Nova Scotia

Shakespeare by the Sea's Julius Caesar draws Donald Trump comparisons

A Halifax performance of Julius Caesar is drawing on Donald Trump and the American political situation for inspiration.

New York performance of same play featuring Trump-like Julius Caesar led to protest, sponsorship boycotts

In a confrontation between Jeremy Hutton who plays Cassius, and Garry Williams, who plays Caesar, Caesar gloats about what he believes is his ultimate, untouchable power. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

A Halifax performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is drawing on Donald Trump and the current American political situation for inspiration.

Shakespeare by the Sea, which puts on productions in Point Pleasant Park, is mounting the famous classic in which the title character is portrayed as an unconventional, populist leader of the Roman empire who is assassinated by other members of the political elite.

Co-artistic director Jesse MacLean said many of the lines in the performance could have been plucked from a news story.

"There's a lot of talk about tyrants and uprisings around the world," he said. "I think it's incredible that Shakespeare's language is still resonating with us."

He said people often come up to him at intermission saying, "'I just cant stop thinking about this particular political situation.'"

Garry Williams, who plays Julius Caesar, says many of the lines his character says could be compared to Donald Trump's speeches. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

In June, a production of the same play in New York garnered international controversy when it portrayed Caesar in the likeness of Donald Trump, complete with red tie and hair. 

While the production in Halifax portrays Caesar in traditional garb, the actor behind the role said audience members don't have to look far to see the similarities between the 400-year-old character and the president of the United States.

"Here is a story of a man who is ... much loved by the masses, but not liked by his political allies and peers, mostly because, in the context of the play, they're afraid that he is betraying the democratic values of a society," said actor Garry Williams.

Actors Jack Quail (Brutus) and Jeremy Hutton (Cassius) discuss their plans to assassinate Julius Caesar, who they believe shouldn't be allowed to become king of Rome. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Williams said the play opens with the Roman empire, teeming with rampant nationalism, after Caesar has finished invading and conquering many other countries. 

"Both Donald Trump and Julius Caesar lead people to worry that they are not the right people to hold the authority they hold and are potentially dangerous to their country," he said. 

MacLean said he hopes art forms such as theatre help people understand and reflect on the current political situation in the United States.

"We programmed this back in the fall before we knew the result of the U.S. election," he said. "Ever since then, it's only made us more resolved to continue to tell this story."


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.