Tragedy: What Rome?

  • John Michael Archer
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


London’s memory of the ancient city of Rome was built into its folkloric topography. Queen Isabel bemoans Richard II’s imprisonment in “Julius Caesar’s ill-erected tower.”1 The Tower of London was traditionally begun, if not quite built, by Caesar upon his short-lived conquest of the city, as Buckingham explains to the young prince in Richard III. Even if its origins are not attested by the historical record, the prince observes, “Methinks the truth should live from age to age,/As ’twere retail’d to all posterity.”2 London’s true relation with Roman antiquity remained an uncertain and competitive one. Anti-Catholic feeling and suspicion of the Holy Roman Empire exacerbated London’s insecure ambitions in the early seventeenth century. Supposedly founded by the Trojan Brute as a “New Troy,” London claimed common roots with Rome but sought to become Rome’s rival and, under James I, its proper heir.3


Political Subjectivity Common Body Final Scene Opening Scene Henry Versus 
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© John Michael Archer 2005

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