Thursday, 9 May 2019
Face to face with Caesar
In our town there is a pedestrianised street to allow people to shop and sight-see away from any vehicles and cycles. The area, a street about a mile long, is blocked at both ends by bollards to stop any vehicles from entering.
I was there the other day and noticed that they had erected a small stage in the middle of the wide street and a few amateur dramatic actors were performing Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra; or bits of it, as an advert for their performance at the theatre nearby.
A small crowd had gathered to watch and I joined them.
The man playing Octavius Caesar recognised me. To be fair, I'd recognised him too, although not by name. I'd seen him a few times in the library lecturing about Shakespeare and he's been in the newspapers often about his various roles as a Shakespearean amateur dramatics actor. We never actually met or spoke but somehow he seemed to recognise me more than I was aware of.
He got off the stage and started shouting at me: "You're the man who keeps writing those silly Shakespearian stories full of inaccuracies!"
I said nothing. The crowd was astounded. He came towards me and continued.
"You confuse people with all your stories, and lesser learned people will believe all the nonsense that you write. History is history and it should be related accurately. You tend to humourise the whole thing with your articles."
I slowly backed off trying to walk away. He followed me and continued as the crowd looked on. They probably thought it was all part of the acting.
"We take great care when we perform our Shakespearean plays," he declared, "the narrative as well as the costumes are very accurate and authentic. This toga I am wearing is authentic and made exactly as the Roman emperors would have worn it. Yet you spoil it all with all your silly history lessons and your jokes. You're a disgrace to historians everywhere!"
I smiled feebly, almost apologetically, and said nothing. The crowd grew interested and kept watching. Octavius Caesar was furious.
"What steps are you going to take to remedy the situation?" he asked.
"Large ones away from you," I thought but did not utter a word.
I started to walk away hurriedly. He followed me still ranting and raving. I walked a bit faster. So did he. I began to trot, or was it a gallop? He continued after me faster. Some of the crowd followed still thinking this was all part of the acting.
As I began to run, (or walk rather hurriedly), I noticed that he must have stepped on the edge of his toga which was made of several bed sheets wrapped together around him. Somehow they all became undone and fell to the ground like dried leaves off trees in Autumn, revealing that he was wearing absolutely nothing else underneath. Really Roman authentic!
Is that really how the Romans dressed? Wrapped in a few sheets with no underwear underneath?
Anyway, there was Caesar with absolutely nothing on. Naked as the day he was born. The Roman Emperor had no clothes.
As he bent down naked to gather bits of torn sheets from the ground he was joined by Cleopatra who helped cover his Roman Empire with her hands.
At this point the crowd applauded in unison, no doubt still believing this was all part of the act.
I learnt from the newspapers later that the performance at the theatre was totally sold-out within minutes. Perhaps people had enjoyed our little advert and believed that it was a taster of what the show was like.