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Shakespeare: For All Time?

Updated Thursday, 22nd June 2017

A current production of Julius Caesar is causing controversy in the USA for allegedly depicting Donald Trump's murder, but what does this tell us about the nature of Shakespeare's plays?

Shakespeare is currently causing controversy in the United States. The New York Public Theater’s modern-dress production of Julius Caesar, staged in Central Park, features a Caesar who wears a red tie and an orange wig. The apparent parallels with Donald Trump have caused outrage in conservative media. A Fox News report on the production was entitled “Shakespeare in Park Depicts President’s Murder.” As a result of the controversy, some of the Public Theater’s commercial sponsorship deals have fallen through. Multiple theatre companies in the US with “Shakespeare” in their name have reported receiving death threats and hate mail as media attention has intensified.

What this controversy illustrates is the uncanny ability of Shakespeare’s works to remain in our public consciousness even 400 years after Shakespeare’s death. They retain their ability to shock and provoke us. Writing in 1623, Shakespeare’s playwright colleague Ben Jonson described him as “not of an age but for all time,” and the subsequent performance histories of his plays seem to confirm Jonson’s prediction. In 2016, The Open University co-produced a series of short films with BBC World TV entitled “Living Shakespeare,” which explore Shakespeare’s relevance today and across the globe. You can watch them in the content menu below.

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