“Mischief, thou art afoot; Take thou what course thou wilt.” A friend, benefactor, and father figure has been murdered. Caesar was not killed like a “sacrifice” as Brutus desired, but literally hacked to pieces. Caesar picked Mark Antony up when he was down, a runaway, deeply in debt, and then tutored him to become his second-in-command. Caesar entrusted Mark Antony with his armies as well as his political fortunes while absent from Rome. He welcomed Antony into his own household as one of the family. Seeing the body, Antony is filled with feelings of loyalty and gratitude to Caesar, and anger and vengeance toward Brutus and Cassius. Mark Antony nevertheless gives Brutus and Cassius a chance to give reasons “why and where Caesar was dangerous.” None are forthcoming. Emotions run high, but Mark Antony, the battle-tried general, takes over. In the course of a very short exchange over Caesar’s body, he quickly forms a plan to move the people of Rome to revolt, while maintaining a calm demeanor with Brutus and Cassius. His training in Greek rhetoric comes in handy. Surprisingly overly trusting of Antony (much to Cassius’ dismay), Brutus gives him the perfect opportunity. Having summoned a crowd, Brutus turns them over to Mark Antony, and exits. The rest, as they say, is history.
My name is Portia. Brutus, my husband has been musing over a great matter in his mind. I know not what it is, except I have seen Cassius with him, and twice have heard the drop of Caesar's name. I fear for Brutus. I do not believe he would harm anyone, especially not one he loves such as Caesar; but he has grown quiet and sickly, and will not confide in me as he usually does. Even his servant Lucius seems suspicious of Brutus' strange actions, but that idle boy says nothing to me of it and in truth I am jealous of his shared love with my husband. But I know Brutus to be kind and gentle. He always seems to soften and tell me his thoughts when I see him. He has all the better parts I had wished of my father, Cato. It was my father who pushed my love of knowledge, but in the most strict and military fashion, never showing me love or gentleness. But I learned of great philosophy with him, and that is what binds my heart to Brutus: our shared love of the mind. . . He will tell me his thoughts, I am sure of it. But if he proves to be stubborn I will find a way to seduce his mind, whatever it takes. For if I lose his love, I will have nothing left.
"And...you're dead." was a phrase often heard by all of us this past weekend. Starting last Thursday, we had the pleasure of learning from Nick Sandys how to wield swords and daggers for our upcoming production of Julius Caesar. Nick was here from Chicago, teaching us some sword and spear basics as well as choreographing a battle scene, the murder of Caesar and some general violence throughout the play. A number of us had the pleasure of learning stage combat from Nick in Chicago when we studied there in August of 2012, but we'd never used swords before. It was a blast! Something Nick stressed with us is the importance of storytelling with the violence. Every move tells a story, and if you rush or are un-intentionally sloppy, there is no story. Stage combat is definitely an art form, and we have lots of work to do to get it ready for the performances! "Practice every day, going over it in your head," we're some of Nick's parting words to us. So off we go now, working and polishing to make it excellent for the show. It should be great!
I am Brutus, and I am afraid… “I do fear the people choose Caesar for their king.” Act 1, Scene 2 I am afraid. I am afraid for Rome, afraid for the Senate, afraid for praetors, and tribunes, and soldiers and slaves. Our way of life is in danger, a way of life once secured by a form of government based on truth and justice and equity. For centuries our leaders have emerged from within the numbers of our senators and served at our pleasure, by election. But all that is in danger, and I am afraid. I am afraid that we shall sacrifice justice to be ruled by fear, and favor, and suspicion, and bribery - and that justice will have become a commodity on a market where high bidders reign. Ever since Caesar returned to Rome from his victories in Gaul and Britain, and crossed the Rubicon with his troops - defying Roman law - large numbers of the people have been enamored with him. However, not every Roman is as easily impressed. Many are wary. After Caesar defeated Pompey it became clear that the republic was in danger - for Caesar emerged as a dictator, and was even named “dictator for life.” But now there are some who would have him named our King, and that would mean the end of the republic and a way of life that has made men free and kept men free. “Shall Rome stand under one man's awe? What Rome?” Act 2, Scene 1 The last king of Rome reigned almost five hundred years ago. The Tarquin governed by fear, killed senators at whim, required tribute and bribes, and was eventually cast out by another Brutus - so that the republic could be restored. Should Caesar be named king now, how could history not repeat itself? But this time, Rome - the republic that guarantees our system of law and equity; the republic where no man is above the law - Rome is threatened with disintegration and annihilation. “I know no personal cause to spurn at him But for the general: He would be crowned.” Act 2, Scene 1 In the midst of all this danger, you must understand something else. Caesar is my friend. Caesar spared my life when Pompey was defeated. He could have ordered my death. Caesar went on to receive me warmly into his inner circle, appointing me governor of Gaul, and later nominating me as praetor. Caesar trusts me and believes in me. He has given me no reason to judge him or hate him, except…except that it is clear he is charmed with the thought of a crown, a crown that would destroy a nation and a way of life. The people in the streets don't understand the dangers their cheers create. What leader of Caesar's caliber could resist their flattery, and what leader, even one who is today a friend, will I be able to trust when his power becomes absolute and the republic is no more? Already my friend has slipped away from me - loving preeminence, sitting while his former fellow senators stand to plead for his favors, holding court daily in a senate that was once populated by equals, but now endures one man who is superior to all. For a month now, a day has not passed when I have not received messages from fellow Romans begging me to awake and see the danger that we are facing. Clearly, not all of Rome is beguiled with the thought of a king. It is a desperate time, and Rome is begging me to defend her, to act on her behalf. I love my country. I love being a Roman. I am, and I will always be, a son of Rome. I have sworn my life to her defense, and I will honor those vows. No man - not even a friend - can persuade me to relent or to trade my honor for anything less than the preservation that Rome deserves. What has begun, I will finish, or give my life in the effort.
Dear Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar, I am to play your part in the Elements Theatre Company production of Shakespeare's well known play about your life. Our director, Sr. Danielle suggested that to better understand you, I write you a letter. Please pardon my impudence which follows here: Who were you then, what were you like? I believe you were a man of great passions and feelings but endeavored not to let them control you. I believe you had a sense of destiny, even from childhood, that you were tasked with greatness…but that you did not know exactly how that greatness might come. You were great during your life, but your lasting fame came after your death! Perhaps you know this, but of all the Roman emperors, you remain the most well known. You were only 57 years old when you died. That is how old I am now! You had tremendous accomplishments, all those battles, all those roads built across what we now call Europe! Were you ill? Did you sense your mortality? Today, historians speculate that you had epilepsy or malaria that caused epilepsy-like symptoms. Shakespeare's version of your life suggests that the conspirators killed you because you were personally ambitious and that threatened the stability of Rome. I believe you were ambitious, but for the good of Rome. You saw the ineptness, and childish, wasteful infighting in the Senate and the Patricians and wanted to make progress for the people. You were "constant as the Northern Star" for the people, the regular Romans. Some historians claim you were a great lover of many women. Pardon again my impudence, but is this true? Were you Brutus's father by Sevilia? Did you know? Whatever the rumors may be I believe you loved Calphurnia, your wife, and that she loved you. That brings up another question: Why didn't you heed Calphurnia's warnings? Did you know or wonder whether you were going to die that day on the15th of March, or sometime soon? Did you set up the conspirators to kill you? Did you "egg-them-on"? Their savage killing of you seemed to lead to your enduring legacy. Again pardon my impudence, I don't imagine you will have the occasion to respond to my inquiries, but just to let you know, based on what I know about your history, and about myself, I have assumed the answers to the questions above, As you look down at us from the Northern Star, you will be the judge if I have answered wisely. I will do my best to play you this August. Respectfully, Peter Haig, Elements Theatre Company