Julius Caesar

Definition

Theater

  • Shakespeare's tragedy, believed to be the first playpresented at the new Globe Theatre in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain'sMen. Unusually for a tragedy, the title character is killed at thestart of the third act. The play thereafter concentrates on the politicaleffects of the killing and its psychological consequences for the two mainassassins, Brutus and Cassius. Shakespeare used Plutarch's Lives as hismain source, but altered many details for dramatic effect; the result is anunusually straightforward narrative, with no subplots or comic scenes.

    There have been many notable performances on both sides ofthe Atlantic. In 1937 Orson Welles and John Houseman opened theirMercury Theatre with a modern-dress production, depicting Caesar asa Mussolini-type figure. John Gielgud appeared in two verydifferent films, as Cassius to Marlon Brando's Antony in 1953 and as Caesarwith Charlton Heston in 1969.

    Laurence Olivier, famous for his laughing fits duringperformances in his early career, once played Flavius in JuliusCaesar. The actor playing Murellus stood on a beer box to givethe speech "Knew you not Pompey?" As Olivier watched,the man's long pants fell down underneath his toga and over the beerbox, so preventing him from stepping down. Olivier laughed so muchhe had to leave the stage and was fired the next morning.

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