History Plays as History

Philosophy and Literature 36 (2):285-300 (2012)
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Now that she is old enough to be taken to boring, so-called “cultural” events by her aging, academic relatives, we have just taken Anya to see a performance of Julius Caesar. When it’s over, we discuss the acting, the poetry, the famous lines. At some point, Anya asks: “I wonder if it happened like that?” Anya has not radically misunderstood what we just watched; she did not, for example, rush down and yell at Caesar that he’d better read that scroll. Her question is not uncommon as a response to a history play, from audience members both young and old. It is perfectly intelligible; I would like to give her an answer. Before I sketch some possible answers, it is worth saying something more about Anya’s.
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