The Myth of Rome in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries

The Myth of Rome in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries

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When Cleopatra expresses a desire to die 'after the high Roman fashion', acting in accordance with 'what's brave, what's noble', Shakespeare is suggesting that there are certain values that are characteristically Roman. The use of the terms 'Rome' and 'Roman' in Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra or Jonson's Sejanus often carry the implication that most people fail to live up to this ideal of conduct, that very few Romans are worthy of the name. In this book Chernaik demonstrates how, in these plays, Roman values are held up to critical scrutiny. The plays of Shakespeare, Jonson, Massinger and Chapman often present a much darker image of Rome, as exemplifying barbarism rather than civility. Through a comparative analysis of the Roman plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and including detailed discussion of the classical historians Livy, Tacitus and Plutarch, this study examines the uses of Roman history - 'the myth of Rome' - in Shakespeare's more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139073486
  • 9781139073486

Review quote

'... brilliant new readings ... Chernaik's readings of Shakespeare show how historicism and close reading work together ... On Massinger, Chernaik is dazzling in his textual and historical precision ...' N. Lukachev, Choice '... a rich comparative study that surveys Roman stories and motifs in many plays ... Chernaik suggests that as long as the English had questions about their own society, they would continue to write about, and debate, the meaning of Rome ...' Peter Parolin, Renaissance Quarterly 'Warren Chernaik's The Myth of Rome in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries truly lives up to the breadth of material suggested by the title. ... Chernaik places Shakespeare's plays and poems about Rome in full conversation with other contemporary works on the subject. ... [He] lends us, the readers, his incredible expertise, so that we too can glimpse the complexity of what Rome meant for an early modern audience.' Brian J. Harries, Shakespeare Newslettershow more

Table of contents

1. The Roman historians and the myth of Rome; 2. The wronged Lucretian and the early Republic; 3. Self-inflicted wounds; 4. 'Like a colossus': Julius Caesar; 5. Ben Jonson's Rome; 6. Oerflowing the measure: Antony and Cleopatra; 7. The city and the battlefield: Coriolanus; 8. Tyranny and empire; 9. Ancient Britons and Romans; more