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Julius Caesar By The Orlando Shakespeare Theater Production

1407 words - 6 pages

Julius Caesar, believed to have been written around 1599, is one of William Shakespeare’s most well-known historical works. The events of the play follow the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar by a group of Roman senators, and the subsequent upheaval of the state. The recent Orlando Shakespeare Theatre production of Julius Caesar utilized a cast of seven to portray a Dramatis Personae of more than thirty characters, similar to the style in which acting troupes would have performed Shakespeare’s works in taverns and smaller towns of the period. The reduced cast size and intimate setting of the Goldman Theatre, in which the play was staged, combined to more fully immerse the audience in the action of the play.
Like many of Shakespeare’s works, it is unknown when Julius Caesar was originally written. Though originally published in the First Folio in 1623, there is a record of the play in the diary of Thomas Platter in September of 1599 (“The Norton Anthology of English Literature”). Based on this record, the similarities in meter and word choice to other Shakespearean works of the time, and the reference to an unnamed play about the assassination of Caesar in Hamlet, historians have placed the original performance sometime in the earlier part of 1599 (Dobson and Wells 230). Assuming this date to be accurate, it is highly likely that Julius Caesar was one of the first plays to be staged in the newly constructed Globe Theatre.
Julius Caesar was perhaps the most influential man in Roman history. A decorated war hero, he was elected consul and eventually offered the title of monarch, which he refused. Fearful of his growing power and influence, a group of senators, including Marcus Brutus, one of Caesar’s confidants, conspired to assassinate him and bring freedom to the people. After Caesar’s death, however, the people, led by Marc Antony and Octavius Caesar, rose up against the conspirators, who all either fell in battle or took their own lives to preserve their honor. While Shakespeare’s version of these events follows the historical facts, several liberties were taken with locations and timelines. Caesar’s assassination takes place in the Capitol, rather than the Theatre of Pompey, and his funeral and the reading of his will occur within hours of his death, rather than days later. He also combines the two Battles of Philippi into a single conflict, though more than two weeks passed between them (Shakespeare). Like many Victorian era playwrights, Shakespeare also took liberties with the technological advancements of the time, having Ancient Romans speak of hats and doublets, or telling one another to count the chiming of the clock. The inclusion of these anachronistic elements was hardly accidental, however. Theatre reflects the society in which it is crafted, and Julius Caesar, a play about the chaotic power vacuum left behind by the sudden death of a leader, was penned during the period just before the death of Elizabeth I, who had not yet...

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