The Right’s Hissy Fit Over ‘Julius Caesar’

A new presentation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with a Donald Trump figure as Caesar bruised the fragile feelings of right-wing commentators who missed the play’s historic value and message, says Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

Over in New York’s Central Park, just a short distance from our offices, the curtain came down last week on The Public Theater’s controversial production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Controversial because the actor playing the assassinated Caesar looked and sounded like Donald Trump, right down to the overlong red necktie and clownish orange-blond nimbus of hair.

President Donald Trump delivering remarks at CPAC on Feb. 24, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

But the curtain didn’t fall because of the outrage that came tumbling from the Right — including protesters heckling at a couple of the performances and death threats directed at the production’s director (not to mention feverish tweets and emails from confused trolls hurled at any theatre company with the word “Shakespeare” in its name).

Nor did it occur because two of The Public Theatre’s corporate donors, Bank of America and Delta Air Lines, pulled their sponsorship of the show, a gutless move of appeasement from two businesses, banking and air travel, so well known these days for their dazzling records of customer satisfaction. (Another company, American Express, didn’t yank its cash from The Public but tweeted that its money doesn’t fund Shakespeare in the Park “nor do we condone the interpretation of the Julius Caesar play.”)

No, the fact is, Julius Caesar always was scheduled to end the night that it did. That was to make way for the summer’s second Shakespeare in the Park production — A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Gentle readers will recall that this is the Shakespeare play in which, among a great many other things, a knavish sprite named Puck turns a man into an ass. Such an act once seemed like magic, but given today’s political climate, the turning of men into asses has become the rule rather than the exception.

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