Through the weeks we have analysing different aspects of identities in certain performances. In this essay I will label the two plays with one identity aspect I have chosen, which is Gender. I will also be answering my question ‘If the two genders were to swap in Billy Elliot and Julius Caesar would it change or have an impact on the play? ‘ The two plays I will be analysing are Billy Elliot and Julius Caesar. Throughout I will talk about a few scenes from the play, but to firstly get a depth of what the gender aspect of identity is, it To help with the identity aspect I will talk about one theorist and ow they explain what they are.
The gender theorist which specialises in this aspect is Judith Butler who I later will be talking about. First of all the play I will be mentioning first is Billy Elliot. It was written by English playwright Lee Hall in 2000. It is about an eleven year old boy who lives in a working class family in County Durham in 1984 who battles with the gender stereotyping of males boxing and females dancing. Billy sneaks in on a class of girls learning ballet; he later joins in and finds out his passion for it. With his father and brother involved with the United
Kingdom’s mine strike from 1984-85 which affected the coal industry, they have no money to send Billy off to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London. The play which I personally think matches with the identity aspect and who I intend to speak about is Julius Caesar, which was written by William Shakespeare. It is not certain of the date but was believed to be written in 1599 based on true events. The play is set ancient Rome in 44 B. C where the city was in the middle of a big and increasing empire.
Julius Caesar is betrayed by his friends Cassius and Brutus as they kill him to take over his leadership nd lead Rome the way that they think is right. Through the essay, as mentioned before, I am going to explain that if it was the opposite gender in that position would the play change slightly or drastically. Firstly, Judith Butler who was born in the Ohio in 1956 is an American philosopher and gender theorist. She believed many things, including that the subject is a performative construct, gender is performative and gender is a ‘becoming’.
Stating that it does not mean because you have male genitals you are not a female inside and that if you have female genitals you are not a male inside. Backing up the story of Billy Elliot and Julius Caesar. Salih quotes Butler as she says In Billy Elliot About two thirds through the play Billy’s father catches Billy dancing for Michael, Billy starts dancing when he notices him, this is when his father see’s how much his son loves dancing. He walks off and this is where the audience see a change in his father.
When his brother and male acquaintances find out about Billy’s passion is to dance, his father goes against everything he believes in and goes back to work even though his friends call him ‘scum’ for not sticking by them. The Mining strike appened in Durham and around the United Kingdom when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, which then the government Which, of course, the men and the women who were allowed to participate in that profession went on strike as they did not agree to the change and were maddened by it.
The audience and I could argue that is could be different if it was Billy’s mother who went against her friends and went back to work, could she be tough and carry on working or would she hideaway and find another way to get income coming into the household. I personally think that in this case Billy’s mum would carry on orking for her children. In some way she might take on board the fact that there is a female Prime Minister and might feel more encouraged. Concluding that no matter what gender Billy’s parent was that they would be strong minded and power through to support their offspring.
Michael, Billy’s best friend, openly admits to Billy that he likes to wear women’s clothes. In the West End Musical production directed by Stephen Daldry; Michael has a whole song dedicated about his character explaining to Billy how much he enjoys dressing up and trying on jewelry on and wants Billy to dress up. Giving this song to him shows the audience that it is a big deal either admitting to a friend or family member that he likes to do something that another boy his age would not do.
Through this scene Billy openly accepts Michael doing what he enjoys to do as Michael supports Billy’s dancing and has never told him that he is a ‘poof or something very homophobic for doing what he is adores even after Michael admits to Billy that his is a homosexual. Although, if Billy and Michael were both girls would it be as acceptable and have the same atmosphere for Michael to be a lesbian and dress up in boys clothes? The audience may feel a different feeling if it were two eleven year old girls.
Changing to the opposite gender might make this scene more serious and less humorous. This scene displayed lots of dancing dresses and catchy song but would it have the same production for a young girl admitting she was a lesbian. The audience might not laugh and find it amusing, as some people would find a boy acting all feminine easier to watch than a young girl trying to be butch or masculine. Linking back to Butler, because Michael has a young male body like Billy, does not mean he can’t feel like a girl inside nd want to dress up like a woman.
You meet Billy’s grandmother quite early on in the play as she stands out quite a bit as she is the only female character in the family; as Billy’s mother had passed away not that long ago. You see that Billy’s grandmother is frail and forgetting her memory; although she is the one in the house who accepts Billy for loving to dance and wants him to achieve his ambitions to be a ballet dancer. Even though Billy’s grandmother is perceived as weak and it comes across as that she may have Alzheimer’s, which is a But if it was a grandfather would he need to be looked after as much?
Some people might question that Lee Hall might of wrote him in to be independent and not have him being clumsy, leading to the audience not feeling as sorry for him or feel that they want to take care of him. As | said before about switching genders would it had made a difference to the play if his father had passed away and not his mother? I personally think it would have changed the play completely. You wouldn’t have seen his father struggling to go against his morals to provide for Billy.
His mother would of been there hundred percent for him from the start, the play is majority based on seeing the changes in his ather and giving up his beliefs and shown his love for his son. In the play ‘Julius Caesar’ the women characters are consider as weak and somewhat irrelevant, due to the lack of roles and how they are portrayed through the small quantity of two female characters; Calphurnia and Portia. The women roles are not only limited in people but in time during the play, they are hardly on stage or noticed in comparison to the men.
This is all down to the fact that when originally performed in Shakespearean theatre, woman were not allowed to be onstage so that is probably why Shakespeare only wrote a few amount of women haracters, so instead You first see the lack of respect and believability from Caesar as he does not listen to his wife as he is afraid of been called weak and listens to someone else rather than his own wife, this is shown in Act 2, scene 2, when If there was a gender swap here, would Calphurnia’s character give up so easily, would the now male role be persistent and make his wife listen to him and physically stop her from walking out.
As the man an audience might think that it would change the view of this character, would the audience be surprised that the man gave up easily and didn’t do anymore to save his wife hat he supposedly loves. Next, Brutus’s wife Portia, her character makes her out to delicate and unpredictable. One main reason is that she voluntarily stabs herself in act 4, scene 3, because her husband would not tell her what was bothering him and that he was keeping something from her.
If Portia was a man would he still go on and on for his wife to tell him something or would he give up after a while and let her get on with it? The atmosphere of the scene could change quite a bit, from being dark and upsetting to entertaining due to the fact the male only tries for a slight second then gives up and walks way. If Brutus was a female would she give up and tell him because she might be scared of him or that she doesn’t want to hide from him longer than she has too.
In conclusion, I think that gender is a massive aspect in all plays, not just Billy Elliot and Julius Caesar. The gender swap can create a huge difference on the way the play is perceived; I listed a few from the particular plays I chose but the list can go on and on. It takes a distinct amount of audience members to see the gender role in reverse and make them really think about how the play could be seen in a different point of view.
For instance, as I suggested, Michael from Billy Elliot’s role as a young female coming out as a lesbian compared to a young boy revealing he is a homosexual, would they still expect the young girl to be all feminine or would they predict it would be all masculine and quite in depth. Carrying on, what if Julius Caesar was in fact ‘Julia Caesar’, would a member of the general public still expect it to carry on with her not listening to her husband’s wishes or expecting something completely different? And the slight change of gender role can create a whole new piece of art.