"Da quando ho conosciuto l'arte, 'sta cella è diventata 'na prigione"

Cesare deve morire and the Unsettling Self-(Re-)Fashioning Power of Theater


  • Domenico Lovascio Università Degli Studi Di Genova


As uplifting as it is unsettling, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Cesare deve morire (2012) is one of the most peculiar and engaging Shakespearian adaptations of the past few years. A drama-documentary chronicling the staging of Julius Caesar by the inmates of the maximum-security wing of the Rebibbia prison in Rome, Cesare deve morire explores a wide range of thought-provoking issues. As an adaptation, it is especially interesting for the directors' unusual choice to have each actor "translate" his lines into his own dialect, which enriches Shakespeare's text with new layers of meaning, in that each dialect both carries geographic-specific cultural traits and evokes conscious and unconscious associations in the viewers' imagination. The use of dialect is also decisive in creating a bridge between the events in Julius Caesar and the inmates' first-hand experience of criminal life, which endows their performance with profound intensity. This article notably focuses on the ultimate consequences brought about on the convicts' perception of their own lives and selves by their intimate encounter with art. Specifically, the rehabilitative and regenerating function of theater seems simultaneously to carry disturbing retributive overtones, since this reawakening contact with art leads some of the inmates fully to realize the extent of what they have lost.

Author Biography

Domenico Lovascio, Università Degli Studi Di Genova

Domenico Lovascio is Ricercatore of English Literature at Università degli Studi di Genova. He was awarded the A.I.A./Carocci Doctoral Dissertation Prize 2014 and was a Visiting Scholar at Sheffield Hallam University in 2016. In addition to the first English-Italian edition of Jonson's Catiline (2011) and his monograph Un nome, mille volti. Giulio Cesare nel teatro inglese della prima età moderna (2015) — winner in 2016 of the National Literary Award "Scriviamo Insieme" and the Special Jury Prize at the National Literary Award "Franz Kafka Italia" — his articles have been published in English Literary Renaissance, The Ben Jonson Journal, Early Theatre, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, Early Modern Literary Studies and Notes & Queries. He has recently co-edited with Lisa Hopkins an issue of Textus: English Studies in Italy on "The Uses of Rome in English Renaissance Drama" and is currently editing the Arden Early Modern Drama Guide to Antony and Cleopatra; "Shakespeare: Visions of Rome," a special issue of Shakespeare, the journal of the British Shakespeare Association; and The Housholders Philosophie for a projected edition of The Collected Works of Thomas Kyd (gen. ed. Brian Vickers). He is also a contributor to the Lost Plays Database.