In this week's blog, Fiona Lindsay talks about how Shakespeare's quotes still live on today...
It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life.
This week we publish Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare and so of course my head immediately jumps to Shakespeare’s play of the same name, although there’s no similarity between the two stories.
The opera picks up the turbulent relationship between Caesar and Cleopatra and the play of the same name focuses on the psychological drama that plays out in the aftermath of Julius Caesar’s death.
Shakespeare’s 1599 Roman drama was written in the same year as Hamlet and As You Like It and experts claim that there is a similar experimentation with vocabulary and metre across all three plays.
Rhetoric takes centre stage in Julius Caesar – the play – and presents a fascinating study of logic and reason. It’s no wonder that lines from the play can be found woven into the fabric of political speeches down the ages. In Julius Caesar we get a sense of an artist really enjoying his craft.
By 1599 Shakespeare was getting into his stride and showboating a bit. He makes a cheeky cultural reference to his own play in another of his new writing of that year. In Hamlet, Prince Hamlet asks Polonius about his acting at University and Polonius replies "I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed at the Capitol. Brutus killed me." This was quite a witty meta joke as the actor Richard Burbage was playing both Brutus and Hamlet and an older actor called John Hemmings was doubled up as Caesar and Polonius.
Fast-forward a few hundred years and some of the best lines from the play are being coined by heavy metal bands (Iron Maiden) and top TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) including Mark Antony’s powerful speech following Caesar’s death. It probes and provokes with lines such as: "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred in their bones." However, we need to look beyond Shakespeare to the Greek playwright Euripides before we start applauding the genius behind the line, the original being: "When good men die their goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried."
There is so much that is quotable and instructive in the play. Listening in on a conversation between two men on the train last week, I heard one say this to the other: "There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Chiltern Railways offers up such interesting commuters. Carpe diem everyone. Carpe diem.
Enjoy the opera and sing your hearts out.