Friday, February 1, 2019

Slices from Shakespeare—Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar—Taken Straight, Clarified, and with a Twist of Humor

Slices from Shakespeare
Scenes from:
* The Merchant of Venice
* Romeo and Juliet
* Julius Caesar

Presented for free at Fellowship Christian Academy
in Methuen, MA on January 23, 2010,
high school and middle school students performing.

Taken straight, clarified—and with a twist of humor!

The Cast and Crew

The Merchant of Venice
  1. The Narrator, very intelligent but sassy (7 lines)
  2. The Duke, the man with the power of life and death in Venice (13 lines)
  3. Salerio, the Duke’s assistant (2 lines)
  4. The Legal Clerk, reads out loud the official correspondence (1 line)
  5. Antonio, the Merchant of Venice, dim and pitiable but likeable (9 lines)
  6. Shylock, Antonio’s Jewish adversary, who is bent on revenge (19 lines)
  7. Bassanio, Antonio’s warm-hearted friend (10 lines)
  8. Gratiano, Antonio’s hot-headed friend (10 lines)
  9. Nerissa, Gratiano’s wife in legal masculine disguise (3 lines)
  10. Portia, Bassanio’s wife in legal masculine disguise (19 lines)

1st Intermission: 15 minutes long
Romeo and Juliet
  1. The Narrator (6 lines)
  2. The Game-Show Host of The Dating Game (1 line)
  3. Rosalind, very beautiful (gestures only)
  4. Mystery Girl, very expressive (gestures only)
  5. Juliet, sweet, sincere, and reflective (22 lines)
  6. Romeo, impulsive and stealthy but sweet and sincere (20 lines)
  7. Juliet’s Nurse, ranges from sickly sweet to witchy (voice only)

2nd Intermission:  15 minutes long
Julius Caesar
  1. The Narrator, who represents Marc Antony at the end (7 lines)
  2. Caesar, wise, noble, and adored by most of his people (24 lines)
  3. Calpurnia, Caesar’s noble and beloved wife (7 lines)
  4. The Soothsayer, wild and mysterious but with good intentions (8 lines)
  5. Cassius, the jealous mastermind of the plot to assassinate Caesar (13 lines)
  6. Brutus, well respected but seduced to evil by Cassius, his relative (17 lines)
  7. Portia, Brutus’s noble and beloved wife, and Cassius’ sister (9 lines)
  8. Lucius the Servant, of the house of Brutus (2 lines)
  9. Senator Publius, a friend of Caesar’s who doesn’t trust Cassius (1 line)
  10. Artemidorous, a friend of Caesar’s who tries to warn him (3 lines)
  11. Decius, a quick-thinking assassin (5 lines)
  12. Metellus, an assassin who sets up Caesar (1 line)
  13. Trebonius, another assassin eager for the kill (1 line)
  14. Cinna, a loud assassin who attempts to sway the crowd (2 lines)
  15. Casca, a rude fellow who agrees to give the high sign (1 line)
 The Crew
  1. Director
  2. Sound Technicians
  3. Photographer and Videographer
  4. Hairstyle and Makeup Artists
  5. Stage Helpers
  6. Curtain Person
  7. Spotlight Operators
  8. Sign Girls and Dressers
  9. Mural Artist
  10. Prop Master and Costumer

The Duke is perched on a throne-like seat of judgment.  Standing around him are Antonio, Salerio, Bassanio, Gratiano, and the Clerk.  Two upholstered chairs are to the side, occupied by the Clerk and Gratiano, who speak later than the others.  When the narrator walks onstage, the actors freeze in place.

THE NARRATOR:  According to the Holy Bible, “You sow what you reap.”  A new millennium way of saying that is, “What goes around comes around” or “Back at ya, Pal!”  The bad guy in The Merchant of Venice is Shylock the Jew, a name always uttered with contempt, as in “Shylock, the Jew!”  Now, make no mistake:  It is wrong to treat Jewish people with contempt, but let me help you understand where Shakespeare was coming from.  His day was trying to break free from some of the worst notions of the medieval era.  One of them was the crazy idea that Jews and Muslims should be converted to Christianity by force.  Now saintly people who knew the Holy Scriptures said NO to this; that logical persuasion is the only appropriate way to try to convert someone, but their voices were drowned out by religious fanatics—and by people who coveted Jewish and Muslim wealth.  Shylock the Jew is a loan shark who has cleverly plotted revenge for the atrocities perpetrated against his people through the centuries at the hands of so-called Christians:  Shylock lends money to a merchant named Antonio on the condition that Antonio forfeits a pound of flesh near his heart if he doesn’t pay back all the money in time.  Poor, dim Antonio assumes his business venture cannot fail, but guess what …?  (Exits.)

THE DUKE:  Is Antonio here?

ANTONIO (looking miserable but trying to be steady):  Ready, so please your Grace.

THE DUKE:  I am sorry for thee, for thou are come to answer a stony adversary, an inhuman wretch incapable of pity—void and empty of one drop of mercy!

ANTONIO (with sincerity):  I have heard your Grace hath taken great pains to modify my opponent’s rigorous cause, but since he stands obdurate—and since no lawful means can carry me out of his reach—my answer to his fury is my patience, and I am armed to suffer with quietness of spirit the very tyranny and rage of his.

THE DUKE (to Salerio):  Go and call the Jew into the court.

SALERIO:  He is ready at the door; he comes, my lord.  (Shylock enters.)

THE DUKE:  Make room, and let him stand before our face.  Shylock, the world thinks—and I think so, too—that you bring your malice to the last hour of act; and then, ’tis thought, you will show mercy.  Where you now exact the penalty—which is a pound of this poor merchant’s flesh—you will not only release the forfeiture, but touched with human gentleness and love, forgive a portion of the principal, glancing an eye of pity upon the poor merchant’s losses that have of late so huddled on his back that they would evoke pity from brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flint—even from stubborn Turks and Tartars never trained to offices of tender courtesy.  (Pauses dramatically, then states with firmness) We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.

SHYLOCK (not at all intimidated):  I have informed your Grace that by the holy Sabbath I have already sworn to have the due and forfeit of my bond (holds up a rolled piece of parchment).  If you deny it, let danger light upon your city’s freedom!  You’ll ask me why I rather choose to have a pound of carrion flesh than to receive 3,000 ducats in payment.  I’ll not answer that, but say it is my humor.  Is it answered?  What if my house is troubled by a rat and I be pleased to give 10,000 ducats to have it poisoned?  Are you answered yet?  I can give no reason other than a fixed hatred and loathing that I bear Antonio.  Are you now answered in knowing why I press my suit?

BASSANIO (a close friend of Antonio’s):  That is no answer, thou unfeeling man, to excuse thy cruelty!

SHYLOCK:  I am not bound to please you with my answers.

BASSANIO:  Do all men kill the things they do not love?

SHYLOCK:  Hates any man the thing he would not kill?

BASSANIO:  Every offense is not a hate at first.

SHYLOCK:  Would you have a serpent sting you first?

GRATIANO (interrupting with outrage and racial contempt):  You yourself are as cold as a serpent!  Are you not human, Jew?!

SHYLOCK:  Hath not a Jew eyes?  Hath not a Jew hands, organs, senses, affections, and passions?  Are we not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?  If you prick us, do we not bleed?  If you tickle us, do we not laugh?  If you poison us, do we not die?  And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

ANTONIO (gently interrupting):  My friends, is it worth your time to argue with this man?  You may as well stand upon the beach and ask the tide not to come in.  You may as well question the wolf why it is hungry for the lamb.  (Resigned to die) Therefore, I beseech you that with suitable brevity and directness you let me have judgment, and Shylock his will.

BASSANIO (to Shylock):  For your 3,000 ducats here is 6,000! (Holds up and shakes his money bag.)

SHYLOCK (steadily implacable):  If the amount were six times that, I would not take it.  Rather, I want my bond fulfilled to the letter.

THE DUKE (taking a different tack with Shylock):  Shylock how shall you hope for mercy from the Almighty, seeing that you render none?

SHYLOCK:  What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?  Many among you have purchased slaves, which you treat like animals.  Shall I say to you, “Let them be free!  Marry them to your heirs?”  Thus do I answer you:  The pound of flesh which I demand is dearly bought; it is mine and I will have it!  If you deny me, fie upon your law!  I demand justice!  Answer me: shall I have it?

THE DUKE (with a sigh of resignation):  Upon my power I may dismiss this court to your will unless Bellario, a learned doctor I have sent for to determine this, arrives soon.

SALERIO (eager for a solution to this mess):  My lord, a messenger with a letter from the doctor has just arrived from Padua!

THE DUKE:  Call in the messenger at once!

BASSANIO:  Be of good cheer, Antonio—have courage, man!  The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones, and all before you lose one drop of yours!

ANTONIO (feeling hopeless):  I feel in my bones I am destined for death:  I am a tainted member of the flock, fit for the slaughterhouse; the weakest kind of fruit drops earliest to the ground, and so let me.  A better use of your time, dear friend, would be to write my epitaph.

THE NARRATOR (all the cast freezes):  Hi again.  Take a good look at the messenger who is about to come in.  He is really a she because sometimes the best man for the job is a … woman!  Her name is Nerissa, the wife of Bassanio’s friend Gratiano. (GRATIANO  waves his hand to say hi to the audience.)  The name of Bassanio’s wife is Portia, and we will soon be seeing her.  In the meantime, know that these two ladies had a feeling their men might need them in disguise to bail out their buddy Antonio.  Exits.

Enter Nerissa dressed like a lawyer’s clerk.

THE DUKE:  Do you speak for Dr. Bellario from Padua?

NERISSA:  I do, my Lord.  Bellario sends your Grace his greetings and this letter.  (Nerissa presents the scroll or letter to the Duke, who takes a few seconds to read it while the following dialogue takes place during the delay.)

BASSANIO (noticing that Shylock is not very discretely sharpening a knife):  Why do you sharpen your knife here?

SHYLOCK:  To cut the forfeiture from that loan defaulter over there (pointing the knife toward the lamentable Antonio).

GRATIANO (rises from his chair in anger):  May that knife fall, not upon the sole of Antonio’s foot, but upon the immortal soul within you, harsh Jew!  You make the edge of your knife keen, but not even the executioner’s ax can bear half the keenness of your malignant hatred!  (Calms himself down and makes this earnest appeal) Can no prayers pierce your soul?

SHYLOCK (coldly):  None that you have wit enough to utter.

GRATIANO (flaring up again, getting almost physical with Shylock):  You detestable dog!  It almost makes me waver in my faith that God has allowed you to live this long!

THE DUKE (interrupting):  Order in the court!  This letter from Dr. Bellario doth commend a young and learned doctor to our court.  While he is fetched hither, my clerk shall read the letter out loud.

THE CLERK (reading crisply and clearly):  “Your Grace shall understand that at the receipt of your letter I am very sick, but in the instant that your messenger came, I was visiting with a dear friend of mine, a young doctor from Rome named Dr. Balthasar. I acquainted him with the cause of controversy between the Jew and the merchant of Venice.  We examined many legal books together.  He comes to you now furnished with my opinion which, bettered with his own learning—which I cannot commend highly enough!—to be at your Grace’s disposal in this matter.  I beseech you, let his young age be of no impediment to the esteem he richly deserves.”  The clerk rolls back up the scroll, hands it to the Duke, and exits.

All freeze and the narrator enters with Portia, who is dressed in a fancy graduation gown to look like a doctor of law.

THE NARRATOR:   Here is “Dr. Balthasar” (making obvious quotation-mark gestures toward the audience).  Don’t let that disguise fool you (should be an absurdly manly getup with fake goatee beard):  this is that Portia I told you about earlier.  She is the wife of Antonio’s best buddy, Bessanio (who unfreezes long enough to wave hi to the audience so they make the connection), ready to lend her hubby a helping hand without his knowing it—wouldn’t want to fracture his male ego now, would we?  Shakespeare seems to have understood everyone—my kind of guy!  By the way, Shakespeare describes Portia as being an excellent woman, similar to the Portia who was the wife of Brutus during the times of Julius Caesar.  You’ll see that Portia in about an hour from now.  In the meantime, Portia, help these poor guys out, will ya?  (Portia shakes her head confidently.)  Good girl!  (The Narrator exits.)

THE DUKE (rising slightly from his throne):  Give me your hand, doctor. (They shake hands.)  You are most welcome here.  Antonio and old Shylock both stand here, awaiting your wisdom.

PORTIA (addressing Shylock in a curt, businesslike manor):  Of a bizarre nature is this suit you insist on pressing, but it stands within the bounds of Venetian law.  (Addressing Antonio in a similar fashion):  You stand within his power to harm you, do you not?

ANTONIO (increasingly dejected):  Aye, so he says.

PORTIA:  Do you confess the debt you owe?


PORTIA (in a matter-of-fact tone):  Then obviously the Jew must show mercy.

SHYLOCK:  On what compulsion must I?  Tell me that.

PORTIA (slowly, thoughtfully, in a logical presentation that increasingly demonstrates a woman’s sweet persuasiveness to the discerning audience): 
The quality of mercy is not strained—it comes not with compulsion; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven above.
It is twice blest:  it blesses him who gives and him who takes.
’Tis a quality mightiest in the mighty; it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown, whose scepter shows the force of temporal power—the tribute to awe and majesty.
But mercy is above this scept’red sway: it is enthroned in the hearts of great kings, and is an attribute of God Himself.  Therefore, Shylock, though justice be thy plea, consider this:  if God treated us only with justice and no mercy, none of us would see salvation.  Christians and Jews alike pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render deeds of mercy.

SHYLOCK (with something in his tone and gestures that suggests Portia is getting to him so he desperately tries to stick to his original plan):  My deeds upon my head!  I crave the law and the penalty I’m entitled to!

PORTIA (sweeter still):  Is he not able to repay your money in full?

BASSANIO (not being able to wait for Shylock to answer):  Yes—and more than twice as much!  See, I have it here (holds up his bag of coins and opens it for Portia, who peers into it).  I am willing to pay ten times more if necessary!  If this will not suffice, and malice be allowed by law to bear down truth, then do this, I beg you:  bend the law a little by your authority.  (Sounding a bit self righteous by this point) To do a great right, be willing to do a little wrong to curb this cruel devil of his will!

PORTIA (with dignity and gentleness, like a wise mother instructing an erring child):  It must not be.  There is no power in Venice that can alter an established decree.  ’Twill be recorded for a legal precedent, and many an error by the same example will rush into the state.  It cannot be.

SHYLOCK (with sincere admiration):  A Daniel come to judgment!  Yea, a Daniel!  O wise young judge, how I do honor thee!  I never knew so young a body with so old a head!

PORTIA (ignoring the praise, thus earning more admiration):  I pray you, let me look upon the bond.

SHYLOCK (eagerly handing over his parchment):  Here ’tis, most reverend Doctor, here it is.

PORTIA (silent a moment as she unrolls the parchment and looks over the contents):  Shylock, in that bag (pointing to the one Bassanio holds visible) is at least thrice thy money offered thee.

SHYLOCK:  I demand my rights according to the law!

PORTIA:  Then by the law you shall be satisfied.

ANTONIO (more dejected still):  Yes, Shylock will skin me alive, but it is better to get it over with.

The Narrator storms in, looking disgusted with the scene. 
In her hand is a top hat and matching walking stick.

THE NARRATOR (in an evening gown):  Freeze!  Can you believe this?!  Antonio, stop acting like a wimp!  (Waves her hands magically and gives him the top hat and walking stick) I grant you the dance skills of Fred Astaire and comedic voice of John Lithgow! (Antonio puts on the hat and immediately conveys suave confidence and charm.)  Portia, Nerissa, come with me to serve as backup singers.  (Portia and Nerissa take off their robes and other manly garb to reveal stylish evening dresses, long white gloves, and necklaces underneath!)  The three stand together slightly in back and to the right of Antonio.  They hum the tune softly and sway in sync like Diana Ross’s Supremes while Antonio sings, then do their “ooh, ahh, ohh” really loudly to crack up the audience!)  Now, Antonio, do your thing to save your skin from Shylock!

ANTONIO (puts the hat on his head and lip-syncs to John Lithgow’s big-band version of “You’ve Gotta Have Skin” with simple choreography that demonstrates the lyrics)

You’ve gotta have skin; all you really need is skin: (Sways back and forth with his cane planted between his feet for this verse and then moves back and forth for the rest of the song, stopping when acting out a gesture.)

Skin’s the thing that if you’ve got it outside, it helps keep your insides in. (Gestures to his outer form and presses his index finger to his stomach as he takes in a breath.)

It covers your nose and it’s wrapped around your toes, (Touches nose, waves finger in circles down to his toes.)

And inside it you put lemon meringue, and outside you hang your clothes. (Rubs stomach saying ‘yummy’ and pretends to hang something up, all while facing the audience.)

Skin’s the thing you feel at home in … (Wraps his arms around and hugs himself, smirking.)



And without it, furthermore,
Both your liver and abdomen would keep falling on the floor— (Points to both like a nerdy professor giving an anatomy lecture.)

And you’d be dressed in your intestine! (Says YUCK, stamps on the floor like there’s a mess, and kicks it all away.)

A Siamese twin needs an extra set of skin, (Paces, waving 2 fingers like a peace sign.)

And when the doctor says that you’re feeling sick, (Stop and says WHEW!, pretending to wipe a fevered brow)

Where does he stick the needle in?  In the end of your skin! (Uses his cane to poke himself in a comical way, jumps, and says OUCH!)

All your kith and all your kinfolk—whether poor or whether rich— (Spreads arms out to the audience and then pretends to pull out an empty pocket.)

Oh, they all have lots of skin, folks:  (Uses both hands to make a round, big belly shape on himself. If a good-natured plump actor is onstage, Antonio could point to him or her and visibly giggle, whereas that person raises a fist at him.)

It’s convenient when they itch—nothing can match it when you scratch it! (Bend up and down when pretend scratching.)

It fits perfectly; yours fits you and mine fits me! (Points to audience and then to self.)

When you’re sitting down, it folds and looks grand. (Quickly sits down, knees together.)

And then when you stand, it’s where you’ve been— (Jumps up with a voila gesture.)

Ain’t you glad you got skin? (Points to the audience and visibly winks.)

When you were just a little baby—well, your skin fit fine. (Big finale, with chorus-line kicking: He struts and kicks, arms stretched out and in, one hand holding the cane and the other the top hat.)

And it still is going to fit you when you’re 6 foot 9!  (Turns and struts the other direction.)

So whether you’re fat, tall, big, small, chubby, or thin … (Front and center stage by now, pivoting and pointing Right, Left (toward the floor), Right, Left (toward the audience), Right, Left (toward the ceiling)

Ain’t you glad you got skin?! (Ends with a knee slide before Shylock, gesturing grandly and smiling at him.)


THE NARRATOR (elated):  Back at you, Shylock!  How do you answer that?

SHYLOCK (unmoved): We trifle time. I pray thee pursue the sentence.

THE NARRATOR (furious):  What?! I give up! (Antonio slumps, the narrator snatches away the hat and stick, and then stalks off.  Antonio, Portia, and Nerissa put back on their court clothes.)

PORTIA (winking at the audience): Well, I’m not giving up!  Now, back to the matter at hand: Shylock, a pound of that poor merchant’s flesh is thine. The court awards it, and the law doth give it—

SHYLOCK (gleeful in triumph):  Most rightful judge!

PORTIA (glancing again at Shylock’s scroll, which she has retained):  Hold a moment! (hand upraised); there is something else. The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.” Take then your flesh BUT if in the cutting of it you shed even one drop of Christian blood, your lands and goods are by the laws of Venice confiscate unto the state of Venice.

GRATIANO (overjoyed): O upright judge!

SHYLOCK (crestfallen): Is that the law? (Portia nods solemnly. Shylock motions toward the money bag and says,) I shall take this offer then. Pay the bond thrice and let the Christian go.

BASSANIO (starting to hand over the bag): Here is the money.

PORTIA (cutting in): Peace! The Jew shall have all justice, just as he wanted. Take your pound of flesh, Shylock, but only one pound. If you are off in your estimation by even the weight of a grain of wheat, your life is forfeit!

GRATIANO (gloating):  A second Daniel!  A Daniel, Jew!

PORTIA: Why do you pause, Shylock?

SHYLOCK: Forget about three times the amount—just give me my principal and let me go!

PORTIA: You have refused it in open court. You shall have merely justice and your bond. (She hands him back his scroll, which he takes back dejectedly. Antonio, on the other hand, starts perking up as he follows the dialogue from face to face, like he is waking up from a long nightmare.)

GRATIANO: A Daniel still say I, a second Daniel! I thank thee, Shylock, for teaching me that phrase! (Shylock turns his back on him and begins to walk away.)

PORTIA: Wait, Shylock: the law hath yet another hold on you. It is enacted in the laws of Venice that if it be proved against a man that by direct or indirect attempts he seeks the life of any citizen, his goods are confiscated and his life lies in the mercy of the Duke. (Shylock finally loses his composure and clutches at his heart in grief.)

THE DUKE: That you may see the difference of our spirit, Shylock, I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it. Half your wealth now belongs to Antonio and the other half to the general needs of the state.

SHYLOCK (falling to his knees): Nay, take my life and all! You take my life when you take the means by which I live!

PORTIA: What mercy can you render him, Antonio?

ANTONIO: So please my lord the Duke and all the court, I return to Shylock my half of all his goods on two conditions: first, that he shows kindness toward his own son and daughter, whom he disinherited for marrying Christians; and second, that Shylock himself would seriously consider the claims of Christ as the Messiah for the good of his own soul.

PORTIA: What say you, Shylock?

SHYLOCK (with grudging admiration for Portia, the Duke, and Antonio): It shall be done.

THE DUKE (in a kindly, encouraging way): Then do it!

The curtain closes and all the cast in costume assembles quickly for a bow when the curtain reopens.


Humorous Introduction: Half the stage is set like the 1970s TV game show The Dating Game (watch a few YouTube segments to get the general idea, and be sure to use the cheesy game-show introductory theme music).  There are 3 tall swivel chairs or stools with 3 pretty girls sitting on them with their legs crossed:  Bachelorette #1, Rosalind; Bachelorette #2, Juliet; and Bachelorette #3, Mystery Girl.  Juliet is dressed in fetching Italian Renaissance style, but the others are in 70s clothes. The game-show host is right out of the swinging 70s with prominent hair and sideburns.  He stands near them, grinning broadly, dressed in a loud plaid jacket, thick belt, and fat tie.  Romeo, looking the part in traditional Romeo clothing, stands by the game-show host.  The other half of the stage looks like the stereotypical Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. Romeo will stay off the balcony; R & J will communicate with each other by voice and gestures, not touch. 

THE NARRATOR (still in her evening gown from the last play, but with a red sash around her waist, symbolizing love):  How’s this for a blast from the past?  We’re actually going a lot farther than just the 1970s, but let’s start here.  (Folds her arms and looks on with amusement.)

THE GAME-SHOW HOST (slickly, without missing a beat):  Thank you and welcome to The Dating Game!  Our lucky bachelor this week is Romeo! (Romeo waves to the audience.). Which one of these lovely girls will he select?  Bachelorette #1, Rosalind?  (Rosalind poses to attract attention and blows a kiss toward Romeo.)  Bachelorette #2, Juliet?  (She simply waves and smiles at Romeo.)  Or Bachelorette #3, Mystery Girl?  (She really hams it up by waving absurdly, batting her eyelids, and making a little heart gesture by her chest or whatever.)

THE NARRATOR:  Freeze frame!  (The other actors freeze in place.)  Juliet here is no surprise, but I’ll bet you’re wondering about these other two girls. Here’s the scoop: Romeo is a guy more in love with love than with an actual human female—you know the type: always wanting to be associated with a girlfriend for security reasons or whatever; can’t stand being unattached. Now Romeo crashed a party cruising for Rosalind, who is drop-dead gorgeous, but instead saw sweet Juliet and felt like he had been struck by a two-by-four engraved with the letters L-O-V-E! (Sign girl holds up a 1970s style LOVE poster.) 

Romeo forgets all about Rosalind and our scene enters with him cruising now for Juliet.  (Looking toward Juliet, who faces the narrator.) Now, Juliet, Shakespeare makes it clear that you were NOT cruising for love, but you got hit by the same two-by-four just the same. Watch your step, girlfriend: this kind of guy is just as likely to dump you for Mystery Girl over there! (She unfreezes long enough to act lovey dovey again.) Enough with this 70s stuff!

The bachelorettes exit from their chairs, the game-show host leaves, and the onstage actors and stage crew remove the chairs and any other 70s paraphernalia.

THE NARRATOR: Well, that’s more like it!  (Sound of a Black Hawk helicopter and a big thud from behind her:  the sound of a falling body.)  What was…? Ah, that was just Romeo. He’s a bit of a klutz, but to tell you the truth, maybe I’ve been too hard on him. Maybe he is sincere in his love for the first time in his life—you be the judge. Now remember the basic story of Romeo and Juliet:  he loves her and she loves him, but their families hate each other.  In this scene, Romeo is coming to see Juliet, but without her seeing him. (Begins to walk offstage, but then comes back)  Before we begin, I figure I should add this disclaimer for all you romantics out there: what Romeo does here is now called STALKING, and is NOT okay! (As the narrator starts her disclaimer, the sound techs play the shark music from Jaws loud enough for the audience to pick up on its meaning but soft enough so we can hear the rest of what the narrator says). Romeo was a bit of a nut—didn’t he ever hear of flowers and candy? (The narrator exits and the shark music stops.  Then the techs play softly from Tchaikovsky’s Greatest Hits: “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet,” “Scene from Swan Lake,” and “Adagio-allegro non troppo from the Pathétique Symphony.”)

ROMEO (entering, rubbing his shoulder from falling, and speaking ruefully): He jests at scars who never felt a wound! Alas, I am suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune called L-O-V-E!  (The sign girl flashes the L-O-V-E poster momentarily.)

JULIET (walks onto the balcony—perhaps a perch on a volleyball ladderand sighs, looking up at the moon and tossing her head and hair in an unconsciously bewitching way, and eventually resting her hand on her cheek)

ROMEO (speaking to the audience only): But, soft be my footsteps! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! It is my lady; O, it is my love!  O, that she knew she were—and of my presence here! See how she leans her cheek upon her hand: O, that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!

JULIET (sighing again):  Ay me!

ROMEO (speaking to the audience still and not yet making his presence known): She speaks! O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art as glorious to this night as is a winged messenger of heaven to wondering eyes!

JULIET (sighing yet again): O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

THE NARRATOR (barging in): Hold it! (Actors all freeze.) Allow me to translate that famous bit of Shakespearese: “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” sounds to us like she is wondering where he is—reasonable enough since Romeo is still in stealth mode—but Shakespeare’s audience took it to mean, “Romeo, why are you Romeo Montague—that is, from the people my people hate?” (Looking toward the sound console)  Sound tech, would you please rewind for a second take? (He waves an obliging hand to her that the audience can see and plays an old-style tape-recorder rewind sound.)

JULIET: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not and I declare my love and take your name, I’ll no longer be a Capulet!

ROMEO (one last time to the audience): Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this promising development?

JULIET (as if thinking out loud): ’Tis but thy name that is my enemy. What’s a Montague, after all? It is not a hand or a foot, arm, face, or any other part belonging to a man. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Remain your sweet self, dear Romeo. Doff that other name, which is no part of thee, and take all of me!

ROMEO (no longer able to contain himself): I take thee at thy word: call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized with that name!

JULIET (stunned): What man art thou that thus bescreened in night you stumble onto my heart’s secrets?

ROMEO: By a name I know not how to tell thee who I am, for my name is hateful to myself since it is hateful to you.

JULIET (no longer able to contain herself): My ears have not yet taken in a hundred of your honeyed words, but they now know the sound: art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?

ROMEO: Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike.

JULIET: How camest thou hither, tell me?

ROMEO: By a strange device called Mapquest. (Juliet looks mildly puzzled.)

THE NARRATOR (poking her head out from the curtain, addressing the audience): I’m teaching him how to use an iPhone next!

JULIET:  These orchard walls are high and hard to climb …

ROMEO (rubbing his shoulder again with chagrin): Tell me about it!

JULIET (not missing a beat): … this place is death to you, considering who you are, if any of my kinsmen find you here!

ROMEO (forgetting his shoulder and waxing eloquent): With love’s light wings did I o’er perch these walls …

NARRATOR (stepping onstage briefly):  Love’s light wings?! More like love’s nuclear bomb! (Looks toward the technicians) Geek Squad, how about you kill the Tchaikovsky music for a moment and give us one last rewind? (They say,“Okay,” “yup,” or “sure” before playing the rewind sound.)

ROMEO (looking at Juliet and speaking earnestly, but the actors are positioned and mic’d so the audience can hear their lines clearly): With love’s light wings did I o’er perch these walls, for stony limits cannot hold love out! What love can do, that does love attempt; therefore thy kinsmen are no hindrance to me!  Indeed, there lies more peril in thine eye than twenty of their swords: look thou but sweet, and I am proof against their enmity! I am no pilot or ship’s captain, but if you were as far as that vast shore wash’d with the farthest sea, I would adventure for such merchandise! (He holds up his hands lovingly and longingly toward her.)

JULIET (moved deeply): You know the mask of night is on my face, but I tell you plainly that a maiden blush doth now brush my cheek. Do you truly love me, Romeo?  You may think me forward for asking so plainly and not playing hard-to-get, but I need you to pronounce your love faithfully and make a proper offer of marriage. If you think I am too quickly won, shall I frown and play the game? In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond of you! But trust me, gentleman: I’ll prove more true than those who play lovers’ games!

ROMEO:  Lady, by yonder blessed moon (points to a moon pinned to the backdrop curtain), I swear to you my true love and my desire to marry you at our earliest convenience …

JULIET (gently interrupting): O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb, lest thy love prove likewise variable!

ROMEO: What shall I swear by?

JULIET: Do not swear! Although I have joy in thee, I have no joy in this contract tonight for I fear it is too rash, too unadvised by good counsel.

ROMEO: O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?

JULIET: What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?

ROMEO: The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine!

JULIET (adoringly): I gave thee mine before thou didst request it: and yet I would it were to give again!

ROMEO: Why? Would you withdraw it?

JULIET: Nay, my bounty is as boundless as the sea and my love is as deep: the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are as infinite as God’s love.

NURSE (offstage in a wacky voice that sounds elderly): O Juliet, dear child: it’s beddy-bye time!

JULIET (speaking a little softer and faster): Sweet Montague, be true: stay but a little and I will come again!  (She exits quickly.)

ROMEO (feeling encouraged): O blessed, blessed night! I am afraid that, it being night, this is all but a dream!

JULIET (re-entering): These few words, dear Romeo, and then I say good night in truth: if your profession of love is indeed honorable and your purpose, marriage—send me official word tomorrow of the where, when, and before whom. Then my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay, and call thee lord, as the sacred Scriptures tell us Sarah honored Abraham.

NURSE (offstage, sounding sickly sweet): O little Julietta…

JULIET (addressing the nurse a bit impatiently): I’ll be there in a minute!

NURSE (offstage, with no pretense of sweetness now):  Juliet!

JULIET (feeling rushed, but nonetheless flushed with radiance): A thousand times good night, beloved Romeo!  (She exits.)

ROMEO (sharing the thrill of the moment): A thousand times the worse when thy presence is lacking! Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books, but love from love, toward school with heavy looks! (Turns away reluctantly)

JULIET (re-entering quickly and almost breathlessly): Romeo! (He turns to face her with joy) ’Tis almost morning; I would have thee gone for thy sake, but for my sake I wish you were like my pet bird, who hops but a little from my hand before I pluck it back again, so eager for its company!

ROMEO: I would I were thy bird!

JULIET (with a slightly broken voice, verging on tears, for the mood of the play has switched from humor to sympathy for Romeo and Juliet): My sweet, so would I; yet I would be endangering you with my cherishing! Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow …

ROMEO (sharing the sentiment): Yes, ’tis true. Sleep dwell upon thine eyes and peace upon thy bosom. Would I were sleep and peace to rest with you … but that will wait for marriage!  Now I leave you to speak of the arrangements with a trusted minister. Farewell for now!

In a sincere way they blow each other a gentle kiss or extend an arm to one another longingly as the curtain closes. If the actors have done their jobs well, the audience is visibly moved because they have heard some of the most beautiful lines ever written in the English language. All the R & J cast and crew quickly assemble for a bow. 


The action takes place first outdoors, in the forum of Rome, with simple Roman columns on both sides of the stage and a fancy poster saying SPQR (senatus popules que Romanus—for the senate and people of Rome), and then indoors, with the stage split between Caesar’s house on the right and Brutus’s house on the left.  
Caesar is about to be confronted by a wild-looking soothsayer or prophetess (with crazy hair that looks something like the bride of Frankenstein). As background music use a compilation of soundtracks from movies with a Roman theme.  Play the music a good 15 seconds before the actors stroll onstage.

NARRATOR (dressed Roman style in a simple white tunic, diagonal gold chest band, and gold laurel leaf; she walks in from one end of the stage and the others from the other end):   That guy in the middle is Julius Caesar (Caesar waves to the audience, while the narrator points to him and the others one by one). The lady next to him dressed in gold is his noble wife, Calpurnia (Calpurnia waves). With her is an equally noble woman, Portia (Portia waves), wife of Brutus, who is one of Caesar’s best buddies (Brutus waves). Another close “friend” is Portia’s brother, Cassius, the jealous mastermind behind a plot to assassinate Caesar—dun da dun dun! (Cassius rubs his hands in a treacherous way to identify himself to the audience, while the sound tech play cat calls and boos.) Other so-called friends or co-conspirators here are Decius and Casca (they wave to the audience with a guilty look, with more boos in the background). With “friends” like these, who needs enemies? Shakespeare’s play opens during the Feast of Lupercalia, which honored the founding of Rome. Caesar and his entourage are headed toward a footrace, one of the main festivities, and plan to cheer for Marc Antony, one of the favored contestants—and a true friend of Caesar’s. (The narrator exits.)

CAESAR: Calpurnia!

CASSIUS (sounding too eager to please): Peace, ho! Caesar speaks. Music stops.

CALPURNIA (always addresses him sweetly and respectfully because they enjoyed a close relationship): Yes, my lord?

CAESAR: When Antony runs in the race we’re about to see, do stand directly in his sight so he may touch you with the holy stick he bears, for the elders teach us that barren wives may thus shake off their sterile curse.

CALPURNIA (not at all offended but rather touched that he was thinking of her): It shall be done, my lord, and may we be blessed with many children! Music resumes with crowd sound effects thrown in, and the group strolls on to the race.

SOOTHSAYER (sneaking up snake-like from behind and almost hissing): Caesar!

CAESAR: Ha! Who calls?

CASSIUS: Bid every noise be still: peace yet again! Music and sounds cease.

CAESAR (not arrogantly but with concern for even the lowliest citizen): Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music. Speak: Caesar is turn’d to hear thee!

SOOTHSAYER (in a shockingly loud voice in comparison with the initial hiss): Beware the Ides of March!

CAESAR: What person is that?

BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.

CASSIUS: You, come from the throng; look upon Caesar. (The soothsayer walks directly in front of Caesar.)

CAESAR: What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

SOOTHSAYER: Beware the Ides of March!

CAESAR (in a lighthearted mood because of the festivities): She is a dreamer; let us leave her and proceed to the race. (All exit but Brutus and Cassius.  The soothsayer visibly shakes her head with sadness as she leaves.)

CASSIUS: Will you go to see the race, Brutus?

BRUTUS (sounding sad and preoccupied): Not I, Cassius:  I am not gamesome; I do lack some of the athletic spirit that is in Marc Antony. Let me not hinder you from seeing the race.

CASSIUS (ignoring the race and speaking in a confiding
tone): Brutus, I have observed lately that from your eyes I have not seen that gentleness and show of love you once had for me, your true friend and brother-in-law.

BRUTUS (appreciating the personal interest): Cassius, I turn the trouble of my countenance merely upon myself.  Vexed am I of late over political concerns…

CASSIUS (eagerly seizing on this long-hoped-for opportunity): Indeed? You are not alone. Let me come to your house at night with trusted friends, and we will talk more of this.

BRUTUS: As you wish. (There is the sound of cheering from the race as they both exit, passing by Caesar and Senator Publius from a distance. Cassius gives them both an unfriendly look.)

CAESAR: So, what did you think of the race, Senator?

PUBLIUS: That Marc Antony is a fine specimen, Caesar. I like you to have men about like that who are robust, sleek-headed men who sleep well at night. But Cassius back there has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much: such men are dangerous!

CAESAR: Would he were fatter, but I fear him not! (They both exit and the curtain closes.)

When the curtain opens, we see Roman interiors: Caesar’s on the right and Brutus’s on the left. It is night and the weather is wild and wondrous, with shooting-star effects, a smoke machine, and thunder sound effects throughout the action taking place in the interior.

NARRATOR: Caesar’s home is over there, on the right; Brutus’s is on the left. It is night, and the weather is pretty crazy, suggesting to the Roman mind some momentous event to come. We will hear nasty conspirators conspiring against Caesar, and they are desperate to win Brutus to their cause because he has a well-earned reputation for honor and integrity. Both Brutus and Caesar will receive good advice from their loving, concerned wives. But WILL THEY LISTEN? is the question. The action takes place first at Brutus’s house.  (The lights dim on Caesar’s place.)

BRUTUS: Welcome, Cassius (entering). So tell me: whom else may I expect?

CASSIUS: Casca for one.

BRUTUS: What a blunt fellow he has turned out to be! He was of a more gentle disposition when we went to school together.

CASSIUS (smoothing over every possible difficulty): Casca’s rudeness is a sauce to his good wit, which gives men stomach to digest his words with better appetite.

BRUTUS: What words would he say to me?

CASSIUS (attempting to manipulate Brutus into thinking the assassination is his own idea): Only what you have been saying to yourself about Caesar’s ambition. I see it written all over your face, Brutus. You are longing for a permanent solution to the problem, are you not?

BRUTUS (in the tone of a man wrestling with his conscience): To speak truth of Caesar, ’tis a common proof that lowliness is young ambition’s ladder, whereto the climber upward turns his face; but when once he attains the upmost rung, he then looks in the clouds and scorns the humble steps by which he did ascend.  So Caesar may, and therefore I think him as a serpent’s egg:  better killed in the shell before he can do mischief.

There is a knock at the door. Entering stealthily and looking guilty already are the rest of the conspirators: Casca, Decius, Cinna, Metellus, and Trebonius.

CASSIUS: Brutus, every man here honors you and doth wish you had but that opinion of yourself which every noble Roman bears of you. This is Trebonius (nods his head, waves slightly, or shakes hands—vary this as comfortable with all the introductions).

BRUTUS: He is welcome hither.

CASSIUS:  This, Decius.

BRUTUS: He is welcome too.

CASSIUS: This is Casca, of course, and here also are Cinna and Metellus.

BRUTUS: Gentlemen all, what watchful cares do interpose themselves between your eyes and night—and on such a perilous night as this, when blue lightning seems to open the breast of heaven?

CASSIUS (holding up a black satchel with 7 toy Roman daggers): To speak frankly, we all stand up against the spirit of Caesar, and in the spirit there is no blood. Oh, that we could strike a blow at Caesar’s spirit and not dismember Caesar! But, alas, Caesar must bleed for it! (Opens the satchel and pulls out a dagger.)  These are easy to conceal and are effective. Take one as you leave if you have not your own favored blade. Meet we all at the forum come daybreak to await Caesar’s coming. Casca here has agreed to give us the high sign and strike the first blow. (Casca nods grimly and they all file out, leaving Brutus alone.)

BRUTUS (shakes his head and sighs, wondering how all this could have developed so fast. Portia, his wife, enters with a concerned look on her face, and Brutus shakes himself out of his funk in surprise): Portia, what mean you? Wherefore rise you now? It is not good for your health to commit your weak condition to the raw, cold morning.

PORTIA: Nor for yours either, husband. You suddenly arose in the night and walked about, musing and sighing, with your arms crossed. When I asked you what the matter was, you stared upon me with ungentle looks: I urged you further, and then you scratched your head and impatiently stamped your foot. I insisted, yet you answered not, but with an angry wave of your hand gave sign for me to leave; so I did, fearing to strengthen that impatience which seemed too much enkindled. Dear Brutus, my lord, make me acquainted with your cause of grief.

BRUTUS: I am not in good health, and that is all.

PORTIA (easily seeing through this ruse): Brutus is wise and were he not in good health, he would embrace the means to come by it.

BRUTUS (trying to get her off the subject): Why, so I do:  let’s go to bed now and I will rest.

PORTIA (with sweet relentlessness): What, is Brutus sick, that he will steal out of his wholesome bed to dare the vile contagion of the night to add unto his sickness?  No, my Brutus: you have some sickness within your mind, which by the right and virtue of my place as your wife I ought to know of. Thus, on my knees (she kneels before him), I seek to charm you with my once-commended beauty and by all your vows of love which did incorporate and make us one, that you unfold to me why you are heavy of heart and why came to you six or seven men, who did hide their faces even from darkness.

BRUTUS: Kneel not, gentle Portia (helps her to her feet): you are my true and honorable wife, as dear to me as are the ruddy drops that visit my sad heart.

PORTIA: If this were true, then I should know your secret. I grant that I am a woman, but a woman that Lord Brutus took to wife: a woman well reputed, Cato’s daughter. Think you I am no stronger than my gender, being so father’d and husbanded? Tell me your counsels; I will not disclose them—I have made strong proof of my constancy!

BRUTUS (looking to the heavens): O ye gods, render me worthy of this noble wife! (Looking to Portia) I will tell you all after the day unfolds.

The lights dim on Brutus and Portia; they exit. The lights turn brightly onto Caesar’s house; the thunder and lightning grow more intense. Caesar enters.

CAESAR (observing the wild weather signs, troubled in mind, speaking loudly to himself): Neither heaven nor earth have been at peace tonight! Thrice hath Calpurnia in her sleep cried out, “Help, ho! They murder Caesar!”

CALPURNIA (enters, equally troubled): So, what mean you, Caesar? Think you to walk forth? You shall not stir out of your house today!

CAESAR (vainly trying to soothe her worries by minimizing them): Caesar shall go forth: the things that threaten’d me ne’er looked but on my back. When they shall see the face of Caesar, they are vanished!

CALPURNIA (steadily, persuasively, with conviction): Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies and signs from heaven, yet now they frighten me.

CAESAR: What end can be avoided that is purposed by the mighty gods?

CALPURNIA: When beggars die, there are not comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes!

CAESAR: Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death—a necessary end—will come when it will come.

CALPURNIA: Alas, my lord, your wisdom is consumed in confidence! Do not go forth today: call it my fear that keeps you in the house and not your own.

CAESAR (warmly): For your sake then, my dear, I will stay at home.

DECIUS (entering with a chest to arm salute): Caesar, all hail! I come to fetch you to the senate house.

CAESAR: I will not go out today. Tell the senators for me, Decius.

CALPURNIA (being uncharacteristically hasty in her concern): Say he is sick!

CAESAR (with a mild reprimand):  Shall Caesar send a lie? Have I in conquest stretch’d my arm so far to be afeard to tell greybeards the truth? Decius, go tell them Caesar will not come.

DECIUS:  Most mighty Caesar, let me know some cause, lest I be laughed at when I tell them so.

CAESAR: The cause is my will: I will not come; that is enough to satisfy the senate. But for your private satisfaction and because I love you, I will let you know: Calpurnia dreamt that she saw my statue, which like a fountain with an hundred spouts did run pure blood, and many Romans came smiling and did bathe their hands in it. This she does apply for warnings and portents and evils imminent, and on her knee hath begged that I will stay home today.

DECIUS (smoothly thinking on his feet): This dream is all
amiss interpreted! It was a vision fair and fortunate:  your statue spouting blood in many pipes, in which so many smiling Romans bathed, signifies that from you great Rome shall be revived in her strength and vigor, and that many great men shall press to be associated with you, mighty Caesar! This is what Calpurnia’s dream truly signifies.

CAESAR (too quick to accept a positive report without reflection): Well said! How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia! I am ashamed I did yield to them. Give me my cloak, for I will go. (Calpurnia, knowing she has been outmaneuvered, hands him his robe and looks sorrowful as the curtain closes.)

Behind the closed curtain, the interior sets are removed and the exterior forum again set up. While this takes place, the narrator gives her line from one end of the stage before the curtain, and Artemidorus from the other, spotlights on both at first.

NARRATOR: Poor Caesar! He loved and trusted his “friends” (makes air quotes) too much. Not all turned rotten, though: His friend Artemidorus over there (waves his hand to the audience from the other end of the curtain) is very perceptive and observant. Listen to what he has written to Caesar. (Spotlight goes off the narrator and she exits.)

ARTEMIDORUS (unrolls a scroll and reads): “Caesar, beware of Brutus; take heed of Cassius; come not near Casca; have an eye to Cinna; trust not Trebonius; mark well Metellus; Decius loves thee not. There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you: security gives way to conspiracy. The mighty gods defend thee! Your true friend, Artemidorus.” (After reading this he quickly rolls back up the scroll and says to the audience, as if to himself): I will stand in the forum till Caesar pass along, and I will give him this (holds up the scroll). My heart laments that virtue cannot live out of the teeth of jealousy at your success! If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayst live; if not, the Fates with traitors do contrive! (Exits and then the curtain opens.)

PORTIA (looking distressed and standing at one end of the forum with Lucius, a servant): Boy, run to the senate house. Stay not to answer me, but get thee gone! Why dost thou stay?

LUCIUS:  To know my errand, madam.

PORTIA (confused in thought and therefore speech): I would have had thee there and back again before I could tell you clearly. O constancy, be strong upon my side! Set a huge mountain ’tween my heart and tongue! I have a man’s mind but a woman’s strength. How hard it is for women to keep secrets! Art thou here yet, boy?

LUCIUS (a bit impatiently): Madam, what should I do: run to the senate, and nothing else? And so return to you, and nothing else?

PORTIA (composing herself): Bring me word, boy, if thy Lord Brutus looks well, for he went sickly forth. (Lucius runs offstage.)

SOOTHSAYER (entering near Portia): Good morning, my lady.

PORTIA: Good morning. Is Caesar yet gone to the Capitol?

SOOTHSAYER: Madam, not yet:  I go to take my stand, to see him pass on to the Capitol.

PORTIA: Have you a request to make of him?

SOOTHSAYER: Yes, I shall beseech him to befriend himself.

PORTIA: Why, knowest thou any harm’s intended toward him?

SOOTHSAYER (solemnly): None that I know will be; much that I fear may be.

Amid crowd sound-effects enters Caesar, followed by Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Decius, Metellus, Trebonius, Cinna, Senator Publius, and Artemidorus. Portia and the soothsayer remain, observing the scene; Calpurnia enters and stands by Portia.

CAESAR (seeing the soothsayer and chiding her gently): The Ides of March are come.

SOOTHSAYER: Aye, Caesar; but not gone.

ARTEMIDORUS: Hail, Caesar! Read this petition at once, please!

DECIUS (quick to distract Caesar): Metellus here is longing for you to read his humble petition, Caesar.

ARTEMIDORUS (desperate): O Caesar, read mine first; for mine’s a petition that touches Caesar nearer; read it, great Caesar! (Forces it into Caesar’s hand.)

CAESAR (with sincere humility): What touches us ourself shall be last served. (He dies later clutching the scroll unread.)

NARRATOR (everyone freezes): I can’t take this anymore—if poor, noble Caesar has to die, at least I can use my narrator powers to help make it quick and painless.  (Snaps her fingers) Get over here, you wicked traitors, and trade weapons with me—blades are so messy and painful! (They all move front and center, dutifully pulling out their blades and trading for a plethora of modern toy guns:  a tommy gun for Casca, a light saber for Brutus, and various machine guns for the rest.  In making the trade, the conspirators look pleased and say things like,“Sweet!”“Now you’re talkin’!” and “Oh yeah!” but Cassius holds his gun the wrong way.  She turns it the right way.)  This (pointing) is the end that goes boom. (Cassius and the others looks pleased.) Much better! All right now, back about your business. (The narrator exits temporarily.)

METELLUS (falling to his knees and speaking over dramatically, gun protruding ridiculously): Most high, most mighty and exalted Caesar, your humble servant Metellus presents to you a humble heart…

CAESAR (interrupting, embarrassed by the melodrama): Get you up, Metellus (who rises and hangs his head in shame):  these couchings and lowly courtesies might fire the blood of ordinary men and melteth fools, but if you are by this hoping for me to allow your banished brother to return to Rome, you are sadly mistaken because he is a proved and twice-proved traitor!

TREBONIUS:  Pardon, Caesar; Caesar, pardon!

CAESAR (with stern and noble resolve, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” playing as moving background music): I could be well moved, if I were as you.
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me:
But I am constant as the northern star.
Of whose true fixed and resting quality there is no other in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
Yet there is but one in all that doth hold his place.
So it is in the world of men:  men are flesh and blood and apprehensive,
Yet in the number I know but one whose duty it is to be unassailable,
Unshaked of motion, and that I am he.
Let me a little show of it, even in this:
That I was constant in justice, and the banished remain banished!

CINNA: O Caesar …

DECIUS: Great Caesar …

CASCA: Show me your weapons, men!  (Brandishes his tommy gun and shoots Caesar first, followed by the other conspirators, with Brutus doing a Yoda-like pivot leap with his light saber for the final blow.  Chicago gangland rat-a-tat and laser sound effects throughout, until Caesar speaks.)

CAESAR (with pain and shock more internal than external): Et tu, Brute—even you?  (Losing the will to live) Then fall, Caesar! (Slumps to the ground and dies lying on his back—that becomes important later.)

CALPURNIA (wailing): Help, ho! They murder Caesar! (She kneels by him.)

CINNA (seeking to drown out her lament)Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!  Run hence and proclaim it in the streets!

BRUTUS (noticing everyone but the conspirators looks horrified): People and senators, be not affrighted: fly not and stand still, for ambition’s debt is paid.

CASSIUS (gloating): How many ages hence shall this, our lofty scene, be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!  So often shall the knot of us be called the men who gave their country liberty!

NARRATOR (walking to center front stage to address the audience): Dream on, Cassius: 1,300 years later, Dante will assign you and Brutus to the lowest pit in hell, alongside Judas Iscariot, for treachery to your noble masters! (Engaging the audience) Would you like to know what happened after Caesar’s assassination? Wily Marc Antony pretended to be friends with the conspirators at first, but when alone with Caesar’s body (everyone moves to one side of the stage or the other while the narrator stands by Caesar), he addressed it thus: O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, that I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man who ever lived in the tide of times. (Speaking now with a loud, outraged voice) Woe to the hands that shed this costly blood! Caesar’s spirit rages for revenge; lo, he comes with Ate (pronounced Ah-tay), the goddess of doom and destruction, hot from hell, saying… (she points toward Caesar and is careful not to block his booming voice)

CAESAR (shouting loudly from the ground his famous battle cry): Cry “Havoc” and let slip the dogs of war! (He remains still for the rest of the play.)

NARRATOR (jumps back, looking unnerved): Whoa, that was kinda creepy! The conspirators tried to smooth over their crime by using Brutus, who declared at Caesar’s funeral…

BRUTUS: If there be any in this assembly who demands to know why I rose against Caesar, this is my answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more! Would you rather Caesar live and you die in slavery? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.

NARRATOR (holding a Bible): That nearly won over the crowd until Marc Antony rose to speak, saying, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: the noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious; if it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answered it. Caesar was my friend, faithful and just to me. Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel: judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him! This was the unkindest cut of all, for when the noble Caesar saw him stab, shoot—whatever—ingratitude, more strong than weapons, quite vanquished him; then burst his mighty heart!” Well, after that speech, the conspirators had to get out of town FAST to avoid the angry mob!  (They flee offstage while those who remain raise their fists in anger, some chasing them.)  Childless Caesar’s teenage nephew, Octavian, quickly finished them off and took on a new title as leader of Rome: Caesar Augustus.  Does that name sound familiar to you from the New Testament? (She opens the Bible.)  The Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, begins, “A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered for taxation….  Joseph went from Galilee to Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of King David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”  (Flipping over to Galatians 4—have both passages pre-marked) Galatians 4:4 tells us more about that Child: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law of Moses, to redeem those under the Law so we might receive adoption as sons.” Even the unjust assassination of Caesar fit into the divine timing of Almighty God, who is able to bring good out of evil.

Curtain closes while all the cast of Julius Caesar lines up in costume for a bow when the curtain opens with Roman movie soundtrack music.

This play script was written by Allacin Morimizu, and may be used for free without departing from the spirit of the text. Copyright © 2010, 2019 by Allacin Morimizu. All rights reserved.