Cassius: Did Cicero say anything?
Casca: Ay, she spoke Greek.
Cassius: To what effect?
Casca: Nay, an I tell you that, I’ll ne’er look you i’th’face again. But those that understood her smiled at one another, and shook their heads. But for mine own part, it was Greek to me.William Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2
Greek to me.
After three months of working, I’ve finished the draft of the gender-reversed adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that I’ll be directing throughout October and November. (We open in December! If you’re in Colorado Springs, you need to come see this!)
And let me tell you this about adapting the Bard-His-Own-Self…
It’s intimidating. For a couple reasons.
First, the reputation: I mean, here’s a guy who has dominated the world stage, hundreds of thousands of English lessons, and is quoted daily. You probably said something he wrote at some point today — maybe you realized you quoted him, maybe you didn’t, but I would bet any amount of money in your pocket that there was something.
Second, the language itself: Say what you will about Shakespeare. The boy could write. There’s rhythm and vocabulary and plot structure. It’s kinda like fluent Greek and then me: speaking elementary Greek. Reading the Dr. Seuss of Greek, not the — um — Shakespeare of Greek.
So what kind of cocky, arrogant, ignorant ignoramus jumps into one of Shakespeare’s best known, most performed plays, and then just…”adapts it?”
*Raises hand slowly*
That’s me. I did it.
And not only did I swap the genders around (more on that in a later post). The Bard probably wouldn’t recognize Act V much (more on that in a later post). He’d wonder why so many conspirators were alive (and then die later). He would probably be curious about the dancing…but, then, he’s a theatre guy, so he’d probably roll with the dancing. Maybe he’d be irritated at how I reconfigured the Soothsayer.
I admit. I was hesitant at first. Mostly, I said to myself, “Self, we’re just going to swap the genders, keep as much of the meter as we can while we do that, and then make some judicious cuts. That’s all, Self.”
As I dug deeper into the text though, I kept thinking: “Self, it’d be cooler if this happened, then there can be a visual representation of XYZ. And if we move this character here, it solidifies ABC.”
So I made the changes. Then myself was like: “SELF! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“WHAT WOULD SHAKESPEARE DO?!”
(Which is kind of dumb question to ask yourself, because we know what Shakespeare would do. He did it. I was in the midst of fucking it up as I asked myself that very question.)
Ironically enough, it was thinking about “What would Shakespeare do?” that gave me the creative freedom to cut and rearrange and reassemble.
Because Shakespeare fucking stole everything, rearranged it, reassembled, and cut and pasted. If Shakespeare were right beside me in the office chair, he would have done the same damn thing. Probably with more blood. He was an “upstart crow, beautified with our feathers.” (“Our” being other playwrights of the time period — meaning he stole their shit.)
Over the next couple weeks, I will explain my actions. In the meantime, I say that we all take a deep breath…and think about what else we can steal.
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.