The Plays “Julius Caesar” by Shakespeare and “Equivocation” by Bill Cain
The two plays Julius Caesar by Shakespeare and Equivocation by Bill Cain are contrasting pieces that follow unmatching plot lines. However, the two are similar in the sense that they try to modernize the stories from a distant past to fit their respective era better. They follow conspiracies taking place behind the political rivals of the ruling parties. Equivocation delves into the philosophical depth of truths; it follows the story of alternate Shakespeare with a slightly different name – Shagspeare and his entanglement with writing a play about the Gunpowder Plot. On the other hand, Julius Caesar closely follows the conspirators behind Caesar’s assassination – Brutus and Cassius. Although the similarities of both plays are apparent in the exploration of truth, the approaches taken by the authors are distant from each other. Cain explores equivocation in its entirety and its use in human relationships and national policy, while Shakespeare explores the difficulty of allegiance and reveals the dark nature of humans.
The Dark Nature of People
In the play by Shakespeare, the story begins with the triumphant return of Caesar from the war, which triggers the indigenous nature of his retainers and forces the sprouts of envy to reveal themselves. Caesar’s senators Cassius and Brutus, after the celebration, are concerned with the first’s abuse of authority (Taylor, 1973). Although Brutus is hesitant to join the assassination, he is convinced by the forged letters of Cassius’ subordinates that describe the support of the ploy by the Roman people (Taylor, 1973). Thus, Caesar, ignoring the signs foretold by his wife and soothsayer, attends the Senate, where he is approached by the fake petition of conspirators and stabbed by his close aides (Taylor, 1973). The conspirators made it apparent that they killed for the welfare of Rome in order to prevent the tyrant from taking power. They demonstrate this by refusing to depart from the scene. These parts of the play demonstrate how shallow a friendship can be and how narrow-minded the people, driven by envy areas, want to cease the power by any means. This is the brutal reality of Shakespeare’s play that is followed until the end.
The Distortion of Truth
In the following scenes, it is possible to see how the notion of truth and the crowd that determines it is easily manipulated. For the time being, the crowd is on Brutus’ side as he makes an oration justifying his own deeds. However, Antony, Caesar’s general, starts to criticize the assailants’ deeds and delivers a speech to convince the crowd of the injustice. He does it by reminding the public about the benevolence of Caesar and his refusal to take the crowned position at the Lupercal hence casting doubt on Brutus’ claims about the insatiable ambition of Caesar (Taylor, 1973). He displays Caesar’s bloodied, lifeless body to the audience in order to generate tears and pity for their fallen hero and then reads Caesar’s will, which promised certain wealth to the citizens of the Empire (Taylor, 1973). Consequently, the public is swayed by emotions and attempts to drive the killers from the country. However, it demonstrates how shallow public prosecution is and that people are generally driven by their emotions, not reason and rational judgment.
In addition, in the pursuit of conspirators, the people of Rome kill an innocent man, which further intensifies the weakness of truth in front of emotions. During the chaos, the innocent poet named Cinna is mistaken for the conspirator Lucius Cinna and is kidnapped by the crowd that murders him for “offenses,” which include his poor poetry. The life of an innocent man is crushed by the opinion of the public without judgment and contributes to the argument that in Shakespeare’s play, the truth has no value.
In contrast, the play of Cain expresses the difficulty of delivering objective truth to the public via the means of theatre and explores the moral dilemma behind the production of the truth and lies. Shagspeare is commissioned to write about the recent plot to assassinate the King, which he wants to reject but is threatened to accept by the King’s henchman, Cecil (Hall, 2011). The story behind the Gunpowder conspiracy remains elusive, especially the one told from Cecil’s perspective, which drives Shagspeare into the search for clarity (Hall, 2011). If this is an unrealistic goal, he should learn to negotiate the truth via equivocation that Garnet (one of the alleged conspirators) characterizes as delivering the truth necessary to maintain an authentic self in politically dangerous period (Hall, 2011). He also interviews alleged perpetrators of the conspiracy, but the reality remains evasive. The play is nevertheless delivered in the perspective that pleases the King but leaves Shagspeare in moral disdain.
Inspiration for the Search
The screen by Cain is distinctly different and similar to Shakespeare’s work. Instead of the crowd that judges the righteous deeds, in Cain’s play, the authority remains in the hands of the monarchy, and it dictates the truth to be told. The play revolves around the lies and truths behind the Plot, but the audience does not receive a clear answer of what truly unfolded during the event. Consequently, the impression left behind in the script is that, similar to Julius Caesar, equivocation inspires people to objectively evaluate the truth and decide what actions they should take.
In conclusion, the two stories approach the notion of how truth is distinguished via different routes. Shakespeare portrays that the public decides what is truth but can be easily swayed and exploited by individuals. On the other hand, Cain demonstrates that truth can be concealed by equivocation and lies, and only the authority of the government or rulers may decide what is to be interpreted as fact.
Hall, J. L. (2011). Bill Cain’s Equivocation: How ‘truth must be lived.’ Contemporary Theatre Review, 21(2), 201–212.
Taylor, M. (1973). Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the irony of history. Shakespeare Quarterly, 24(3), 301–308.