Julius Caesar

Fast Facts

  • In 44BCE Caesar was named Dictator for Life (dictator perpetuo) of Rome. This gave him sweeping, but not unlimited powers. If he had been given unlimited powers he would have been the first Roman king in 465 years.
  • In November of 1864 the actor John Wilkes Booth played Mark Antony alongside his brothers Edwin (Brutus) and Junius Brutus Jr (Cassius) in a production of Julius Caesar in New York. The show was a fundraiser to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth with a statue in Central Park. Five months later, Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. In his final diary entry after the assassination, Booth wrote: “After being hunted like a dog… with every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why? For doing what Brutus was honoured for.” The statue of Shakespeare still stands.
  • Orson Welles’ 1937 production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre in New York is the subject of the 2009 film Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron and Claire Danes.
Julius Caesar Me and Orson Welles
Julius Caesar Me and Orson Welles 2
  • When Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner on Robben Island, he and his fellow inmates would pass around a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, highlighting their favourite passages. The book was referred to as the ‘Robben Island Bible.’ In December 1977, Mandela marked the following lines from Act 2, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar:

    Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.

    During his trial in 1964, Mandela had declared that the cause of racial harmony and equality was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
  • Some theatre companies choose to depict the character of Julius Caesar as a real-world figure. One recent, controversial example was the Public Theater’s 2017 production in New York in which Caesar was portrayed as a Donald Trump-esque figure. This decision was met with some outrage and resulted in protestors interrupting performances as well as cancelled sponsorships. Despite this, the production completed its intended run of performances.