Shakespeare in the Park” is annual summer entertainment when New Yorkers can go to Central Park and watch plays by the Bard under the stars. According to Mediaite, one of this year’s offerings is “Julius Caesar.” The producers have decided to go full bore Kathy Griffin in the costuming, casting, and staging to give a little bit of relevance to the classic play about power and murder.

I have come not to praise Trump but to bury him

Instead of a fifty-something man with a receding hairline wearing a toga, Caesar is depicted as an older man wearing a contemporary business suit, having a paunch and shock of orange hair.

Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, is a stunningly attractive middle-aged woman with an Eastern European accent. In the assassination scene, where the senators perforate Caesar numerous times with daggers, an American flag decorates the Theatre of Pompey where the deed took place. One wonders if the play’s producers are trying to tell us something.

The Mediaite account does not state whether other characters, such as Brutus, Cassius, or Antony resemble contemporary political figures. The motive behind depicting Julius Caesar, the populist solider, as Donald Trump, the populist businessman, are not clear, except to stimulate the shock value and to boost attendance.

How did Shakespeare regard Caesar and his assassination?

A close reading of the play “Julius Caesar” suggests that if the producers were trying to do some assassination porn, they may have missed the mark, at least for people who understand what Shakespeare was getting at. Shakespeare and most of his contemporaries admired Caesar, a man he knew primarily by reading Plutarch and Suetonius, classical writers who depicted him as a hero.

Antony’s speech during the funeral scene clearly shows that Caesar was a great man and that his murderers, far from defending the Roman Republic from a tyrant, were acting out of malice and envy. The exception was Brutus, who truly believed that he was acting out of noble principles, something that Antony acknowledges at the end of the play.

Assassination porn

Thus far, the Secret Service reports that President Trump gets about a half dozen death threats a day, about the same that President Barack Obama got on average. However, people who revel in the idea of Trump dying prematurely had better pray to whatever deity they find holy that no one takes a shot at the president and succeeds. The translation from polarizing, hated figured to martyr would be breathtaking. Anyone who even had a cross word to say about Trump will have some backtracking to do at best -- and will become despised pariahs at worst. And, Mike Pence as president will be counted on to ram through Trump’s agenda at warp speed. What happened after the JFK assassination informs us that this will be so.