Past Event

Columbia Shakespeare Seminar: Lauren Robertson (Columbia)

September 14, 2018
5:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Columbia University Faculty House

Lauren Robertson (Columbia), “'Thou art a cobbler': Julius Caesar and Making a World in the Globe"


This paper will take as its own starting point two origins of different kinds: the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar coupled with the opening of the first Globe Theater in 1599. The language of Julius Caesar’s first scene is replete with the material details—“walls and battlements,” “towers and windows,” and the famously anachronistic “chimney-tops”—that have long been recognized to enlist the audience’s imaginative participation in theatrical world-creation. But by focusing closely on the play’s opening scene, I will uncover a more complex multivalence of that audience enlistment, which, I argue, would not only have drawn self-conscious attention to the performance as a theatrical event, but would have additionally encouraged Julius Caesar’s Elizabethan spectators to enfold their own recent pasts into the fictional world being presented before them on the bare platform stage.

This method of establishing the fictional world of Julius Caesar has consequences for how we understand the play’s adaptation from classical Roman sources, as well as how we view it as a commentary on the historical occasion of the building of the Globe in London, a city whose ancient origins were materially evinced for Elizabethans by its Roman remains. In Julius Caesar, I will suggest, Shakespeare deploys auditory scenery as more than a formal necessity; the opening of the Globe’s first play brings into being a fictional place cobbled together from the material of the world itself. Julius Caesar’s first scene demonstrates, in other words, that theatrical world-making is always a re-making—that is, a dredging up of history—the material effects of which do not remain confined to the world of the playhouse, but necessarily reach beyond it.


The event will be held in Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive. As usual, social hour will be from 5-6, dinner 6-7, and the talk 7-8:30. The cost for dinner, payable by check only, is $30.  When you RSVP please indicate whether or not you plan to come to dinner; please give 10 days advance notice.