Tonight I saw a great performance of Julius Caesar at Atlanta’s Shakespeare Tavern, which never fails to impress me with quality acting, great direction, and original humor and interpretations.
This was the first Shakespeare play I ever read (gotten out of a No Fear Shakespeare copy while at an Olive Garden restaurant). It was wonderful to see it acted out, and I noticed characterization that I must have missed on the first read-through.
Brutus – who shines as an example of the honorable Roman Republic in Act II – himself falls prey to some egotism in Act I.
Cassius – one of the most clearly corrupt and unlikeable characters in the play – still appears sympathetic and even a bit nobler and more generous in Act II.
Marc Antony goes from being a “rah rah Caesar” hanger-on in Act I to a master manipulator and orator in Act II. And throughout the play (even after his death) Julius Caesar’s character evolves in our judgment
This ambiguity makes Shakespeare a great writer. And it’s the same quality of characterization that makes people love George R.R. Martin’s fiction with the Song of Ice and Fire series, among other great stories.
Reality is more like this fiction than we often appreciate. We all know that it isn’t right to “judge a book by it’s cover” when it comes to forming opinions of people. But that adage may not go far enough. Just as spending a full act of a play with a character may not be enough to really know their complexity, so it may take days, weeks, months, or years to form proper judgements of other people in their complexity.