For anyone wondering how an electorate can switch in such a short time from electing an Obama to choosing a Trump, a re-visit of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar may send chills up the spine, especially as now being brilliantly directed by Shana Cooper at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In the opening scene, a group of wild, ruffian, half-dressed citizens of Rome in frozen-faced masks are urged by two tribunes, Marullus and Flavius, to overflow the Tiber with their tears, weeping for fallen Pompey who has just been conquered by Julius Caesar. These same citizens will soon be cheering insanely for Caesar and insisting he become king. They will be later first be persuaded by Brutus that Caesar’s murder was justified and then immediately by Mark Anthony that the insurgents are assassins, now deserving revolt and death themselves. These quick, 180-degree turns in public opinion — present in one of Shakespeare’s most-read, most-loved plays these past four centuries — now take on new, disturbing, and foreboding meanings in 2017 America, once again proving the timelessness of the Bard’s writings. That is especially true when one considers current rise in hate crimes since November 2016 as we watch an innocent poet name Cinna attacked and brutally killed by a passing mob just because his name is too near one of Caesar’s assassins.
Photo by Jenny Grahan
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