Trump as Caesar? Shakespeare’s play repudiates political violence

Trump as Caesar? Shakespeare’s play repudiates political violence

Plenty of others noted that those who were outraged by the depiction of Caesar had entirely missed the point of Shakespeare’s work: The play is hardly a glorification or endorsement of assassination, but rather a cautionary tale, as Caesar’s murder leads to the collapse of Rome. The outcry was loud enough to spur two Public Theater sponsors, Bank of America and Delta Air Lines, to pull their support for the production.

Controversy over the work has prompted Delta Air Lines and Bank of America to pull their sponsorship of the show that is being performed as part of Shakespeare in the Park in New York’s Central Park.

Indeed, much of “Julius Caesar” focuses on the disastrous unintended consequences of the assassination, and how a violent attempt at overthrowing tyranny actually serves to destroy the Republic. “Companies make these decisions [to drop sponsorships] because it seems like an easy solution to a PR problem, but I think it’s important for people on the other side to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we’re here too and we’re also your customers and we care about these things’”.

Delta and Bank of America ended their support of the production on Sunday, hours after Trump’s son Donald Jr. questioned in a tweet whether it was art or political speech.

Fleeing sponsors and an attack on congressional Republicans has not shaken Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes‘ support for New York’s Public Theater. The production of “Julius Caesar“, starring Gregg Henry as the Trump-like Caesar, opens tonight. When, in Act I, Casca sneers about the ruler’s popularity with the masses, “If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less, ‘ director Oskar Eustis has added the words ‘on Fifth Avenue’”. Within a matter of hours of Delta’s announcement, the National Endowment of the Arts issued a statement distancing itself from the production.

Owing primarily to our erratic weather patterns, and the uncertain prospect of a too-cold, rained-out show on Tuesday, June 6, I was lucky enough to score tickets to the show without the lengthy wait in line-only the second time I have had the privilege of seeing Shakespeare in the Park during my eight years in NY. It is an axiom, a fundamental principle of democratic societies, that political expression should not only be free and outspoken, even courageous, but also tolerant and polite, with understanding of the existence of different incompatible but legitimate points of view.

The show will end its run this Sunday – as originally scheduled. I believe that a free society depends on free speech and as time has proved artists are often those who most clearly see the time in which they live. Artistic integrity, although valuable, has limited play on the political stage, and our current New York-based president has a thin skin. “Our sponsorship does not go toward the funding of the production of Shakespeare in the Park and we do not condone this interpretation of the play”, American Express said in a statement.

However, the theater defended its play, saying that it “in no way advocates violence towards anyone“.

And we all know what happens to Caesar in Shakespeare’s classic play: he gets offed by his friends.