"Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once."
Caesar, from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (Act II, Scene ii, 32-37)
I saw Denzel Washington play Brutus in a production of Julius Caesar earlier this year. From my seats in the far left of the orchestra, I missed a lot of lines spoken away from me. Many of Marcus Aurelius's lines were incomprehensible, and the setting was lost in time: in some scenes soldiers carried machine guns and walked through metal detectors, but in others they seemed as if they were in ancient Rome. Not my favorite production, and not my favorite Shakespeare play, but the quote above cuts to the heart of things.
Now we have HBO's miniseries Rome. After the first three episodes, the show has done just enough to hold my attention, but my blood isn't boiling the way I'd expected it to, what with all the spicy intrigue that made up ancient Rome. The story is told from the perspective of lesser (and I presume fictional) characters who brush up against more well-known figures such as Caesar, Mark Antony, Cato, and Brutus, a crucial decision, and the wrong one. This is one instance where I'd rather follow the brighter lights of ancient Italian history. How the story might take legends and bring them down from the heavens and humanize them, that's what interests me. This interpretation of Rome is like a miniseries about the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 90's, but focused on the stories of Bobby Hansen, Luc Longley, and the ball boy.