Who’s Your Daddy? Playing Caesar in Bag&Baggage’s World Premiere Adaptation

Robert F. Fleissner, a Shakespeare scholar and historian, writes, “One of the most intriguing points in the tragedy of Julius Caesar involves the possibility that Shakespeare considered Brutus as Julius Caesar’s bastard son. Shakespeare was definitely acquainted with the well-known historical rumor to this effect…”

These are exactly the kinds of influences that Bag&Baggage loves to explore! Many of us think we know Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar from having studied it in school, but the 2013 outdoor production of Caesar by Bag&Baggage will be unlike any version you have ever seen…in part because we have included the influence of this historical rumor into our production. As you can imagine, thinking about Brutus as Caesar’s illegitimate son can have a profound impact on the portrayal of both Caesar and Brutus!

Here’s Cyndi Rhoads, who plays Julius Caesar, discussing her process and approach to the character in OUR unique script!

Cyndi-RhoadsNot Shakespeare’s Caesar: What Our Script Tells Us About Julius.

The name  “Julius Caesar…” Cassius has a line in the play: “What should be in that ‘Caesar’? Why should that name be sounded more than yours?” Yet, Caesar’s name has lived on through the ages.  The archetype of Caesar is formidable, controlling and disciplined.  In traditional Shakespeare, Caesar has often been portrayed as weak, past his prime, and clueless to the conspiracies around him.

In our production, Caesar is more complex, and not just a back-drop to Brutus’ musings.  Caesar’s opening speech in our version was written by Thomas Kyd, one of the more important writers in the development of Elizabethan drama. Kyd brings us the flavor of a passionate Caesar.  As with any human being, people don’t often do what we expect.  This is borne out by a number of historical sources where Caesar would “burst into tears” when confronted with his own humanity. Plutarch says when Caesar read about Alexander’s life, he burst into tears and Caesar is said to have burst into tears at the sight of the head of his rival and former friend, Pompey.

Colley Cibber gives us a more personal glimpse at Caesar.  Although not as charming as Antony, Caesar must have been warm and even jovial with those he trusted and were loyal to him.  Cibber continues the picture of an emotional Caesar when he grieves over the “innocent involved in ruins.” To Cibber, Caesar did indeed love Rome and wanted peace – as long as his authority to enforce that peace was not challenged.  “While Earth contains a Rome that presumes, with means coersive to reduce my powers, all thoughts of peace are but inglorious dreams.”

Which brings us to Brutus.  Was Brutus Caesar’s child?  If the answer is yes, then Caesar with his large feelings would have felt a great deal of pride and tenderness towards Brutus.  Public knowledge of their relationship might have been known but not acknowledged.  The otherwise unabashed Caesar would have had to uncharacteristically have kept in check his strong feelings. Thus Antony accuses Brutus of a personal and not political betrayal with “the most unkindest cut of all.”

Cyndi Rhoads