Event Title

“When Caesar says ‘Do this,’ it is perform’d”: Political Metadrama in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign

Faculty Mentor

Matthew Fike

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Location

DIGS 222

Start Date

20-4-2018 3:00 PM

Description

Previous criticism of Julius Caesar has observed that Shakespeare uses metatheatrical strategies to comment on the performative nature of politics; however, scholars tend to present the play as either politically radical or politically ambiguous. Naomi Conn Liebler and Jack D’Amico both offer radical interpretations of Julius Caesar, whereas Richard A. Burt argues that the play’s political message depends entirely “on the way that play is received and articulated”. Interestingly, contradictory readings these and other scholars have about the political identity of the play parallel the media’s fluctuating responses to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Furthermore, Julius Caesar is a play about a political outsider and his friends attempting to overthrow the establishment through radical means, but it uses metatheatrical strategies in order to give the audience the cathartic experience of vicariously murdering an authority figure while reinforcing the desirable stability of a monarchal government. Similarly, by calling attention to and mocking the performative nature of American politics and ostensibly empowering his audience with knowledge of the political system, Trump garnered trust while using the very strategies he mocked to create the appearance of credibility. The metatheatrical correlations between Julius Caesar and the Trump campaign indicate a political cycle in Western culture wherein the governed tolerate their political establishment until the inability of establishment figures to accomplish anything on behalf of constituents incites a desire for revolution. When this revolution ultimately fails because the new authority figure(s) are unprepared to lead, the public returns to the more stable establishment.

Course Assignment

ENGL 305 – Fike

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Apr 20th, 3:00 PM

“When Caesar says ‘Do this,’ it is perform’d”: Political Metadrama in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign

DIGS 222

Previous criticism of Julius Caesar has observed that Shakespeare uses metatheatrical strategies to comment on the performative nature of politics; however, scholars tend to present the play as either politically radical or politically ambiguous. Naomi Conn Liebler and Jack D’Amico both offer radical interpretations of Julius Caesar, whereas Richard A. Burt argues that the play’s political message depends entirely “on the way that play is received and articulated”. Interestingly, contradictory readings these and other scholars have about the political identity of the play parallel the media’s fluctuating responses to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Furthermore, Julius Caesar is a play about a political outsider and his friends attempting to overthrow the establishment through radical means, but it uses metatheatrical strategies in order to give the audience the cathartic experience of vicariously murdering an authority figure while reinforcing the desirable stability of a monarchal government. Similarly, by calling attention to and mocking the performative nature of American politics and ostensibly empowering his audience with knowledge of the political system, Trump garnered trust while using the very strategies he mocked to create the appearance of credibility. The metatheatrical correlations between Julius Caesar and the Trump campaign indicate a political cycle in Western culture wherein the governed tolerate their political establishment until the inability of establishment figures to accomplish anything on behalf of constituents incites a desire for revolution. When this revolution ultimately fails because the new authority figure(s) are unprepared to lead, the public returns to the more stable establishment.