Julius Caesar

Performance history

The play was likely one of Shakespeare's first to be performed at the Globe Theatre.[22] Thomas Platter the Younger, a Swiss traveller, saw a tragedy about Julius Caesar at a Bankside theatre on 21 September 1599 and this was most likely Shakespeare's play, as there is no obvious alternative candidate. (While the story of Julius Caesar was dramatised repeatedly in the Elizabethan/Jacobean period, none of the other plays known are as good a match with Platter's description as Shakespeare's play.)[23]

After the theatres re-opened at the start of the Restoration era, the play was revived by Thomas Killigrew's King's Company in 1672. Charles Hart initially played Brutus, as did Thomas Betterton in later productions. Julius Caesar was one of the very few Shakespearean plays that was not adapted during the Restoration period or the eighteenth century.[24]

Notable performances

  • 1864: Junius, Jr., Edwin and John Wilkes Booth (later the assassin of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln) made the only appearance onstage together in a benefit performance of Julius Caesar on 25 November 1864, at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. Junius, Jr. played Cassius, Edwin played Brutus and John Wilkes played Mark Antony. This landmark production raised funds to erect a statue of Shakespeare in Central Park, which remains to this day. It is worth noting that John Wilkes had wanted to play Brutus but lost the role to his brother, who was a better actor. The play was declared the most astounding of performances with Edwin playing the star lead of Brutus. This enraged John to such ends that he swore to make his own name famous. He joined a secret organization and plotted to kill the president. And so he did, and after shooting Abraham Lincoln he jumped onto the stage and shouted the line "Sic semper tyrannis!" Latin phrase which translates to "thus always to tyrants" but is most commonly interpreted as "death to tyrants". The significance of the line is that "Sic semper tyrannis!" was the line Edwin Booth delivered as Brutus in his 1864 production of Julius Caesar.
  • May 29, 1916: A one-night performance in the natural bowl of Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood drew an audience of 40,000 and starred Tyrone Power, Sr. and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. The student bodies of Hollywood and Fairfax High Schools played opposing armies, and the elaborate battle scenes were performed on a huge stage as well as the surrounding hillsides. The play commemorated the tercentenary of Shakespeare's death. A photograph of the elaborate stage and viewing stands can be seen on the Library of Congress website. The performance was lauded by L. Frank Baum.[25]
  • 1926: Another elaborate performance of the play was staged as a benefit for the Actors Fund of America at the Hollywood Bowl. Caesar arrived for the Lupercal in a chariot drawn by four white horses. The stage was the size of a city block and dominated by a central tower eighty feet in height. The event was mainly aimed at creating work for unemployed actors. Three hundred gladiators appeared in an arena scene not featured in Shakespeare's play; a similar number of girls danced as Caesar's captives; a total of three thousand soldiers took part in the battle sequences.
  • 1937: Orson Welles' famous production at the Mercury Theatre drew fervoured comment as the director dressed his protagonists in uniforms reminiscent of those common at the time in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, as well as drawing a specific analogy between Caesar and Fascist Italian leader Benito Mussolini. Opinions vary on the artistic value of the resulting production: some see Welles's mercilessly pared-down script (the running time was around 100 minutes without an interval, several characters were eliminated, dialogue was moved around and borrowed from other plays, and the final two acts were reduced to a single scene) as a radical and innovative way of cutting away peripheral elements of Shakespeare's tale; others thought Welles's version was a mangled and lobotomised version of Shakespeare's tragedy which lacked the psychological depth of the original. Most agreed that the production owed more to Welles than it did to Shakespeare. However, Time Magazine gave the production a rave review,[26] and Welles's innovations have been echoed in many subsequent modern productions, which have seen parallels between Caesar's fall and the downfalls of various governments in the twentieth century. The production was most noted for its portrayal of the slaughter of Cinna (Norman Lloyd). Welles's Julius Caesar opened at the Comedy Theater in the fall of 1937, and then was transferred to the National Theater on West 41st Street, later renamed the Nederlander Theater. This famous production also toured the country in 1938.
  • 1950: John Gielgud played Cassius at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre under the direction of Michael Langham and Anthony Quayle. The production was considered one of the highlights of a remarkable Stratford season, and led to Gielgud (who had done little film work to that time) playing Cassius in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1953 film version.
  • 1977: Gielgud made his final appearance in a Shakespearean role on stage as Caesar in John Schlesinger's production at the Royal National Theatre. The cast also included Ian Charleson as Octavius.
  • 1994: Arvind Gaur directed the play in India with Jaimini Kumar as Brutus and Deepak Ochani as Caesar (24 shows); later on he revived it with Manu Rishi as Caesar and Vishnu Prasad as Brutus for the Shakespeare Drama Festival, Assam in 1998. Arvind Kumar translated Julius Caesar into Hindi. This production was also performed at the Prithvi international theatre festival, at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
  • 2005: Denzel Washington played Brutus in the first Broadway production of the play in over fifty years. The production received universally negative reviews, but was a sell-out because of Washington's popularity at the box office.[27]
  • 2012: The Royal Shakespeare Company staged an all-black production under the direction of Gregory Doran.
  • 2012: An all-female production starring Harriet Walter as Brutus and Frances Barber as Caesar was staged at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Phyllida Lloyd. In October 2013 the production transferred to New York's St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn.

Screen performances

See also Shakespeare on screen (Julius Caesar)
  • Julius Caesar (1950), starring Charlton Heston as Antony, David Bradley as Brutus, and Harold Tasker as Caesar.
  • Julius Caesar (1953), starring James Mason as Brutus, Marlon Brando as Antony and Louis Calhern as Caesar.
  • Julius Caesar (1970), starring Jason Robards as Brutus, Charlton Heston as Antony and John Gielgud as Caesar.
  • Julius Caesar (1978; TV), BBC Television Shakespeare adaptation starring Richard Pasco as Brutus, Keith Michell as Antony and Charles Gray as Caesar.

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