What I learned in Julius Caesar

“I have spent this week rehearsing for an amateur, seat-of-our-pants production of “Julius Caesar” (planned before the Shakespeare in the Park controversy). Our cast of eight is putting together the show over five nights of three-hour rehearsals squeezed in after work each day. […] It is not the ideal way to prepare a professional production (though it does resemble the methods of Shakespeare’s actors, who each had only cue scripts, not complete texts), but it has a breathlessness to it that feels particularly apt for this play. Conspirators, soldiers and plebeians alike are constantly overtaken by events; their only moments of silence are sickly, not peaceful.


The frenetic activity of my parts in our way-off-Broadway production feels rooted in acedia, one of the seven deadly sins. Acedia is frequently rendered in English as “sloth” but can also be understood as “sorrow.” In the adult Sunday school at my church, the Dominican friars taught us that St. Thomas Aquinas contrasted acedia with vainglory or pride. In vainglory, we love ourselves too much, letting that love eclipse our love of God and others. In acedia, we fail to love the world but do not turn our love to any other object either. Aquinas sees acedia as the source of not only of faintheartedness but spite (a sour-grapes-style downgrading of the thing we ought to love) and distraction (filling our lives with busyness to keep us from having the leisure to love as we ought).

Something of that restlessness seems to have motivated the Public Theater’s staging. Rather than anchoring the production in Shakespeare’s text, the play went chasing the current zeitgeist, the same way Twitter erupted in “covfefe” memes after President Trump’s famous typo. Being quick to retweet and to riff does not make us rightly responsive; it can be a way to outrun our responsibilities.”

Read more at America