The growing ambition of Julius Caesar is a source of major concern to his close friend Brutus. Cassius persuades him to participate in his plot to assassinate Caesar but they have both ... See full summary »
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The growing ambition of Julius Caesar is a source of major concern to his close friend Brutus. Cassius persuades him to participate in his plot to assassinate Caesar but they have both sorely underestimated Mark Antony.
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Director Herbert Wise felt that Julius Caesar should be set in the Elizabethan era, but as per the emphasis on realism, he instead set it in a Roman milieu. Wise argued that the play "is not really a Roman play. It's an Elizabethan play and it's a view of Rome from an Elizabethan standpoint." However, of setting the play in Shakespeare's day, Wise stated "I don't think that's right for the audience we will be getting. It's not a jaded theatre audience seeing the play for the umpteenth time: for them that would be an interesting approach and might throw new light on the play. But for an audience many of whom won't have seen the play before, I believe it would only be confusing." See more »
The sound of retracting blades can be heard as Caesar is stabbed. See more »
Unlike the movies, this is a full version of the play, clocking in at a little under three hours. In performing the whole play, we see that Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare's best plays- not simply for the masterful rhetoric but for the characterisation. There are shades of Iago in the manipulative Cassius, eaten away by jealousy, and Brutus is a mixture of Macbeth and proto-Hamlet.
The BBC Complete Shakespeare series has been criticised for over-reverence to the text, emphasising educational value over dramatic value, and for its low budget productions. However, by presenting the full play, or at least, as full a version of the play than you are ever likely to get, they show subtleties and ambiguities that aren't present in streamlined versions.
This production's strength is that it does not offer us the big tragic hero. Initially, it looked as if Richard Pasco was going to play Brutus as the typical bland noble hero. However, once Brutus does the deed, Pasco presents him as a lonely man with a lot of power but the inability to do anything with it. This adds a wonderful irony to Brutus' earlier soliloquy musing on the extent of Caesar's ambition.
David Collings initially presents us with a villainous ambitious Cassius, but then Cassius slowly becomes a tragic figure, who does what he does out of love and admiration for Brutus. Admittedly it does come across as a bit stereotypically homosexual at times, but it is interesting to see Cassius as ultimately a good guy.
Charles Grey is a very toad-like Julius Caesar. Initially I disliked his performance; Caesar has generally been presented as a feeble man with a God-delusion. Grey's Caesar is very much a man of the people. He represents popular politics that are based around personalities (much like today's politics), which helped to contrast with Brutus' archaic concepts of honour. Keith Michell as Marc Antony also showed that he belonged to the school of politics that appeals to emotions rather than honour. Antony is probably the closest thing the play has to a hero, and even he looks villainous at one point, as he orders the death of his nephew.
I would urge people who think they know the play to watch this production, look past the skimpy togas, and discover a play rich in themes and characters. Julius Caesar is an eternally relevant play, more so than any other Shakespeare play.
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