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Art And Politics Collide In 'Julius Caesar'47:18Download

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A New York staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” sparks hot controversy in the age of Donald Trump. We’ll go to the play, and its politics.

Tina Benko, left, portrays Melania Trump in the role of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, and Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Donald Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar in New York. (Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP)
Tina Benko, left, portrays Melania Trump in the role of Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, and Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Donald Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar in New York. (Joan Marcus/The Public Theater via AP)

You may think you don’t know William Shakespeare’s play "Julius Caesar," but you do. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.” “Et tu, Brutus.” The “unkindest cut of all.” “Let loose the dogs of war.” All there. Right now, the play where Caesar is assassinated and Rome melts down is on in Central Park. With Caesar pretty much portrayed as Donald Trump. Conservative pundits say that’s an outrage. The play’s producers say it’s art. This hour On Point: The tragedy of Julius Caesar, right now. -- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Michael Paulson, theater reporter for The New York Times. (@MichaelPaulson)

James Shapiro, professor of English at Columbia University, focusing on Shakespeare and medieval and early drama.

Charlotte Canning, professor of drama, University of Texas at Austin. Director of the Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism. (@CharlotteCanni1)

From Tom's Reading List

New York Times: Oskar Eustis on Trump, ‘Julius Caesar’ and the Politics of Theater — "The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” opened on Monday night under unusual circumstances: A firestorm of criticism from the right over the use of an actor styled as President Trump to portray Caesar, and then knifed to death as part of the story, led three major corporate donors to distance themselves from the show. After the opening-night performance, and before the party that followed, Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public and director of the “Julius Caesar” production, sat down in the Delacorte Theater for a few minutes to answer questions about the matter."

New York Times: A Trumpian Caesar? Shakespeare Would Approve — "When Shakespeare wrote 'Julius Caesar,' he did so at a time when England was deeply anxious about its political future. There had been threats against the monarch’s life, and since nobody knew who would succeed the childless queen, civil war was a real possibility. In taking on Caesar, Shakespeare decided to confront the most divisive and provocative political question of the day: Under what circumstances is it justified to depose a tyrant?"

Boston Globe: ‘Julius Caesar’ controversy isn’t a tempest in a teapot — "Caveat: I haven’t seen the production, so this is not a review. But no one’s reading things into it. Per The New York Times, the Julius Caesar currently stalking the Delacorte Theater has a blond rinse, a blue suit, a long red necktie, and a Slavic wife. When, in Act I, Casca sneers about the ruler’s popularity with the masses, 'If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less,' director Oskar Eustis has added the words 'on Fifth Avenue.'"

This program aired on June 14, 2017.

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