Trump as Caesar

How the Public Theater's controversial adaptation of Shakespeare's drama captures the desperation and despair of the Trump presidency

An illustration of Caesar's assassination
(Image credit: Edward Gooch/Getty Images)

In 2012, the Acting Company and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis mounted a production of Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar set in the (then) present day, with an African-American actor playing Caesar in a manner clearly intended to evoke President Barack Obama, and the conspirators clearly intended to recall leading Republican legislators like Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell. Now, for a few days, in the face of conservative outrage and the abandonment by key corporate sponsors, New Yorkers can go to Central Park to see the Public Theater's production of that same Roman tragedy, this time with an even more on-the-nose stand-in for President Donald Trump as the titular would-be dictator.

You probably think I'm going to point out the hypocrisy of the outrage that has greeted the current production versus the indifference (far more typical for the theater) with which the production from five years ago was met. Or perhaps you think I'm going to do the opposite, and point out that with the victims of a politically-motivated mass shooting in Arlington still being treated for their wounds, now is emphatically not the time to be play-acting the murder of the president.

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Noah Millman

Noah Millman is a screenwriter and filmmaker, a political columnist and a critic. From 2012 through 2017 he was a senior editor and featured blogger at The American Conservative. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Politico, USA Today, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Modern Age, First Things, and the Jewish Review of Books, among other publications. Noah lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.