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After controversial ‘Julius Caesar,’ when does political commentary in art go too far?




People arrive for the opening night of Shakespeare in the Park's production of Julius Caesar at Central Park's Delacorte Theater on June 12, 2017 in New York.
People arrive for the opening night of Shakespeare in the Park's production of Julius Caesar at Central Park's Delacorte Theater on June 12, 2017 in New York.
BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

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In the New York Public Theater’s latest production of “Julius Caesar,” the titular character is styled as a caricature of President Trump – and the murderous climactic scene, which leaked before the play opened, has angered the president’s supporters.

Advertisers have pulled back or distanced themselves from the play, as well as the Public, while artists and Shakespeare scholars have defended the staging, saying that art should not be muzzled, and that the play itself is a condemnation of political violence.

Shakespeare, and “Julius Caesar” in particular, have long been a vehicle for artists to critique those in power. Is this latest iteration all provocation without political substance? Can art offer a rigorous critique of politics? Is this violent imagery dangerous in our hyper-partisan landscape or justified by the play’s ultimate message?

Guest host Libby Denkmann in for Larry Mantle

Guest:

Bob Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University