Andrew James Hartley
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The Romans in Britain
Caesar under Thatcher
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The Britain of the 1960s and 1970s lacked the kinds of dominant political figures to make Caesar feel topical, but the 1980s and 1990s positively brimmed with analogues to the story of a dictator's demise and its aftermath. Margaret Thatcher emerged from her first re-election campaign in the summer of 1983 riding a wave of nationalist fervour generated by war against Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Caesar is one of Shakespeare's most single-mindedly masculine plays. Despite the obvious parallels with Thatcher in the play, it requires a particular leap of the imagination for an audience to see a specific female leader in the physical presence of a male actor. Leftist activist theatre had come under attack early in Thatcher's regime, most dramatically and publicly over two Howard Brenton plays, both staged in 1980, which caused a firestorm of protest and recrimination, much of it with significant financial implications.

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