Watch our British Sign Language synopsis of Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare regularly explored how power affects the individual and Julius Caesar is a political thriller which explores this theme. His main inspiration was Plutarch’s ‘Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans’, written 150 years after Caesar’s death. The result is a gripping and tragic play about the conspiracy against Caesar, his assassination and the defeat of his conspirators.
Julius Caesar returns to Rome after winning a war against political rival, Pompey, and the citizens want to celebrate his victory by giving him new titles and honours. However, Rome is a republic, governed by elected representatives (the senate) and Caesar’s new popularity worries some senators who fear that too much power held by one man would create a dictatorship. A plot starts to form to murder Caesar…
Caius Cassius visits his well-respected friend, Marcus Brutus, to gain his support in getting rid of Caesar. Brutus is a decent man who is close to Caesar and does not want him murdered but Cassius persuades him it’s for the good of the republic. Brutus rejects Cassius' suggestion that Mark Antony, a close friend of Caesar, should also be killed. Brutus’s wife, Portia, sees him meeting secretly with the conspirators. She knows Brutus is troubled but he refuses to open up to her.
Caesar ignores pleas from his wife, Calpurnia, to stay at home. It is the Ides of March and Caesar has been warned by a Soothsayer about this date (15 March). He arrives at the senate house where Brutus, Cassius and their co-conspirators surround him and kill him. At Caesar's funeral, Brutus tells the citizens he did it for the good of Rome. However, Mark Antony speaks next and turns the crowd against Brutus and the conspirators. The crowd becomes an angry mob and the conspirators flee for their lives.
A NEW ROME
Mark Antony and Caesar's nephew, Octavius, take command of Rome and lead an army against the conspirators. Brutus and Cassius find themselves lost in a world of chaos and superstition - not what they planned. Brutus is haunted by Caesar’s ghost and, with their armies defeated, he and Cassius take their own lives rather than be captured.
This production of Julius Caesar is part of a whole season called ‘Power Shifts’. Shakespeare filled his play full of bad signs and omens, mostly of disturbance in the natural world, to signify that this shift will not be good.
The image on our programme and trailer shows an actress crying black tears. Black liquid is used instead of blood throughout the production. It is a powerful image and could represent many things:
- Corrupted blood - the turning of Brutus into a murderer or Caesar being a bad leader for Rome?
Corrupted nature reflecting the turmoil of its people. Casca describes a ‘tempest dropping fire’ - it is said to rain ash after a volcanic eruption.
- The ink of the playwright, Shakespeare, who chose power as a theme in so many of his plays.
- The smudges gradually spread over most characters throughout the play, showing that Caesar’s murder literally touches everyone.
- It could even represent oil, a symbol of financial power in our world. Our director, Atri Banerjee, was recently affected by the Just Stop Oil activists who threw tomato soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
The image could represent many more things, all equally important - what do you think?