dr. Cook, then, is: in this production, how was Caesar 
presented to avoid the problems named above?

Another question. A critical scene in the play - perhaps the most 
critical - is that in IV, iii, where Brutus is brought to realize that 
he has murdered Caesar for an evil he *might have* done, but here 
forgives Cassius for evil he definitely *has*. To me, this is the very 
center, the heart of the play as Brutus' story; but, in the productions 
I have seen this has never been presented as the devastating realization 
it has to be for Brutus. (One expects thunder, lightning - and perhaps 
the sudden flash-appearance of the ghost of Caesar.)  In the production 
Dr. Cook saw, what emphasis, if any, was placed on this scene and how 
was that done?

L. Swilley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date: 		Friday, August 25, 2006
Subject: 	That "Julius Caesar" Production

 >Dr. Cook has given us a delightful report of his visit to England.
 >Like him, I would love to return to London

Thank you. A slight correction though, I don't want to return JUST to 
London; I would like to live just about anywhere on the island - 
Scotland, Wales (home to my Grandmother Morgan's kin), Stratford, 
Oxford, London . . .

A comment before I turn to Professor Swilley's questions: there were a 
few productions that I made no comments about, following my mother's 
dictum - "If you cannot say something nice, don't say anything at all." 
But you have put me on the spot here: Well, okay, I just did not find 
the RSC Julius Caesar particularly engaging, and I saw it on Friday 
evening after a full week of events and a day trip to Warwick Castle 
(yes, I played hooky, but Rebecca wanted to see a castle even though she 
had been to this one before, and I wanted to reward her for occupying 
herself while I was attending the sessions all week long).

 > . . . in this production, how was Caesar presented to avoid the
 >problems named above?

With all the givens above, I do not recall Caesar as being portrayed as 
particularly pompous or particularly "great" - my memory of his 
appearance as a ghost was of a dignified person conveying a sort of 
I-told-you-so attitude. Nor do I recall much being made of the irony of 
lines such as "I rather tell thee what is to be feared / Than what I 
fear, for always I am Caesar. / Come on my right hand, for this ear is 
deaf."

 >In the production Dr. Cook saw, what emphasis, if any, was placed
 >on this scene and how was that done?

Again, I have no recall of any notable elements emphasized in this scene.

Because of my poor memory, I invite anyone else who saw the production 
to offer his or her comments.

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