Isaac Butler has a new podcast over at Slate on politics and Shakespeare. The first episode is on Julius Caesar:
In the summer of 2017, New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park staged a production of Julius Caesar that proved unexpectedly controversial. As played by Gregg Henry, Julius Caesar had pursed lips, inscrutable blond hair, and an extra-long red tie. Sound familiar?
And—as the play calls for—he got viciously murdered halfway through the play. Right-wing news outlets like Fox News and Breitbart carried stories about this seditious show where Donald Trump gets viciously stabbed to death, and multiple sponsors pulled their support from the production.
It’s remarkable to think that Julius Caesar, written more than four centuries ago, still has the power to provoke. But one of the reasons why Shakespeare remains the unshakable cornerstone of the Western canon is that every generation finds a new way that he speaks to their times.
In Shakespeare’s own time, England was undergoing enormous political and social upheaval. The country was wracked by famine and plague, threatened by religious violence, and confronted with political crises whose resolutions were often unclear.