Apparently, those directing “Shakespeare” in the Dark felt that embarrassing the President of the United States by making a travesty of one of The Bard’s epic tragedies more or less added Shakespeare’s blessing to their political views. Taken at face value, the production is only cats dancing on a piano, but, on another level, the piano turns out to be electrified and the cats aren’t dancing, they’re frying. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was a conservative drama for its day, and today’s Marxists have hung themselves with their own triumphant ignorance.
First of all, any production that leads an audience to cheer for the assassination of Caesar via President Trump casts the audience as Shakespearean villains of epic proportions. The directors who have obscured Shakespeare’s vision of history cast themselves as the greedy, weak, and deceitful Cassius, while the deceived audience shows themselves to be the brutishly, foolish, and incompetent Brutus, the conspirator who is deceived by Cassius.
Along these lines, the title is, of course, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Caesar is the tragic hero. Yes, that means Caesar-Trump is the good guy. The villains of the play, the assassination conspiracy comprised of Judas-goats, try Caesar in absentia (Brutus Act II, scene 1) and find Caesar guilty of their own failings. They find him guilty of being greedy, corrupt, and ambitious. Furthermore, they are completely wrong about Shakespeare’s Caesar. Caesar’s flaw was not ambition. His tragic flaw is pride. Just so, the left has tried President Trump without evidence and have found him guilty of its own sins. President Trump is not the one who is guilty of corruptly colluding with Russian oligarchs. President Trump isn’t the one who sought high office to sell it to the highest bidder. If Trump has a tragic flaw, it is one Americans love because it’s a flaw no other politician has ever dared to have. Trump speaks everything that’s on his mind without regard to audience, tradition, or the potential for the dishonest to twist his words.
Shakespeare did not cheer Julius Caesar’s murder. Instead, like Marc Antony, Shakespeare would have us grieve for him. Shakespeare cast Julius Caesar as the great soul, the genius of his age. His tragic flaw was indeed hubris, not just pride but a pride that exalted itself against the gods. Caesar wouldn’t listen to the omens. He wouldn’t listen to his wife’s dream. His final words before the first knife struck, “I am constant as the Northern Star,” are tragic. They were a metaphor for his life’s work, to be honest and faithful, steady and right on. Despite a corrupt Roman world, despite being surrounded by people of unsound minds who wavered with words or with personal self-interest, Shakespeare’s Caesar kept his promises and his oaths. He kept his word to his soldiers and to his country, no matter how tough the going.
Julius Caesar’s last words, “et tu Brute” (preserved by the Mighty William from the Latin histories) are the most tragic of all. According to some historians, Brutus was like a son to Caesar. Caesar sought nothing but the best for him. That Caesar, struck by twenty-thousand daggers, lived to see this final tragic treachery from one he loved so dearly was, according to Shakespeare’s history, the death blow to the colossus of the age. Trump’s greatness …ah, I mean Caesar’s, was so complete, that the villains of the play confess that they peep about beneath his feet only to find dishonorable graves (Cassius: Act I; scene 2). Indeed the rest of the play shows that Shakespeare felt that full vengeance on the treacherous conspiracy of murders was completely justified.
Do those who cheered the fall of Caesar in New York’s Central Park this week sleep well? Shakespeare’s villains didn’t. Caesar’s ghost haunted them to their graves.
The wrath of Marc Antony on the villains of the play is final and complete. Acts III-V become a classic Hollywood vengeance flick. It’s quite ugly, but not as ugly as Caesar’s murderers, who, like the cheering audience to the “Shakespeare” in the Dark, having dabbed their hands in Caesar’s blood, run through the streets cheering and yelling “Liberty! Freedom! (Act III, scene i).”
Cassius is a bit materialistic, so he yells, “Liberty, freedom, and enfranchisement!” In modernized versions, Cassius should be running around yelling “Liberty, freedom, and free healthcare and cell phones!”
In “Shakespeare” in the Dark’s modern version, the Shakespearean villains are in the audience as well as on stage. While on stage they dip their hands in Caesar’s blood, in the audience they dip their hearts in hate.
Great Caesar’s ghost isn’t part of the play simply for the fun of it, (though it is great theater). No, Caesar’s ghost represents the idea of Caesar. Brutus wanted, more than anything, to defeat the idea of Caesar, the idea of a monarch who would reform Rome. Caesar’s ghost embodied the idea of a divinely appointed monarch, an idea whose time had come.
Yes, it’s shocking. William Shakespeare believed in monarchy, not democracy. Still, it’s hard to blame Shakespeare. The world had not seen a democratic republic for a thousand years, and the last one fell much as Shakespeare describes. It fell through avarice and partisanship and laws that didn’t apply to the strong.
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is renowned for its thematic development of the skill of oratory, the power of propaganda, and the gullibility of the mob. Much of this is catechism to today’s leftists. However, Marc Antony’s speech is a correction demagogues always fear. Mark Antony was the example of the simple soldier whose words triumph because he simply unloads the burden of the truth that weighs upon his heart. Marc Antony breaks all the rules and all the promises he’s made the conspiracy, but the truth triumphs, and lean and hungry, furious Justice is set loose upon the capital of the world.
Despite how our founders have proven Shakespeare’s world view wrong, the theme that you can’t defeat an idea through treacherous, lawless violence is as true today as it ever has been. Liberal Marxists would do well to take the tragedy seriously. Perhaps they might even consider reading the play.