Monday, August 17, 2009

Julius Caesar - Is the Play the Thing?


Can I use the term "metatheater" in the William Shakespeare Experience? We readers should nod when Caesar condemns Cassius:

I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much,
He is a great observer, and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men. [But] He loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music. (1.2.200-204)

And Brutus admonishes the conspirators with:

Let not our looks put on our purposes,
But bear it as our Roman actors do,
With untired spirits and formal constancy. (2.1.226-228)

Then, as Casca describes Caesar among the people as a performance – thrice refusing the crown, fainting, offering his throat for cutting, wringing "Alas, good soul" from several wenches – he concludes: "If the tag-rag people did not clasp him and hiss him, according as he pleased and displeased them, as they use to do the players in the theater, I am no true man" (1.2.258-261).

With these early references to theater, are you set up as a director to impose an overt theatrical style on the whole play or, for instance, Antony's funeral oration? Setting aside for a moment the fact that all performed plays are "theatrical," does Julius Caesar call especial attention to the theatricality of its characters' public relations?


(Quotes from Signet edition)

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