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AV Bi-weekly : The drama is old, but still relevant

【明報專訊】Behold, Shakespeare fans, young and old! Thou shalt not miss the dramatist's Julius Caesar produced by National Theatre Live mid January in Hong Kong, with its heroes and foes.

The gripping historical drama is staged in style — modernly dressed, and a strong cast engaging standing audience on a sleek, shifting set. Interpreting the major characters on the rising and descending platforms are acclaimed actors and actresses Ben Whishaw, whose works include The Danish Girl, Michelle Fairley, David Morrissey, and David Calder. For movie viewers, it is exciting to feel for the standing spectators who immerse themselves as the plebeians, shaking hands with the triumphant Caesar, shouting slogans and being thrown into chaos as tension escalates.

The play opens with a rock concert celebrating the home-coming of Julius Caesar (David Calder) — a nobleman, an army leader, and governor of the grand Roman Empire. In no time do we learn about the menace of this hero because he is about to become a dictator for the rest of his life. Brutus (Ben Whishaw), Caesar's best friend and an idealist, is lured into the assassination of Julius Caesar by Cassius (Michelle Fairley), a scheming conspirator. With the death of the three characters, among others, Shakespeare invites a complex analysis of their heroic and villainous nature.

Julius Caesar tells a profound tragedy which keeps recurring throughout history. In our city, we see Brutuses, Cassiuses in various pro-democracy camps. The former stay steadfast to their political ideologies but lack strategies, while the latter have the strength of making things happen. We also see Julius Caesar near and far — political leaders who desire "to soar above the view of men, And keep us all in servile fearfulness".

Coexisting with the two kinds, Antony (David Morrissey) is often the most "accomplishing" type — the devious opportunists. However, the saddest fact is that many civilians behave like the plebeians, regardless of their education level, as they can be easily fooled, falling prey to certain politicians. Shakespeare, indeed, belongs in the past and the present.

■Glossary

foe 仇敵

plebeian 平民百姓

triumphant 大獲全勝的

menace 威脅

scheming 詭計多端的

conspirator 密謀者

villainous 邪惡的

servile 奴隸的

devious 狡詐的

■Quiz

True/False/Not Given (NG)

1.Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is based on historical facts.

2.Brutus has betrayed Julius Caesar as well as his own beliefs.

3.Julius Caesar is very superstitious.

4.Find a word from paragraph 2 which can replace the word underlined:

At the opening of the play, the commoners march in celebration of Julius Caesar's victory.

by Venny Lai, a former Language Instructor at the PolyU and an experienced teacher of English Language and Literature

Audio: link.mingpao.com/14262.htm

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