Julius Caesar: History vs. Drama

Shakespeare is notorious for pliable history, that which he can bend, stretch, mold and work into any shape which pleases him and helps him make a dramatic (and–if you’re inclined–political) point. Remember Hotspur-as-contemporary-of-Hal (when he was actually older than Henry IV)? Or the ridiculous Tudor-centric retelling of the War of the Roses stuff in the Henry VI plays? Well, there’s nothing that bad in Julius Caesar, but there is some fudging of facts…

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The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare, for the week ending Monday, November 24th, 2014

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This week’s Shakespeare news review includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was a tad too racy, “Shakespeare Corrected,” a 14 year-old Jennifer Lawrence tackling Shakespeare, and announcements for next year’s seasons at Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Shakespeare Dallas, and Shakespeare’s Globe. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

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Review: Shakespeare’s Globe King Lear US Tour (at UCSB)

Last Thursday, my wife Lisa and I hit the road to the University of California at Santa Barbara to catch the touring Shakespeare’s Globe production of King Lear, as its tour of the US is winding down. To call the production lean-and-mean would be insulting and would give the false impression that it seems to lack something.

This stripped-down production wants for very, VERY little.

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History: the Run-up to Rome and Julius Caesar

As we dive a little deeper into Julius Caesar, the play, let’s take a look at what leads up to the events of the play. In other words, what’s the context in which play begins? Well, the play begins with Julius Caesar, the man, returning for a triumph. But for what military victory?

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Julius Caesar: Sources

The primary source material Shakespeare used in the composition of Julius Caesar was Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans by the Greek historian Plutarch. Lives was translated into French by writer Jacques Amyot in the early 1560’s. Thomas North then translated it into English, with his first edition appearing in the late 1570’s.

Shakespeare used North’s translations, particularly those sections on Julius Caesar, Antony, and Brutus.

He would later revisit Plutarch’s Lives for Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus.

This is not to say, of course, that you can depend upon the Bard for historical accuracy (as we know from earlier in the project)…

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare, for the week ending Monday, November 17th, 2014

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This week’s Shakespeare news review includes “Decoding the Renaissance,” The Feast of Crispian veterans program, Ambition’s Debt, and Mike Tyson as Othello. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

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Caesar — Welles, 1938 and more (on the radio)

A couple of days back we discussed Orson Welles’ 1937 Broadway production of Julius Caesar. We had a couple of photos but there’s no film (like there is for the “Voodoo” Macbeth a year before).

However, there are a number of radio recordings Welles did of Caesar with his Mercury Radio Theatre.

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