The Wisdom of Shakespeare Series


Peter Dawkins


Foreword by Mark Rylance


Stoop then, and wash. How many Ages hence
Shall this our lofty Scene be acted over,
In states unborne, and Accents yet unknowne?

How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
That now on Pompey's Basis lyes along,
No worthier than the dust?

So oft as that shall be
So often shall the knot of us be call'd,
The Men that gave their Country liberty.

So spoke Cassius and Brutus as they stooped to wash their hands in the fresh blood of a murdered leader during the summer of 1599, at the Globe Theatre, and so they will speak again at the Globe in the summer of 1999, at the end of Shakespeare's Millennium.
How many ages hence indeed, I wonder, did Shakespeare imagine, as he washed his pen in ink to address his troubled times, and fellow citizens concerned with Liberty?
As the sun lends colour to the world around us, Shakespeare might regret that his Tragedy continues to lend colour to a world still plagued, so many ages hence, with the question of what to do with a Tyrant.
The partly deaf, paranoid, friendly and ambitious, easily flattered, dream and prophecy inspired, martial dictator, husband, and possible father, Julius, still mounts to the Senate in our States, Families, Companies and selves. What are we to do?
At present, as I prepare to direct this Tragedy for the Globe's 400th anniversary season, I rush home to catch the BBC nine o'clock news, and ponder what Mahatma Ghandi or the Dalai Lama would think of NATO'S aerial response to the reported atrocities of Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo. Are we raising a sword that we ourselves will eventually fall upon? What options does Brutus consider and reject before he utters in his peaceful orchard, 'It must be by his death....?'

Close to home, though less threatenin, the British Government has been led since the early eighties by a Prime Ministerial figurehead growing more and more Presidential in its use of power; limiting parliamentarian question time, staging its own semi-Lupercalian marketing exercises; not unlike the movement from consul to dictator to king which Julius is attempting , or the movement from queen to empress that Queen Elizabeth the 1st was attempting at the end of her long reign, when the play was conceived.
But Shakespeare's play searches beneath these apparent historic currents and coincidences. No one production, even the first with Shakespeare in the cast, captures the essence of the play for all time, but is bound by the present nature of its audience.

Lately I look at the Thames when I go to work, and wonder if Shakespeare imagined Cassius' competitive swim with Julius across the Tiber in the dangerous undercurrents of this tidal Black Isis river that connects the City of London with the world's ocean's and, for that matter, with their lover, the moon. Sam Wanamaker's appeal to rebuild the Globe in London was successful because of his vision of Shakespeare as a world poet, international, slipping like the ocean's currents under boundries, expressing truths or sooths, as universal in different people's minds as the moon or the tide or oceans. I believe, when we decide to 'act over' one of his Tragedies, we mus search as carefully for the universal undercurrents, as we would were we attempting to 'leap into the angry flood and swim to yonder point across the Thames.

I therefore feel particularly blessed to have scholars and philosophers such as Peter Dawkins who, like river pilots, sound out the depths and shallows of our crossing, and help me to make the most of the natural force and form underlying the words of The Tragedy.
 Alchemy, Freemasonry, Time, the pillars of Hercules, the Renaissance and Plato; these springs of thought flood into Shakespeare's mighty stream and deposit jewels of perception for those of us who love to gather them at Bankside.

Imagining you reading this book on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I see the so-called 'mudlarks across the Thames from the Globe, who, under the silhouette of St. Paul's, armed with spades and metal detectors, hunt about for hidden treasure, be it Roman, Elizabehan, or just something precious someone lost at the end of a Millennium. I hope this book will provide as useful a spade and metal detector for you as it does for me.
Yours, from a many-sided round place,

Mark Rylance
***** - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning