Bard Bits: Belated Birthday
I was fully aware of Shakespeare’s birthday last Saturday. In fact, I duly noted the event by checking out the Globe Theater’s production of Julius Caesar.
I also noted that the library has added to its collection a variety of Shakespeare productions. A present of presentations.
In May my sophomore students will begin their unit in studying Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. My teaching approach is to include a bit of historical background in order for them to understand why:
a)Shakespeare wrote the play (Queen Elizabeth I had no named heir and the kingdom could be thrown into chaos)
b)the main character dies in the third act (is Caesar the main character?)
Prior to the Globe’s 2015 production the only available version was Charlton Heston’s epic film where Jason Robards plays an overly stoic Brutus. Even I dreaded the Julius Caesar unit having to show this verson
Then along came the Globe’s filmed HD production. Whew! Students were able to experience watching the play as a live audience watched the play. Seeing the audience participation absolutely helps students in better understanding Shakespeare’s lines. Until the Globe’s production, it was difficult for students to understand that the tragedy of Julius Caesar was imbued with humor. My students realized that they could laugh even though tragedy was prevalent and Shakespeare intended his audience to laugh to break the tension. He knew how to sell tickets. His plays have plenty of the mainstays found in Elizabethan life: life/death, love/hate, food/sexual repartee and humor in the face of the tragic.
The Globe’s version has the traditional opening of Marcellus and Flavius chastising the plebeians for celebrating Julius Caesar’s triumph and the actors play up the punnery and rivalry between the classes quite well by interacting with the audience. Billy Bard would no doubt be pleased.
From the lively opening the play revolves around the conspiracy towards Caesar. And this Caesar has a bit of acerbic wit. He knows how to lance his speech with tone when presenting his lines.
The usually dour Brutus even gets a laugh when reading the fake news that Cassius slips into his windowsill.
Nothing breaks the tension like a clog tapping poet when Cassius and Brutus are at odds while camped at Sardis.
What’s really noteworthy about this production is that the actors were Elizabethan garb under their togas. This provides more authenticity as they are dressed more in the style found in Shakespeare’s day.
Overall, a thumbs up production.
Happy belated birthday, Shakespeare.