Gregg Henry, center left, portrays President Donald Trump in the role of Julius Caesar during a dress rehearsal of The Public Theater’s production on May 21. (Joan Marcus / The Public Theater via Associated Press)
To the editor: With suits and not togas, crafty stage masters often hail Caesar to hold a mirror up to the politics of the present. (“Shakespeare isn’t tasteful enough for Delta and Bank of America? That’s rich,” Opinion, June 14)
The controversy over a New York production of “Julius Caesar,” in a which an actor dressed like President Trump plays the title character, brings to mind Queen Elizabeth I’s beloved but rebellious earl of Essex, whose supporters hoped to stir anti-queen sentiment by paying Shakespeare’s company to re-boot “Richard II.”
To quote Shakespeare, “He loves no plays … he hears no music. Seldom he smiles…. Such men as he be never at heart’s ease whiles they behold a greater than themselves, and therefore are they very dangerous.”
Outrageous! Treasonous! But wait, this quote Caesar himself speaks. And so the irony in the play, in Central Park and in the White House runs thick.
Trump nation should not be “afraid of goose quills.” Besides, Shakespeare might actually help the intolerant Trump govern effectively. Instead of “bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus,” he should listen to Portia of “Merchant of Venice” fame: Mercy “becomes the throned monarch better than his crown … and earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice.”
The real reason that “Julius Caesar” troubles Trump nation is that the play cuts too close to the bone — that beneath imperial Trump’s democratic suit buttons is a Caesarian toga.
Matthew D. Mailander, Palm Desert
To the editor: Virginia Hefferman accuses the corporations that pulled their sponsorship from the New York Public Theater of “aiming to keep journalists, scholars and intellectuals in line by treating their work not as art but as a branding opportunity.” She doesn’t buy Delta Air Lines’ reasoning that the production “crossed the line on the standards of good taste.”
Artists need to take responsibility for how their art is perceived. This includes acknowledging that sometimes the consequence may be loss of funding. No one has squelched the artists’ free expression.
Corporations must act in the best interest of their shareholders. Obviously enough people were offended by this art that both Delta and Bank of America felt they needed to pull their financial support. This is not about defunding the arts or limiting free speech.
Jenene Schafenacker, Dana Point
To the editor: Omar Paxson, my theater arts professor at Occidental College, preached that Shakespeare should only be presented in Elizabethan costumes or the dress of the period in which the play is set. I am more open to modern-dress productions.
Julius Caesar is not the main character in the play that bears his name, but if he is to be portrayed as a Trump-like figure, there is certainly logic behind the concept. Both the president and Caesar are power-hungry braggarts with an unhealthy need for flattery.
The backers withdrawing their support because of the assassination should know that Julius Caesar becomes a saintly martyr. The populace turns against the conspirators because of his generosity. In his will he has left each Roman citizen money and land, a gesture Trump would never be guilty of.
Tom Bauer, Morro Bay