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Tragedy: What Rome?

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

Abstract

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

Keywords

Political Subjectivity Common Body Final Scene Opening Scene Henry Versus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), pp. 33–50.Google Scholar
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    Livy, The Romane Historic written by T. Livius of Padva, trans. Philemon Holland (London: Adam Islip, 1600), pp. 4, 7, 8–10, 25.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Claude Nicolet, The World of the Citizen in Republican Rome, trans. P. S. Falla (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), pp. 23–30.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Machiavelli, The Discourses, ed. Bernard Crick, revised trans. Leslie J. Walker (London: Penguin, 1998), p. 109 and passim.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Machiavelli, The Art of War, ed. Neal Wood, revised trans. Ellis Farnsworth (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2001), pp. 22–23, 40–41.Google Scholar
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    Paul Jorgensen, Shakespeare’s Military World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), pp. 214–314.Google Scholar
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    As Jonathan Bate argues in his introduction to the third Arden edition of the play, a range of historical periods from the early Republic to the fall of the Empire is implied in its eclectic plot. In my opinion, fixing the setting in the later Empire—the default setting, after all—is nevertheless important if we are to understand alienage and the weakening of Patrician citizenship in the action: see Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, ed. Bate (London: Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1995), pp. 16–17.Google Scholar
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    The echo of Virgil in this passage may be another example of the depletion of this author in Titus noted by Heather James, whose discussion of Roman degeneration in the play has influenced my reading of it: “Cultural Disintegration in Titus Andronicus,” Themes in Drama 13 (1991), 123–140.Google Scholar
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  17. 25.
    Daniell, ed., in Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 1.1.59–1.1.61 note. On the disrupted rhythm of holiday-time and the everyday in the play and in London, see Paster, The Idea of the City, p. 61. Paster mostly deals with Shakespeare’s image of the ancient city in her discussion of the Roman plays, rather than situational or linguistic parallels with London.Google Scholar
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    George Unwin, The Gilds & Companies of London (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1938), pp. 262–264; Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, pp. 91, 110–117.Google Scholar
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    Mark S. R. Jenner, “From Conduit Community to Commercial Network? Water in London, 1500–1725,” in Paul Griffiths and Jenner, p. 252.Google Scholar
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    Paster, The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993 ), p. 93; Coppelia Kahn, Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 103–104.Google Scholar
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    Kahn, Roman Shakespeare, p. 101, sees the wound as a sign of castration. It exposes masculine wounds as inadequate fetishes that fail to cover the origin of Roman masculinity in castration and its complicity with its own images of the feminine.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    As Richard Burt argues, politics and discourse, or the manipulation of signs, do not coincide in the play or elsewhere: “‘A Dangerous Rome’: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the Discursive Determination of Cultural Politics,” in Marie-Rose Logan and Peter L. Rudnystsky, eds., Contending Kingdoms: Historical, Psychological, and Feminist Approaches to the Literature of Sixteenth Century England and France (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), pp. 109–127, esp. p. 118.Google Scholar
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    Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, ed. John Wilders (Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1995), 1.1.18–1.1.19.Google Scholar
  27. 37.
    Nicolet sees triumphs, funeral orations (such as we see in Julius Caesar), and other occasions for public display in the late Republic as the institutions of an “alternative city” (pp. 345–346, 352–356). Cleopatra deliberately conflates demotic demonstrations of opinion with the traditional institutions of the Republic.Google Scholar
  28. 38.
    Kahn (pp. 121–133) argues that Antony’s suicide is neither botched nor ridiculous.Google Scholar
  29. 39.
    Shakespeare, Coriolanus, ed. Philip Brockbank (London: Arden Shakespeare-Routledge, 1976), 1.1.SD 1.Google Scholar
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    Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957). Annabel Patterson overstates the case for a populist Shakespeare who invests the people’s speech with unmediated integrity and power in Coriolanus Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 127–128, 132–133. Patterson does offer a useful correction to what she calls “conservative” readings that assume Shakespeare shares Coriolanus’s contempt for the often canny citizens in the play.Google Scholar
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    In his Roman plays, Shakespeare anticipates Nicolet on the relation among tradition, urban geography, and architecture. According to Nicolet (p. 11), “A striking feature [of citizen experience in the Republic] is the importance of the monumental setting which the Roman city … came to create as a framework to its collective activity. … It is not only a question of ‘placing’ the cardinal features and key points of civic life, of estimating space and distance, but also of recognizing the constant interrelation and mutual influence between this topographical and monumental setting, in its permanence or its modifications, and the actions and events which took place there.” On Coriolanus’s identification with the built city, see Paster, The Idea of the City, pp. 80–81.Google Scholar
  34. 60.
    Shakespeare, Coriolanus, ed. Brockbank, p. 17 and 1.1.46 note, and Robert S. Miola, Shakespeare’s Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 181. Shakespeare might have glanced at Marlianus’s detailed Topographie of Rome in Ancient Time, a lengthy description of buildings and public places that is appended to Holland’s 1600 translation of Livy (pp. 1347–1403).Google Scholar
  35. 61.
    Shakespeare, The Second Part of King Henry VI, ed. Cairncross, 3.1.249 note. Incidentally, “carrion kites and crows” appear again in the same play (5.2.11). Kites and crows are mentioned in a battlefield context in Julius Caesar, 5.1.84.Google Scholar
  36. 65.
    Jenner, pp. 254–255. On the grain conflicts, see Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare, pp. 203–204.Google Scholar
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    Lawrence Manley, Literature and Culture in Early Modern London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 225.Google Scholar
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    Shakespeare, Coriolanus, ed. Brockbank, p. 25 and 3.1.95–3.1.96 note. The suggestion is G. B. Harrison’s. See also Jenner, “Water in London,” p. 257. Leinwand (p. 298) mentions that Spencer was involved in a dispute about renovations to his estate that would have blocked the supply of water to St. Bartholomew’s hospital in 1599, but he does not relate this to the conduit complex in the play.Google Scholar
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    Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 132; Kahn, Roman Shakespeare, p. 151.Google Scholar
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    Rappaport, Worlds Within Worlds, p. 55; Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities, p. 290; Laura Hunt Yungblut, Strangers Settled Here Amongst Us: Policies, Perceptions and the Presence of Aliens in Elizabethan England (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 105. On James I, see Pettegree, p. 295, and Yungblut, p. 116.Google Scholar
  41. 80.
    Thomas Dekker [and John Webster], Westward Ho!, in Fredson Bowers, ed., The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), 1.1.220–1.1.229; for the revenge theme, see 5.4.51.Google Scholar
  42. 81.
    On windows and shutters, see Kathleen Tillotson, in Geoffrey Tillotson, Essays in Criticism and Research (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1942), pp. 204–207. On pentices (“penthouse lids”) and shop boards as horizontal shutters, see Peter W. M. Blayney, “John Day and the Bookshop that Never Was,” in Orlin, p. 332.Google Scholar
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    See Jodi Mikalachki, “The Masculine Romance of Roman Britain: Cymbeline and Early Modern English Nationalism,” Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (1995), 301–322.Google Scholar

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© John Michael Archer 2005

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  • John Michael Archer

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