This summer’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caeser in New York’s Central Park has gotten a lot of attention and even been labeled “anti-Trump” by many right-wing critics. The reason? This year’s modernized adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play includes a Caesar who very closely resembles Donald Trump, long red tie and all. And anyone who’s familiar with the play (or even basic history) knows that Julius Caesar comes to a bad end.
Namely, he’s stabbed to death. Violently. By his own senators for becoming to power-hungry.
In this year’s Shakespeare in the Park version of the play, the Trump-like Caesar (complete with Slavic-accent wife) is stabbed to death by a slew of critics, all women and minorities. While New York’s Public Theater never mentions the Trump name, it’s clear that they were mirroring modern politics with this year’s lofty Shakespeare feat.
Not surprisingly, when word got out about the faux-Trump stabbing that’s was going on in Central Park’s Shakespeare festival, it riled the feathers of many a right-wing activist. The show, which ended on June 18, was suddenly plagued with in-person protesters, high-profile sponsors pulled their money and support, and critics across the nation accused the show of “promoting violence.”
Even so, as the old adage goes, “the show must go on.” And it did, completing every scheduled performance despite the right-wing outrage that included boycott demands, accusations of stoking hate, hate mail and a clear lack of understanding of what Shakespeare was trying to say with his iconic and legendary work, Julius Caesar.
However, as Heat Street reports, the New York Public Theater wasn’t the only theater company to become inundated with threats and hate mail as retribution for the anti-Trump Julius Caesar. Indeed, confused right-wing activists have taken to targeting Shakespeare companies across America simply because they boast the name of history’s most renowned and recognized playwright: William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts has reportedly been bombarded with hateful mail and email, phone calls and social media attacks. Discombobulated right-wing protesters have apparently confused the theater company as one with ties to the Central Park show. According to a statement from the company, they have received dozens of messages including at least one probable death threat.
That letter told Shakespeare & Company associates that the writer wished they would have “the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die.”
@Delta STOP sponsorship of Shakespeare in the Park, depiction of assassination of Trump. You should be ashamed. SILENT MAJORITY IS COMING!!
— Jim Cahill MS (@cahilljim12) June 11, 2017
Hey cast of "Shakespeare in the Park" you should take your show to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and behead their leader! Result would be funny!
— Lori Hendry (@Lrihendry) June 12, 2017
Have plans to see "Julius Caesar" (Shakespeare-in-the-Park) in thrilled defiance of ignorant would-be censors (Faux News, Delta airlines).
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) June 12, 2017
Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park is some of the finest theatre you will ever see.
— Jeff Heimbrock (@jheimbrock) June 10, 2017
In the Western United States, Texas’ Shakespeare Dallas theater company has received nearly 100 complaints and hate messages using a variety of communication mediums. Several of the right-wing complaints included threats wishing death and even rape on the Shakespeare company’s actors and staff.
In one letter, the writer wished for company members to be “sent to ISIS to be killed with real knives.”
“It’s pretty amazing the vitriol, the wishing we would die and our family would die. A whole lot of them say that we should burn in hell.”
While the Shakespeare in the Park adaptation of Julius Caesar ran from late May to June 18, following the violent shooting attack in Alexandria last week in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others were shot, right-wing threats against Shakespeare companies in the New York and Washington, DC areas saw a massive uptick in threats and complaints.
Two Pro Trump protesters thrown out "Shakespeare in the Park"
Remember all those removed from "Hamilton" for booing Pence?…"Me Neither"‼️ pic.twitter.com/C3fBpBdUJM
— John T Dolan (@JohnTDolan) June 17, 2017
Many right-wing critics accused the Shakespeare (and other) theatrical companies of inciting and enabling violence against Trump and other politicians by way of the the Shakespeare in the Park Julius Caesar offering. The problem? The vast, vast majority of theater companies harassed and threatened had nothing to do with the production.
While this year’s adaptation of Julius Caesar is getting a lot of attention, it is certainly not unique for the play to be adapted to modern times and political situations. Past adaptations have included depictions of many U.S. presidents being stabbed, including John F. Kennedy (who was actually assassinated) and Barack Obama.
For some reason, however, the pantomimed stabbing of a fake Donald Trump has wadded a lot of knickers, and response to this year’s NYC Shakespeare in the Park adaptation has been vicious and widespread. But why lash out at Shakespeare companies with absolutely no connection with the show in question?
According to some, it boils down to the sheer ignorance of the right-wing activists perpetuating their nationwide campaign against Shakespeare.
“First of all, they clearly are not people who have seen the show or been to our theater. I’m assuming that some letter’s gone out to a lot of people, and people got confused and decided to write to different Shakespeare theaters.”
What are your thoughts regarding the hate speech and threats of violence facing Shakespeare theater companies across the nation? Is it an appropriate response to a perceived threat of violence against a sitting POTUS? Have right-wing activists completely misconstrued the meaning of Julius Caesar and misplaced their anger entirely? Why didn’t they complain when it was a mock Obama being stabbed? Let us know in the comments below?
[Featured Image by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater/AP Photo]