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He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

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You can’t make this stuff up.

Right-wing activists attempted to shut down the controversial performance of Julius Caesar that portrays the titular character as Donald Trump.

There is, of course, a certain pathos to self-proclaimed conservatives seeking to halt—through disruption—a performance of a classic work of literature by one of the most important authors in the western literary canon. I’m sure on most days at least some of these people complain about politically correct snowflakes on college campuses destroying western culture, what with their ‘trigger warnings’ and calls to ‘decolonize the curriculum.’

But the lunacy doesn’t end there. Julius Caesar is, of course, a tragedy. A group of conspirators, jealous and fearful that he will end the Roman Republic, brutally assasinate Caesar. But instead of saving the Republic, their actions precipitate its downfall. One has to be a bit dense to see this (somewhat lazy) interpretive decision as inciting violence against Trump.

But it gets better. So much better. There are the now-mandatory misspellings. And jokes about gerbils. And crackbrained attempts to claim that the performance incited the attack on the Republican congressional baseball team.

And then it goes completely off the rails.

 

Also, of course, no witches were burned in Salem or in The Crucible.

So, in summary:

1. A bunch of far-right agitators tried to shut down a play that represents Trump as a master military leader and politician, brought down by jealousy and fear, and whose murder ushers in dictatorial empire. Indeed, the first performance of Julius Caesar I ever saw had Marc Antony et al. switch to Nazi uniforms once the struggle following Caeser’s assasination gets underway. Subtle, I know.

2. One of those involved provides an analogy designed to demonstrate to liberals why he’s on the side of justice. What’s he do? He messes up the title of a rather famous American play—one that uses the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for McCarthyism. Even better, he suggests casting Hilary Clinton in the role of one of the characters falsely accused of being a witch. Because why not confirm every stereotype about Trumpistas?

Perhaps we are witnessing a performance art piece intended to showcase—in a negative light—the triumph of Trumpism over conservative intellectualism?

If not, all I can say is that it’s a very good thing the play wasn’t a reiminganing of Sir Ian MacKellen’s version of Richard III for the Trump era.

 

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  • Big Bad Bald Bastard

    Goober Garbles Goebbels.

    • ThresherK

      It’s for items like this I wish there was still a daily print edition of Variety.

    • ToddTheVP

      We accept him! One of us!

    • Tehanu

      Brilliant!

    • Alex Marlow: “He called one of the key members of Trump’s administration Goebells.”
      Malcolm Nance: “That’s not true, that’s not true. I called him ‘Baby Goebells.”
      https://twitter.com/johnvmoore/status/876059614978158592

  • patrick II

    The play has traditionally been put in the modern political context. A black actor has paid the lead in recent years. There seemed to be no complaints from right wing media ct the time.

    • Warren Terra

      It wasn’t just a Black actor – according to a review in The American Conservative that’s been going ’round the web this last week there were obvious echoes of Obama, and the conspirators were clearly intended to remind the audience of Republican leaders and Tea Party activists. That production started in Minneapolis in a thousand-seat theater in 2012, then toured the country.

      Less discussed is that apparently this is an incredibly common thing to do with productions of Julius Caesar, that for decades now an obvious representation of every US President has donned the laurels in one prominent production or another – and there was a 2015 production with an obvious Hillary Clinton as Caesar. None of this caused any noticeable upset.

      And, as pretty much everyone has noted, the message Shakespeare sends with his Julius Caesar is that, no matter how impressed you are with your virtuousness and how convinced you are of your noble motives, assassinating the national leader isn’t going to get you the enlightened rule you’re hoping to achieve; quite the opposite. FFS, there’s a whole bloody speech, by far the most quotable part of the play, about how great Caesar was.

      Now, Trump as Lear, that would make more sense, and be more insulting. Though, it’s hard to imagine the proper Fool for Trump being as wise as Lear’s Fool, and it’s impossible to imagine a Trump character being as sentimental and self-aware as Lear finally becomes, nor showing devotion to his Fool.

      • Matt McIrvin

        Last summer, my daughter was in a kids’ drama camp in which they wrote and staged a short reimagining of a Shakespeare play. The groups usually choose comedies, but her group did Hamlet as a surreal farce set in the White House, with the Claudius character as a President named “Donny T.”

      • Lear would be perfect for trump. Just wait till Ivanka & Hubby turn on him, he well wreck such vengeance!

      • TopsyJane

        “FFS, there’s a whole bloody speech, by far the most quotable part of the play, about how great Caesar was.”

        It is indeed a bloody speech. Brutus has just made a reasoned appeal to the crowd on the basis of patriotism, honor (his), and justice. Antony whips them into a frenzied mob and an innocent man is torn to pieces. “Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot/Take thou what course thou wilt!”

    • Ken
      • Origami Isopod

        LOLsnort.

      • Phil Koop

        Brilliant.

    • dmsilev

      Several years ago, either during the 2008 campaign or early in Obama’s term, I saw a performance of Macbeth that had a modern setting and Malcolm was played by a black actor who did a pretty good job of duplicating the cadences and tones of Obama in his oratorical mode.

      There’s a reason those plays have been continually produced for hundreds of years.

      • tsam

        Right–and sadly, the themes never go away. Miller wrote a mostly historical play about the government going nuts 250 years later, and then the same kind of nutjobs were having a tantrum about Harry Potter, which implies that they think sorcery is real (!)

        • evodevo

          Uh, his fundie followers DO think sorcery is real .. I work alongside them every day … the Devil is an actual being, and an ankh is a sign of Satan, etc. etc. The Harry Potter craze drove them up the wall …

          • cpinva

            “The Harry Potter craze drove them up the wall …”

            sadly, not high enough, they were able to climb back down.

  • MacK

    My only objection to this play is that Julius Caesar is (in the play) too sympathetic, competent, self-aware and introspective a character to be compared to Trump – but then Shakespeare never wrote Caligula….

    Better candidates would be Edmund (King Lear), Don Juan (Much Ado About Nothing), Richard II (who’d compare himself (favorably) with Jesus and had a persecution complex), Iago (Othello). But if you really wanted to tick Trump off, Tamora, Queen of the Goths from Titus Andronicus – making him the woman! He’d plotz!

    • Lurker

      Caligula would be an interesting play: a group of war-hardened, competent officers assasinate a bloid-thirsty, insane but popular imperator, installing on the throne a pedantic semi-idiot, who, nonetheless, provides the realm with two decades of stable and relatively sane rule.

      • wjts

        Gosh. Imagine what he could have done had he only been a quarter-idiot.

        • Even half that much idiocy would have made people quaver.

        • Origami Isopod

          In the land of quarter-idiots, the half-idiot is emperor.

          • The Third Amendment says the gummint can’t force you to quarter idiots.

            But it’s silent on drawing them.

        • redrob

          As Claudius says at his acclamation by the Senate in the TV series, “As for being half-witted: well, what can I say, except that I have survived to middle age with half my wits, while thousands have died with all of theirs intact. Evidently, quality of wits is more important than quantity.”

          • wjts

            The Radio 4 website is rerunning their adaptation of I, Claudius with Derek Jacobi as Augustus at the moment. It’s not as good as the TV adaptation, but it’s worth a listen. Tim McInnerney makes a pretty good Tiberius.

    • Ken

      I’ve been trying to get a local theater group to do a season of Sweeney Todd, Titus Andronicus, and Little Shop of Horrors. Dinner theater, of course.

      • Karen24

        I would by a season ticket.

      • Bruce B.

        Together, they fight crime!

        Oh, not a mashup. Sorry.

        • Woodrowfan

          it’s a bit early to win the internet for the day, but I think you just did.

    • Karen24

      If they really wanted to insult Trump, “Richard II” would be a much better choice, and have Bush I be John of Gaunt.

    • GeoX

      Iago and Edmund are both way too smart.

      • MacK

        There are no Shakespeare characters dumb enough – except perhaps Bottom….who lacks the self regard, megalomania and malevolence

        • Hogan

          Dick the Butcher?

          • Hogan

            On second thought I’m going with Jack Cade.

            JACK CADE. Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven half-penny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hoop’d pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in common; and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass: and when I am king,- as king I will be,-

            ALL. God save your majesty!

            JACK CADE. I thank you, good people:- there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

            • altofront

              Shakespeare, inevitably, makes even Jack Cade somewhat sympathetic: his utopia may be ludicrous, but it’s recognizably the mirror image of peasant poverty.

              To get anywhere close to Trump, you need a hybrid: Parolles + Don John + Roderigo is at least a step in the right direction.

            • YNWA40515

              I’m surprised no one else has mentioned it, but Dogberry, maybe?

              Dogberry: Though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.

              (the trouble is, Dogberry means well, he’s just not all that bright, and Trump is pretty much as ill-intentioned as he is stupid. But Dogberry at least captures that delusional and intensely, completely and obliviously moronic aspect of Trump’s character)

              • altofront

                Dogberry’s entire life is built around faithful service to others, and to the state: he’s an idiot, but all that matters to him is doing the right thing. Plus, he saves the day! The delusion may match Trump, but little else does.

  • weirdnoise

    There is a certain unintentional insight in casting Hillary as woman falsely accused through mass hysteria and superstition. Funny how this Jack P fellow is entirely oblivious to that.

    Your GOP amygdala at work.

    • rea

      Republicans, at least of the evangelical sort, tend to believe that witches are real–the Bible says so, after all.

      • wjts

        If witches aren’t real, why do we have a word for them?

      • They’re also unfamiliar with the content of the plays. They only know the title.

  • HPBNCT

    In what might just mean I’m weird, I was sure at first that this poster advertising the “Actors’ NET of Bucks County” production of _Julius Caesar_ that appears atop this post was some sort of joke at the expense of Robert (“Bob”) Wright, the impresario and frequent host at Bloggingheads.tv and MeaningOfLife.tv (among other claims to mild fame) who occasionally sports somewhat similar facial hair (e.g., http://s3.amazonaws.com/screenshots.meaningoflife.tv/mol-2017-03-23-wright-frank2.jpg ), especially since he’s a man to which Shakespeare’s Caesar’s description of Cassius “He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.” arguably applies.

  • Matt

    Dear Mr. Posobiec: if somebody spent all of his free time attacking “antidogfucking” activists, we’d start wondering what he does in his spare time.

  • efgoldman

    the triumph of Trumpism over conservative intellectualism?

    Conservative intellectualism? now there’s an oxymoron for the 21st century.
    It used to mean racists who actually wrote books, and spoke on [public] TV in soothing, dulcet tones while peddling their crap. It also meant professors who held prestigious chairs in prestigious departments at prestigious universities, funded by very rich RWNJs.
    Now it just means conservatives who can write a complete sentence. Not a TRUE or FACTUAL or SENSIBLE sentence, just one with a noun and a verb somewhere.

  • randy khan

    Also, protesting something produced by the Public Theater in New York is exactly the kind of thing that goes nowhere, not that I expect Trump supporters or conservatives to know anything about the serious theater world. The Public doesn’t care about anyone’s protests, and it’s unlikely to experience any funding trouble as a result of a controversy. (I know some stupid funder pulled out of this show, but the Public will find a replacement without much effort.)

  • Nigel Holmes

    Better if he’d waited to come on in Act III scene 3:

    CINNA. Truly, my name is Cinna.
    FIRST CITIZEN. Tear him to pieces, he’s a conspirator.
    CINNA. I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.
    FOURTH CITIZEN. Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his
    bad verses.
    CINNA. I am not Cinna the conspirator.
    FOURTH CITIZEN. It is no matter, his name’s Cinna. Pluck but
    his name out of his heart, and turn him going.
    THIRD CITIZEN. Tear him, tear him!

  • At this point, I’m amazed there aren’t a few dozen theater groups planning new Shakespeare productions with modern settings, just for the opportunity to piss of the Trumpers. Imagine how his neo-Nazi base would scream if he were cast Othello, Iago, Lear, Shylock, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, or Bottom…

  • Dr. Waffle

    Another entry from the annals of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up:

    https://twitter.com/ckilpatrick/status/875755689070792704

    Connor Kilpatrick has never met a racist he doesn’t sympathize with.

    • Q.E.Dumbass

      Meanwhile on the front page, our good friend Branko has a piece on the recent U.K. Election. Here, he sees the center/center-left’s constant sniping immediately before the election, uses the (legitimate!) premise that moratoria on intramural sniping before elections are unevenly-applied across the spectrum, and…interprets this to mean that the True Left never, ever, needs to stop kicking and screaming, ever, as opposed to evidence that doing so negatively affects turnout across the board and should be avoided. He even starts out the piece by whining about pre-electoral conciliation, so I don’t think the above is an uncharitable reading of intent:

      https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/06/corbyn-jk-rowling-obama-blair-macron

  • searcher

    Did you ever consider that Republican commentators might LIKE the outcome presented – death of a controversial leader leads to even more tyrannical rule by his faction – and just not want the play warning anyone?

  • Karen24

    Ever since I shed my childhood conservatism in college, I have marveled at how the people who cast themselves as the defenders of the Western canon never actually read any of it, and never enjoy or understand what they read. I am re-reading “1984” with my older son this summer, which is another book they claim to love but don’t understand, and have been struck by how much the Party resembles modern conservatism, from their devotion to “the mutability of the past” to their use of fear to gin up their voters, even to their willingness to allow their leaders in the Inner Party to live in a manner precisely the opposite of their rhetoric. The reason they dislike humanities students so much is that we catch on to their lies so quickly.

    • tsam

      Orwell has got to be the most misquoted, misused and misunderstood author of the canon. Conservatives cite him all the time, and his work was largely devoted to criticizing those idiots.

      • CrunchyFrog

        This is the same group of people who quote MLK to support their racist policies and beliefs.

      • Karen24

        Exactly. Orwell lived and died a Socialist and a freethinker in every sense of the word. My favorite book of his is “The Road to Wigan Pier,” which includes my favorite quote of his “I know too much of slums to go into Chestertonian raptures about them.” I despise Chesterton almost as much as I despise Trump, and his influence has been entirely pernicious.

        • ericblair

          Obviously from my nom de plume I’m a fan of the man. He was also one of the first to understand modern totalitarianism as opposed to the garden variety autocracy of the past, and how movements (left and right) can turn on a dime depending on the political expediencies of the time.

          His essays are definitely worth a read, and Road to Wigan Pier is unfortunately still very relevant.

        • DocAmazing

          Not a fan of Road to Wigan Pier.

          One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

          I prefer my hippie-punching a little more up-to-date.

      • nemdam

        A large theme, if not the biggest, of his writing is a critique of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and blind obedience. Given the subject matter, conservatives could only quote him if they’ve never read him which is, of course, what’s going on.

    • Origami Isopod

      The bible, the Constitution, the Western canon…

      • Karen24

        Their Bible has only the first five chapters of Genesis, the angry stoning stuff from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, a few violent bits from the histories, the nastier parts of the epistles and all of Revelation. Revelaton has anime illustrations. Missing entirely are the prophets and all of the Gospels.

        • N__B

          You libs told me that stoners were mellow when you wanted the evil weed legalized. Now you're saying they're angry.

        • bender

          Too right.

        • Joe Bob the III

          Wait a minute. Are you telling me that even though they call themselves Christians they don’t study the teachings of Jesus Christ?

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            Their preachers will tell you that the Sermon on the Mount and the rest of Jesus’s teachings only apply to a different “dispensation”, specifically after the Second Coming. In our current era, they’re mostly irrelevant.

            • Their preachers are greedy slimeballs with bad hair who preach hate. Sound familiar?

    • Joe Bob the III

      I graduated from college in the early ’90s, the heyday of political correctness. The conservatives cast their cause a battle royale against cultural relativism. The real right-wing rebels majored in classics – that’ll really stick it to the lefties! Read Toni Morrison? Screw you! I’m going to read Greek playrights or some medieval verse!

      We have really shitty conservatives these days. The reactionaries of my day would have been mortified at revealing they didn’t actually understand the plot of Julius Caesar…or maybe had only read half of it.

    • so-in-so

      Anything a RWNJ reads either enraged him or is viewed as an instructional manual. Which makes some sense for evangelicals but not so much for the rest. I suspect they don’t understand fiction; and if they do, see only the text part, filtered through their prejudices.

  • tsam

    I saw goody Hillary with the devil.

    • wjts

      She turned that poor Gingrich man into a newt. He did not get better.

      • dsidhe

        So much love for you both.

      • ColBatGuano

        He weighs more than a duck.

  • Happy Jack

    He’s in New York now? I hope he hasn’t given up investigating Comet Pizza.

  • tsam

    Hermann Gerbils: “LOL”

  • bassopotamus

    A fart on Thomas Putnam

  • N__B

    The McKellan RIII is the second best Shakespeare I’ve seen live. The best was the Public’s Macbeth with Raul Julia.

    I still have this poster somewhere: https://www.picclickimg.com/d/l400/pict/222420612863_/MACBETH-Poster-Raul-Julia-Public-Theater-Paul-Davis.jpg

    • wjts

      Hartford Stage did a terrific Richard III with Richard “John-Boy” Thomas in the title role.

      • N__B

        I heard it was great but didn’t see it.

        My experience is that there are a lot of really good Shakespeare productions out there. Maybe because the material is so well known that you have to be a moron to miss the point…

        • wjts

          Somewhere around the same time they did a Merchant of Venice that I also liked a lot. Hartford Stage is actually worth visiting Hartford for.

    • Warren Terra

      As long as we’re recommending good entry points to Shakespeare, the Canadian comedy drama television series Slings And Arrows is a lot of fun and occasionally shows how Shakespeare addresses powerful themes using awesome language.

      • Bill Murray

        The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a pretty good intoduction too

  • mtraven

    Somebody should stage Ubu Roi in Trump costume, that wouldn’t be a stretch at all. “the central character is notorious for his infantile engagement with his world. Ubu inhabits a domain of greedy self-gratification”

  • Warren Terra

    So, there’s a Boston Globe story about Shakespeare-identified theater companies around the country getting hate mail and death threats from outraged wingnuts who either have them confused with the company doing the maligned Trump Julius Caesar or have taken against all instances of that radical anti-Trump playwright.

    • BigHank53

      Roger Ailes decided to wake up the tiger, certain he could ride it, and the GOP danced a jig: all those angry, angry votes without lifting a finger or delivering on a single promise!

      What will they feed the tiger after it eats all those evil liberals?

      • N__B

        Thomas Nast addressed this type of problem some time ago: http://www.newrooseveltinitiative.com/wp-content/uploads/images/tigerloosea.jpg

        My apologies for the low-res version. I’m a bit pressed for time at the moment. The caption reads “THE TAMMANY TIGER LOOSE – ‘What are you going to do about it?'” The emperor off to the left is, of course, Tweed, who asked the quoted question.

  • Cheryl from Maryland

    The recent Shakespeare Theatre performance of MacBeth in DC (April/May) had the witches as PR flaks and Hecate spoke with a russian accent. The audience loved it, loved it, loved it. The witches and Hecate were obviously shit stirring chaos agent striving to upset the country.

    I can only guess that since it was theater in DC and not NYC that it didn’t count with the Trump family. Also, MacBeth was played by a person of color, so the reference slid over their heads.

    http://dcmetrotheaterarts.com/2017/05/09/dangereuse-macbeth-21st-century-shakespeare-theatre-company/

  • Schadenboner

    ISir Ian MacKellen’s version of Richard III

    Or, as Oancitizen put it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qpkpaj-2VA):

    TANKS, TANKS, SHAKESPEARE WITH TANKS! I LOVE THIS.

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