Did Shakespeare Go Too Far?

- - Nelson Lewis

Over 400 years after he first put pen to paper, people love their Shakespeare.  Even if his language isn’t always easy to understand (shocker, the English language has changed a lot since Shakespeare was writing), he tackles various timeless issues.  That’s why people love to put on “modern” interpretations of Shakespeare.  Also, let’s be honest, if every Shakespeare play still involved people wearing the ruffled frills and jerkins of Shakespeare’s time, that would get pretty damn boring.  Take, for example, the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes “Romeo and Juliet”, that takes place in 1990s California and uses dialogue from 1590s England.  Even Disney’s classic “The Lion King”, about a lion whose father the king is killed by his scheming uncle, was strongly influenced by Hamlet, about a Danish prince whose father the king is killed by

Julius Caesar John Wilkes Booth

In the 1860s, actor John Wilkes Booth and his brothers starred in “Julius Caesar”. Much like the character Brutus, Booth went on to kill a major world leader in real life.

his scheming uncle.

Every summer in New York City’s Central Park, the New York Public Theater puts on “Shakespeare in The Park”, staging productions of various Shakespearean plays at an open theater.  They’re currently putting on a production of “Julius Caesar”, the story of the famed Roman general-turned-dictator who was assassinated.  Because Shakespeare in the Park wants to stay relevant, this production looks to the modern age for inspiration, but that can of course generate plenty of controversy, which is exactly what’s happening.  

This modern take on a 16th century play portraying 1st century BC characters features some parallels that have been pissing a lot of people off.  Instead of the togas and sandals of ancient Rome, the characters of this production wear modern suits.  The title character, while not a dead-ringer for Trump, does kind of look like him.  Not only that, but the character’s wife, much like ⅔ of Trump’s wives, has a “Slavic accent”.  This Caesar is assassinated by a group of women and minorities.  It’s hard to not notice the parallel that Shakespeare in the Park is trying to make, and it’s also hard to not expect that it’s going to (and it has) piss people off.  

As liberals love to talk about how Trump is pulling funding for public arts programs, it’s hardly surprising that the Public Theater, in an effort to pander to their “progressive” audience, would want to take a jab at the President Elect.  But it went too far, and it looks like a good number of the Public Theater’s bigger sponsors agree.  Delta Airlines, which isn’t nearly as hated as United right now, pulled its sponsorship of the company.  The Bank of America did as well, ending an 11-year relationship.  I suppose the lesson here is to be careful who you piss off, because not everybody has the privilege to be funded by George Soros.

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