Shakespeare in the Park is a classic summer event in New York City. Each year, thousands flock to the Delacorte Theater to watch some of the Bard's most timeless productions under the stars with a stunning view of Belvedere Castle behind the stage. From a delightful feminist twist on "The Taming of the Shrew" to the rarely staged "Troilus and Cressida," The Public Theater rarely disappoints.

The 2017 Season's Controversy

This year, however, the Public found itself in a swirl of media attention and controversy after staging a highly politically charged "#Julius Caesar," featuring a Donald Trump lookalike as Caesar himself.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Now, those who have at least read the Bard's most famous political tale in high school know that Caesar meets his brutal demise at the hands of his former friends and allies, who become the Conspirators after they decide to slay him for the good of Rome.

The Assassination of Caesar

Initially, seeing an orange-haired Caesar lounging in a bathtub Tweeting or running around the audience shaking hands was humorous; a lighthearted parody on what, and who, many consider to be the biggest joke in American history.

However, as the murder we all knew was coming took place, an aura of discomfort settled over the audience. As Caesar's business suit became bloodier by the moment and other Senators ducked behind desks and American flags in horror, the theater really didn't know how to react. Everyone knew this was theater, of course, but perhaps, some must have thought, simulating the bloody assassination of the current president was taking it just a step too far.

Advertisements

The Caesar in the Donald

Some might believe that the play was done this way for shock value and publicity. However, I think it's important to point out that #Donald Trump is absolutely a Caesar-type figure. He's gung-ho, apparently susceptible to flattery, quite arrogant, and insists that he is strong and steady, just as Caesar proclaims to be as steady as the North Star. He also insisted that, even though he is immensely wealthy and powerful, he is just like any other man, just like Caesar does when he humbly refuses the crown Mark Antony attempts to bestow upon him. It is also important to note that even though The Public gives Shakespeare's works a modern reboot, the Conspirators' use of daggers and the blood Caesar spills is symbolic and crucial to the play.

A Step Too Far

Donald Trump is certainly a Shakespearean character, and The Public has every right to produce the play they want to, and send whatever political message they want to. However, as a die-hard reader of Shakespeare and an American, I couldn't help but feel uneasy as I watched a #Look Alike of the current president be butchered before my eyes.

Advertisements

Of course, "Julius Caesar" can also be read as a warning to those who fight for democracy in undemocratic ways since almost all of the Conspirators meet their deaths one way or another. Donald Trump is also, we've learned, no stranger to violence. Still, I fear this time The Public Theater might have taken it a bit too far.