Julius Caesar

By William Shakespeare
June 1 1991
directed by James Symons

"Beware the Ides of March" is the warning given by a soothsayer to Julius Caesar who, as the play opens, is on his way to a ceremony celebrating the defeat of his arch rival Pompey. As the initial moments of the play pass, we learn that Caesar's growing power and popularity have sparked concern among several Roman leaders, particularly Caius Cassius and Marcus Brutus. Later that night, a group of conspirators assembled by Cassius meet in Brutus' orchard and formulate a plan to assassinate Caesar on the following day, the 15th of March. The group disbands just before dawn, leaving Brutus with his troubled soul. Though he loves and admires Caesar, Brutus is wary of his growing ambition and feels that Rome would suffer if Caesar is given absolute power. During the early hours of the same morning Caesar has been awakened by his wife Calphurnia, who has dreamed of Caesar's murder. She begs Caesar not to "stir forth;" however, Caesar ignores her warning and proceeds to the Capital. Once Caesar is alone with the conspirators, death comes quickly. Mark Antony, Caesar's ally, arrives on the scene, but Brutus persuades the others that Antony's life should be spared. It is then decided among Antony, Brutus, and the others that preparations will be made for Caesar's funeral, with speeches given by Brutus and Antony. As they leave for the market place Antony receives word that Octavius, Caesar's son, is coming to Rome. In the market place Brutus and Antony speak to the assembled citizenry. Brutus defends the assassination by claiming that Caesar's ambition would have eventually ruined Rome. After Brutus departs, Antony turns the opinion of the crowd against the conspirators, calling for vengeance for Caesar. The conspirators are forced to flee for their lives and form a rebel army to combat Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus, who are recognized as co-rulers after Caesar's death. Having been forced into the countryside outside Rome, the rebel army struggles to prepare for battle as tension mounts between the leaders, Cassius and Brutus. Tactical mistakes by Brutus and Cassius allow Antony's army to gain the upper hand and, fearing that he may be captured, Cassius takes his own life. With half of its leadership gone, the rebel army loses its strength. In a final gesture of despair, Brutus also commits suicide.

Date Time
Saturday June 1 12:00 am
Closed

Many recent productions of Julius Caesar have been set in locales other than Rome, in order to give greater immediacy to the theme of dictatorship and the destruction caused by civil uprising. Instead of placing the story of Julius Caesar in Central or South America, or in the Middle East, our production uses a postmodern approach to create a unique, timeless environment, a world which has its own specific rules and set of references. Therefore, though the setting of the production is clearly Rome, scenery and costumes do not refer to a specific time period. As in Shakespeare's day, there is little emphasis on historical accuracy.

"Beware the Ides of March" is the warning given by a soothsayer to Julius Caesar who, as the play opens, is on his way to a ceremony celebrating the defeat of his arch rival Pompey. As the initial moments of the play pass, we learn that Caesar's growing power and popularity have sparked concern among several Roman leaders, particularly Caius Cassius and Marcus Brutus. Later that night, a group of conspirators assembled by Cassius meet in Brutus' orchard and formulate a plan to assassinate Caesar on the following day, the 15th of March. The group disbands just before dawn, leaving Brutus with his troubled soul. Though he loves and admires Caesar, Brutus is wary of his growing ambition and feels that Rome would suffer if Caesar is given absolute power. During the early hours of the same morning Caesar has been awakened by his wife Calphurnia, who has dreamed of Caesar's murder. She begs Caesar not to "stir forth;" however, Caesar ignores her warning and proceeds to the Capital. Once Caesar is alone with the conspirators, death comes quickly. Mark Antony, Caesar's ally, arrives on the scene, but Brutus persuades the others that Antony's life should be spared. It is then decided among Antony, Brutus, and the others that preparations will be made for Caesar's funeral, with speeches given by Brutus and Antony. As they leave for the market place Antony receives word that Octavius, Caesar's son, is coming to Rome. In the market place Brutus and Antony speak to the assembled citizenry. Brutus defends the assassination by claiming that Caesar's ambition would have eventually ruined Rome. After Brutus departs, Antony turns the opinion of the crowd against the conspirators, calling for vengeance for Caesar. The conspirators are forced to flee for their lives and form a rebel army to combat Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus, who are recognized as co-rulers after Caesar's death. Having been forced into the countryside outside Rome, the rebel army struggles to prepare for battle as tension mounts between the leaders, Cassius and Brutus. Tactical mistakes by Brutus and Cassius allow Antony's army to gain the upper hand and, fearing that he may be captured, Cassius takes his own life. With half of its leadership gone, the rebel army loses its strength. In a final gesture of despair, Brutus also commits suicide.

Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar is based on the actual assassination of Julius Caesar, which occurred on March 15, 44 B.C. Much of Shakespeare's material is drawn from Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Romans (c. 1579). As is the case with many of Shakespeare's plays which depict historical events, the source is highly altered and condensed into theatrical form. For example, the duration of the opening two scenes, which actually took several months, is compressed into one day. All together, the action is compressed from an actual time span of three years into a period of five days. The main characters, though drawn from Plutarch's stories, are also altered. For example, some of Caesar's less admirable characteristics, such as his conceit and dynastic ambition, are emphasized. On the other hand, Brutus is treated more sympathetically as a result of the emphasis on his philosophic nature and admirable personal life. The envy and insecurity of Cassius is masterfully drawn, as is Antony's opportunism and his love for Caesar. Thus, in Julius Caesar we see Shakespeare utilizing and transforming historical material to make an exciting stage drama. HOW QUICKLY THE WORLD IS OVERTURNED A quick glance at the course of world history reveals many examples of ambitious men and their subsequent assassinations. The 1991 production of Julius Caesar at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival will focus on the timelessness of Caesar's death and the issues raised by the assassination of a man in power. Brutus loves Caesar but he loves Rome more, and is forced to make the difficult decision to destroy a potential tyrant in order to save Rome. The chaos which follows this act eventually destroys Brutus. Therefore, one of the central issues in this production is the power of the "irreversible act," and the relentless momentum of events and circumstances which follow Caesar's death. Central to this production concept are images drawn from the text: power, destruction, and the inability to escape the results of an irreversible act. This production uses visual icons and images to vivify the play's events and, instead of reproducing history, explores the deeper issues and the "modern myth" of power and destruction. Like many instances in history, the murder of Caesar was an irreversible act. Caesar's blood stains not only his assassins' hands, but the entire city of Rome, which is forever changed. Stephen Earnest, Dramaturg, Julius Caesar