There was treachery amiss in Central Park during a presentation of “Julius Caesar” produced by The Public Theater. The play is a modern day interpretation of the magnificent work by William Shakespeare. But something was rotten in Denmark to quote “Hamlet,” another play by the Bard.
Julius Caesar was a “magnetic, populist, irreverent” leader of the Roman Empire. After his victories in the Gallic Wars , Caesar increased his control over Rome thereby creating opposition in the Senate, most notably from Cassius, Brutus and Casca.
Cassius convinced the others that Caesar longed to be emperor of Rome, and he would usurp the power of the democratic Senate. They agreed to assassinate Caesar after Brutus concluded, “his love of Caesar was less than his love for Rome.” The dastardly deed occurred on March 15, 44 B.C.- on the Ides of March. The balance of the story pits the assassins against Mark Antony (interestingly played by a woman).
The character that stole the show was Julius himself for all the wrong reasons. The producers opted to present the characters in 21st Century attire, suits and ties for the men and dresses for the women. The most significant aspect of this sidebar to the actual play is that Julius looks like, sounds like and acts much like Donald Trump.
In a very clever way Caesar delivers Shakespeare’s actual words in a way that the impersonation of the president is unmistakable. Even more important was that Caesar’s actions, which were treacherous in the eyes of Brutus and Cassius, were correlated to the policies and agenda of the Trump administration. The very strong implication is that like Caesar, Trump is a traitor to democracy and deserving of a similar fate as Caesar- assassination.
Many people in America dislike and even hate President Trump. Yet has a strong group of supporters and was fairly elected in a democratic election. In our civilized society changes in government are supposed to happen in the voting booth.
In Julius Caesar it is reasonable for the audience to be sympathetic with Brutus’ perspective but his actions were not good for Rome moving forward, and he committed a capital crime. For what it’s worth Dante relegates Brutus and Cassius to his ninth ring of hell in his Inferno. He called them the vilest sinners in history along with Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus Christ.
As I was preparing this essay I came upon an article indicating that Delta Air Lines and the Bank of America “were [revoking] sponsorship of New York’s famed Public Theater because . . . [it] is staged with an assassinated title character who resembles Donald Trump.” The article also referred to the despicable posting by Kathy Griffin of herself holding a fake severed head of Trump. Griffin was fired from CNN and elsewhere for the misstep.
Encouraging assassination of public leaders, even for artistic purposes, is inexcusable and immoral. Julius Caesar, the play, was excellent, but the imagery of our president was disturbing.