Went with friends last week Saturday evening to the final performance of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare Orange County at the Festival Amphitheatre, performed against the spare and elegant setting of a Roman forum. I’d not seen it performed before and was surprised by the amount of humor infusing the first half of the play, not really discernible in the reading, but delightful on stage. The summer evening was lovely, we had perfect seats, and the performances were first rate.
Literary criticism argues about whether or not Caesar is the central character–well, seems to me, Caesar is the pivot around which the play revolves, but Brutus is the central character. Caesar dies, and the focus of the play from the beginning is on Brutus’ struggle with his sense of honor, patriotism, and his conscience. I don’t see much room for argument on who is the main character. It’s clearly Brutus. While the other conspirators acted out of ambition, envy, and their selfish fears, Brutus was motivated by his patriotism, by his desire to save Rome, and he did not hate Caesar; he loved and admired him, but came to see him as an enemy of Rome whose governance had to end.
Watching the assassination scene reminded me of how that scene was played in the series ROME. It’s as shocking and as compelling on stage as it was on the small screen.