Five Julius Caesar Adaptations We’d Love to Read
It’s almost the Ides of March, that spooky not-quite-Spring time when everything feels off kilter and you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. (E tu, Brute?) To celebrate this off-kilter and decidedly un-celebratory holiday, we’re taking a look at some of our favorite novelists – and wondering why they haven’t written an adaptation of Julius Caesar.
We’re joking, of course. But Julius Caesar is pretty much never adapted. And in a sea of Romeos and Juliets, Violas and Sebastians, it’s fun to imagine a world where Marc Antony is getting some contemporary love. So happy Ides of March – or beware! Either way, we’ll be daydreaming about the adaptation potential.
Madeline Miller captured our hearts with Circe last year, but she’s actually been exploring innovative adaptations for years. Her debut novel The Song of Achilles was published in 2012, paying homage to The Illiad by focusing on a tertiary character. She did the same with Circe, reframing The Odyssey through the witch Circe’s narrative arc. Miller’s adaptation of Julius Caesar would be sweeping, to say the least. She’d spend so much time detailing the beauty of Rome that we won’t even see Caesar’s death coming. That’s how incredible a storyteller she is; she makes even the oldest stories feel new again. And, in her own tradition, she’ll choose to filter the story through an inconsequential character’s lens – at least, you think they’re inconsequential. We’re betting she chooses Portia.
Colson Whitehead blew us all away with The Underground Railroad, but this mega bestseller and Oprah favorite is just one in a long line of incredible novels. Whitehead has never publicly admitted to wanting to adapt an existing text – he’s already so busy with his own concepts – but we think he’d be just the person to adapt Julius Caesar. Whitehead often takes a historic approach to his world building and while we’re not exactly looking for a 45 B.C. Rome, we are eager to know how he might apply the tenants of the Shakespeare original to an American context. Whitehead is a master when it comes to exploring racism and racial history in the United States and we’d just love to know how he’d use the Brutus-Caesar dynamic in a more contemporary setting.
Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive is making the rounds (for good reason!) and her long-form essay Tell Me How it Ends gave us chills and challenged us in all the right ways. But our favorite of all her books is Faces in the Crowd, a 2014 novel that was so intimate and specific that it felt like a secret. Her Julius Caesar adaptation would be written in a staccato first person, that much is certain. It would explore what it means to be both Mexican and American. It would be so contemporary you’d have to keep reminding yourself that you were reading an ancient story – one that lived many, many lives before even Shakespeare adapted it. Her Julius Caesar would be loud in its femininity – a celebration and a warning all at once. And it’ll come with a rallying cry. No Luiselli book is complete without it.
We’ve been obsessed with Tommy Orange and There There from pretty much the moment it was released and while our gut is to step back and let him write the twenty or so books that are clearly welling up inside him. But our irrational and needy side is begging for a Julius Caesar adaptation from this literary wonder. Much like our hopes for the Whitehead adaptation, we’re eager to see Orange tackle this classic tale under a contemporary American lens. Orange is exploring contemporary Native American characters through his writing – characters who express joy, love, hate, fear, and every emotion and thought process under the sun. His characters are incredibly layered and beautifully woven into each others stories and we’re craving a Julius Caesar that does the same. In any case, we’re eager to read Tommy Orange’s next novel. And the next. And then, maybe twenty years from now, a kickass contemporary adaptation staring an indigenous Brutus.
Finally, we’re looking to a perennial favorite: Michael Chabon. We know Chabon would absolutely slay a Julius Caesar adaptation because he’s already tackled the alternative history (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union) the short essay (Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces) and the creativity opus (The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay). None of these screams adaptation, but Chabon’s versatility and ability to write to – seemingly – any topic makes him a prime candidate for a Shakespearian adaptation. Chabon’s Julius Caesar would focus on the interior lives of Caesar and Brutus, giving readers an intimate peek into these men’s families, daily routines, and faults – oh how he’d live in their faults!