How Hamlet and Julius Caesar reflect our current political climate
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It's undeniable that William Shakespeare is one of the most popular playwrights in history. If you’ve gone through the British education system, it’s likely that you’ve come across one, if not more, of William Shakespeare’s plays. Outside of the classroom, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) reports that over one million people visit the Stratford-upon-Avon theatre each year. In the United States, ‘Shakespeare in the Park’, which is performed in Central Park’s open-air Delacorte Theater, also remains popular, with a reported 80,000 people attending each year. But why does Shakespeare remain so popular? One might argue that Shakespeare was phenomenal with his use of language and theatrics and that he was arguably the most popular playwright of his time. However, there might be other reasons for why he remains so popular; namely, his plays' enduring political themes. It is undeniable that the current political landscape is rather rocky and tense. In Britain, the Conservative Party have just confirmed a deal with the DUP, known for their anti-abortion and discriminating policies. The UK is also set to leave the EU, something which has arguably divided our nation for over a year now. In the US, President Donald Trump continues to cause havoc through his unrestricted use of Twitter and his hostility towards certain media outlets. Elsewhere in the world, such as the middle east, political conflict and civil war rage on. But how does this link to Shakespeare? Many of Shakespeare’s plays feature some sort of political issue, especially his histories and the tragedies. Shakespeare sure loved to put a political travesty at the heart of his plays. Take Hamlet, for instance. A King is killed by his brother, who then immediately takes his place in both political and familial worlds. Pushed by his ghostly father, Hamlet takes murderous revenge on those he blames for his father’s death, namely his uncle and mother. Recently, The National Student reviewed a University of Birmingham production of Hamlet at the Cresent Theatre. Katie Paterson, the director of the play, spoke to The National Student about her choice of direction for the performance, linking the tragedy to the American political climate. ‘‘I was thinking about Gertrude. She's just like Melania Trump - this woman is sexualized and is made into a doll and you have no idea what she thinks about anything. She reminded me very much of Gertrude. In Hamlet, you have a sleazy leader and this enigmatic woman figure.” Furthermore, Paterson sees Hamlet as a left wing student-like figure: “Hamlet is a
whiney intellectual student with a very left wing attitude and doesn’t really know what to do. He doesn’t understand how this man is in power.
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