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A Review of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: In Verse!

July 12, 2010

Since I’ve been writing about outdoor Shakespeare performances and since a friend of mine in Ireland posted on Facebook that he was attending a Shakespeare by the Sea performance of Julius Caesar, I asked him if he wanted to write about it for publication here. He agreed and what follows is his account. (Please excuse any formatting difficulties!) For more poetry, catch a ride on the Poetry Train!

What Tidings
Of Emperors and Games
By Greg Patrick

Bardspell:

“He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass”.
-William Shakespeare

As I waited for the cordon to open I pondered the book
I brought and shook my head at the headlines by comparison.
Some things do not change but that is why I am here
Why others are drawn.

There was a moment of beautiful solitude, a bard’s moment under the whispering canopies of trees
While others reluctantly began to leave their televisions
and search for their keys.

When I stood overlooking the azure gleam
of sea at the beginnings of dusk and sunlight’s crimson dwindling.
Newly metamorphosised dragonflies swarmed
around me as if proud of their new wings
in an aerial revel. Swarming unhindered, oblivious to my presence.

It was  a special moment as I anticipated a fine play.

Midsummer’s had past and with it many dreams..
Night falls, darkness lengthens ..there will be more dreams..new dreams.
..Right..?
Too lingering the question mark. That why is we
gather.

II

What Tidings
Shakespeare by the Sea 2010

“But, for my own part, it was Greek to me”.
–  William Shakespeare
“Julius Caesar”  (Act I, Scene II).

“Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings”.
–-  William Shakespeare
“Julius Caesar”  (Act I, Scene II).

“Lend me your ears..”
The words of the orator are as familiar and as scripted as any speaker before he steps to the stage. To address the audience in the aftermath of tragedy on an eve of uncertainty and lengthening shadows:

Some mouth the words soundlessly before they are even spoken:
We’ve heard them before:
We know them by heart better than the voice of our own
hearts and conscience..
Reminds us we have that eloquent voice:
That is when the Bard’s words step in..
Speak to us..

Not a ventriloquist but to remind us we have our own voice
and can listen as keenly to it.

How did it come to this?
Voracious reader I look to the headlines
The programme photos of leading women and men, delivering funeral orations, intriguing and politicking seem mirrored in the headline photos.

Our world is alas no stranger to drama and tragedy befalling the great

And humble alike yet how few true Caesars remain.
How few Antony’s inspire in moving words.

The first arrive, followed by others pulling up in horseless chariots
Who assembles to to see Caesar?
Renaissance women and men?  The urbane?
The cosmopolite..
They gathered mingling yet aloof.
The “outcasts”, the misfits?
The unafraid. The free.
All are represented from the furthest corners of the Globe.

Act 1

“Julius Caesar”

The story is his. It is ours more so.

People arrive many self-consciously.
Some formal, some bohemian, some masqued..
It matters not.
Each came with their
Own persona, their own act their own expression.
Yet to a person they would leave the act all behind
and know to be themselves again.

William of Stratford has that effect on people.
Will always have.

I am no soothsayer before Caesar but I know that much..
or do I?
It’s Shakespeare that draws us
together as the waves pull back at the shore..
like so many castaways before the storms.

Like many I’ve always wondered at the enigmatic playwright who nobody seemed to place and yet seemed privy to the hearts
and desires of everyone in a diverse world. For generations yet born as well.

He was a gifted natural as far as ars poetica but he had an understanding of the human psyche that has yet to be matched.

I wondered if he felt alienated and lonely out there too
The mystique of the ” Bard of Avon” who yet understood the psyche and heart
Of those yet unborn before new eyes could behold the sunset before me.

Many doubted his authorship this “Ghostwriter” of lives yet lived yet he never ceased to believe in us.

There is Shakespeare’s likeness:
His vulpine smile at repose, sublime amusement
lost on us.
The man of the hour.
The twilight hour by the sea and horizon..
For some parts:He greets one back like an old friend at the homecoming.
New world and old met with a sigh of the tides on the shore..

The play bill, the dramatis personae, the trappings and props
of our world seemed to be an extension of the stage itself.
When does the act end.? When does the game end..?
When does the play begin?

Some in the audience
Heretically ponder the outcome of “the world cup”.
Yet the players of the Olde Globe  are those who
remind us that we too should focus centre stage as the outside world
acts of it’s own accord.

Globe that is microcosm of the world itself, a human observatory
of all that transpires under the stars.

The play is not escapism but rallying point. The parallel world before us.
The players that help the audience see their world and actions the more critically.
An effective production makes one conscious of themselves rather than merely submerged in a crowd.

“Therein lies the rub.”

Though the end is foregone conclusion there was a collective hush as
all conversation ceased. We hear then the sigh of the waves over the fathoms
as one with our own.

A rejuvenating puerile feeling akin to crossing a threshold ensued in an old unexplored house. A door, a portal ajar with light seeping through.
Beckoning.

A mystique is lent as another twilight befalls us.
In the interval of silence when a cathartic hush falls
With the poignancy of daggers the  roar of the rising tide
pulls us back to the present again.

One knows senses themselves
part of the crowd and aware of certain faces and impressions
Appraisingly gazing at those around them.. wondering.

For we know the halls of Caesar’s Rome  and secrets whispered to shadows
better than we know our own.
That’s why we’ve come..

The game has begun.
The room dissolves save for the players on the stage.
An undercurrent of sublime enchantment stirs through the
crowd.

The thespians enter  as mere actors yet there is
a haunting phenomenon that as the summerlight dwindles
that they fall into the role too readily, eerily so.

Then do we become privy to man’s innermost desires
and yearnings that we dare not express.

The senate appears clothed in 21st century suits.
much as they appear in the BBC or CNN.
An extension of the present.

We are not the mob of the coliseum we throng the seats because we
feel the embattled gladiator in us against the mob’s derision.

Is the game over yet some wonder..
Others eagerly await the sight of Caesar..
No matter.
Nobody is keeping score..

“Can you see from there?”
Can you?

The thespian knows his art is effective when the audience
gasps from reverie so intent upon the stage and it’s players.

We hear a triumphant cry for a favourite’s  goal achieved only for a wave to tower
and smite the shore drowning out again the distant cries that could have
been that of the coliseums…
“Et tu Brute?”.. in anguished tones

We were challenged not only to be fallibly human but triumphantly
human, the power of example to inspire before eyes of those that behold
and remember what they see.

Do they emulate with silent applause or shun with condemnation.

“As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can”.
– Gaius Iulius Casear

We ponder the import of the words, the importance of thought
and vision.

Some cast an involuntary glance to the horizon with some unspoken
Desire, or a concerned one landward to the dusk and
twilight silhouetted hills.

Hand reaches for a phone..are they are alright..

All the world must be a stage then for
each came to the shoreside with their own story
Behind their eyes, each with sublime eloquence
Betrayed. Then we were part of the story as one.

We applauded then rose.
Looking at each other detachedly then the spell cast
was gone.

It was excellent the play if the tribute
was not roaring acclaim. The subdued nature spoke volumes.

Not the World Cup..No

We all know who wins. Who doesn’t when we seat ourselves.
For all that there is always a feeling of anticipation and adventure
that lingers till the brightest stars appear over the sea, even through
the city lights.

We all now the play is going to end.
Yet we leave our mark so that the tides
Of change will not draw them away

As if we had never walked the night shore or wondered at
the horizon’s prospects…

The applause again drowns out the sea.

We hail Caesar once again then part ways.
Some look back, others forward.
So many Rubicons remain uncrossed.
So many dice dare our cast.

After the world cup leave them empty and drained
unfulfilled as dreams.

Each star acclaimed  stranger to us though household names.

Plays you see are not a spectator sport.
But a contact one depends upon the players and audience
To catch, to connect…

A lingering question mark follows each play.
Night had befallen us we realize while our attention was riveted upon the stage.

People rise around me and shuffle in a daze that bespoke an effective production.
Towards the exits like somnambulists we part ways strangers again in an impersonal world.

Some walk the  shoreside pondering at a game plan, stealing a glance to the horizon, wordlessly but eloquently in the language of dream.

True to form of the itinerant bard the road calls me away.
“A stranger in a strange land”..

To me there is only one familiar face in the crowd:
Shakespeare smiles amicably from the play bill with a storyteller’s
Scheharazadian beckoning:

I wonder again at the enigmatic playwright who nobody seemed to place and yet seemed privy to the hearts
and desires of everyone in a diverse world. For generations yet unborn as well.

He was a gifted natural a master of ars poetica
and an understanding of the human psyche that has yet to be matched.

The bluebloods and dons sniffing contemptuously at the rustic strolling playwright.
It mattered not then nor now.
The spirit of the bard and memories turned myth resides in
the heart and vision wherever one fares.
It gleams in the quiet of the eyes when one’s thoughts are distant no matter where they stray.
Sometimes it only the closing of the eyes and a sigh to be home again and in the presence of leading ladies and men.
The architects of dreams.
Lingering among crumpled playbills I wondered if he felt alienated and lonely out there..
A good example makes a mark on every shore strode
by those that bear their humanity in the heart.
Make a mark. Leave good impressions for those who will walk behind that they may not wonder at the right path.

But what then of Shakespeare and of Caesar:
In a time when worlds were turned upside down yet set to rights
and “Brave new worlds” replaced old.
When one decade’s heretic became another’s queen
And the vilified became heroes overnight at the
crowd and king’s command.
And even monarchs bowed to the tower’s headsman
as quickly as they were hailed.

When people were expected to change their deepest convictions overnight
at the whim of the many who wore crowns and masques
And the people cheered ventriloquist like for leading ladies and men
as they appeared.
One man challenged each person in the mob
With the words:

”To thine ownself be true”.
A stargazer and horizon chaser who understood every man that ever whispered
a name among myriads to the stars.
He understood more of humanity better than it dared know itself.
He paused and looked to us..through us.
And spoke:
It’s not only a stage as Shakespeare said, you know.
This world.

Like so many Dramatis Personae of the world mere players cast to societal and culturally imposed roles, like so many marionettes bowing to the pleasure and acceptance of the crowd bef

We are not so shackled to those castings and the cyclical perpetuation of tragedy that we cannot break free and help others do so. We are an individual before mere persona. Tell the Ophelias by whatever name they are loved, spurn the plottings of the Cassiuses and Iagos. At curtain fall there is no applause. Make it matter.
ore our leading ladies and men that we share space and words with.
The tides of change whisper at our shores..

“To be or not to be. That is the question.”
From the beachfront house televisions
flicker at the windows..cheers heard through walls.
I look to the sea, the candular
stars begin to appear by which the seafarer is guided
back wherever he strays.
Midsummer’s had past and with it many dreams..
Night falls ..there will be more dreams.
..Right.

“Will…Will!
Wake up you’re dreaming again..”
“A nightmare..”
“William Shakespeare wake up this instant!”
“Anne…?
No ..No. One more go at the pen..” (groggily).
“Oh you’re like a child!
Will..”
“Will look at you..you’re like a scribe by candlelight, a monk..”
“Heaven forbid..” a chuckle.
“Will..
(As if seeing him for the first time)
I realized..You’re not doing this for yourself are you..?”
“No..”
“Will. Listen to me man..
They’ll be fine..
The world will endure..
Get some rest..”
“Marlowe and the others pitched in for a place..At least
it’s dry and clean..”
“Oh what dreams may come..”
The last word is not mine but yours
friends. Don’t leave it to me. It is your hour. I’ve already left into the twilight.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Greg permalink
    July 15, 2010 8:24 am

    Story in re-dedication to the innocent victims of “the Troubles”
    on the eve of violence.
    “Orange” or “Green”? No.
    All blood is red.

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