Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shakespeare and the Constant Romans

Shakespeare and the Constant Romans : Shakespeare and the Constant Romans Oxford Scholarship Online
http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117711.001.0001/acprof-9780198117711?rskey=Ra35rm&result=20&q=

Geoffrey Miles

Abstract

Shakespeare's Romans are intensely concerned with being 'constant'. But, as this book shows, that virtue is far more ambiguous than is often recognized. The author begins by showing how the Stoic principle of being 'always the same' was shaped by two Roman writers into very different ideals: Cicero's Roman actor, playing an appropriate role with consistent decorum, and Seneca's Stoic hero, unmoved as a rock despite having been battered by adversity. Miles then traces the controversial history of these ideals through the Renaissance, focusing on the complex relationship between constancy and kn … More

Shakespeare's Romans are intensely concerned with being 'constant'. But, as this book shows, that virtue is far more ambiguous than is often recognized. The author begins by showing how the Stoic principle of being 'always the same' was shaped by two Roman writers into very different ideals: Cicero's Roman actor, playing an appropriate role with consistent decorum, and Seneca's Stoic hero, unmoved as a rock despite having been battered by adversity. Miles then traces the controversial history of these ideals through the Renaissance, focusing on the complex relationship between constancy and knowledge. Montaigne's sympathetic but devastating critique of Stoicism is examined in detail. Building on this genealogy of constancy, the final chapters read Shakespeare's Roman plays as his reworking of a triptych of figures found in Plutarch: the constant Brutus, the inconstant Antony, and the obstinate Coriolanus. The tragedies of these characters, the author demonstrates, act out the attractions, flaws, and self-contradictions of constancy, and the tragi-comic failure of the Roman hope that 'were man/But constant, he were perfect'.

Keywords: Roman plays, stoicism, Cicero, Seneca, Stoic hero, Renaissance, constancy, Montaigne, Plutarch

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 1996 Print ISBN-13: 9780198117711 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117711.001.0001

Authors

Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Geoffrey Miles, Author
Victoria University of Wellington