Podcast 88: Julius Caesar: Introduction, Sources, and Plot Synopsis

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This week’s economy-sized podcast kicks off our two month-long discussion of Julius Caesar, with an introduction, discussion of sources, and a plot synopsis.

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Caesar — Welles, 1937

Coming off his groundbreaking “Voodoo” Macbeth, done in Harlem in 1936 as part of the Federal Theatre Project (a New Deal program, part of the Works Progress Administration), Orson Welles mounted a modern-dress production of Julius Caesar at New York City’s Mercury Theatre in 1937.

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Julius Caesar, Act Five: Mistakes, Deaths, and Lies

The first scene of the fifth and final act of Julius Caesar takes place where the remainder of the play does: the battlefields near Philippi. The leaders meet to parley before the battle, There are disagreements between Antony and Octavius regarding who will take which side of the battle, and their relationship seems to be more strained than it was in Act Four. Then once Brutus and Cassius enter, the trash-talk only increases. Octavius accuses Brutus of “lov(ing) words better” than actions (V.i.27) while Cassius accuses Antony of using sweet words, leaving bees “honeyless” (V.i.35).

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Julius Caesar, Act Four: Pricks, Bad News, and Ghosts

When Act Four of Julius Caesar opens, we find the new Triumvirate (Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus) making some executive decisions. Really executive, as in “who do we execute?” Or as Antony says in the scene’s first line: “These many, then, shall die; their names are pricked” (IV.i.1). And these names are not just random political enemies–these are family members of the triumvirs (Lepidus’ brother, Antony’s nephew). Not only are they discussing who to cut down, but who to cut out as well, as Antony sends Lepidus to Caesar’s house to get the late leader’s will so that they can “determine // How to cut off some charge in legacies” (IV.i.8-9).

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Julius Caesar on Charlie Rose

So Julius Caesar was on the PBS Charlie Rose interview show last week.

No, not Julius Caesar the man, but Julius Caesar the play. Director Phyllida Lloyd and actors Frances Barber & Harriet Walter were talking about their all-female adaptation of the play that had originated at the Donmar in London, and that just finished a stint at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York City.

Their production is set in a female prison, a very hierarchical setting, befitting a play about the intersection political structures and violence.

It’s a great interview… would love to see this play (and not just because we’re covering it for the next two months)!

The Bill / Shakespeare Project presents: This Week in Shakespeare, for the week ending Monday, November 10th, 2014

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This week’s Shakespeare news review includes globePlayer.tv, “Shakespeare Restor’d”, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 lineup, “What’s your Shakespearean personality?”, and a slew of reviews of Julius Caesar by the Folger. PLUS our usual recap of this week’s daily highlights in Shakespearean history.

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Julius Caesar, Act Three: 23 Stabbings and a Funeral

Act Three of Julius Caesar begins with Caesar’s arrival at the Capitol, mocking the soothsayer who had told him to beware the Ides of March. The soothsayer can only say that while the day has come, it hasn’t passed yet. Artemedorus is there, too, trying to get Caesar to read his letter revealing the conspiracy. Meanwhile, others have petitions for him to read, and when Artemedorus says that his “touches Caesar nearer” (III.i.7), Caesar responds that any such letter will be “last served” (III.i.8).

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Review: Improvised Shakespeare Company at Largo

A couple of weeks back, I caught the latest Los Angeles appearance of Improvised Shakespeare Company, a rotating band of actors whose home base is in Chicago.

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Julius Caesar trailer from the Folger

Just added this just-released trailer of the Folger Library’s current production of Julius Caesar to our YouTube channel.

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Julius Caesar, Act Two: Tense and Nervous

Act Two of Julius Caesar begins with the first scene of the play that isn’t set on a Roman street. We’re taken to home of Brutus. It’s the middle of the night, and Brutus cannot sleep. He calls for his servant boy Lucius to bring him a candle, then muses to himself,

It must be by his death. And for my part
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general.
  • II.i.10-2

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