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Roman Shakespeare

Intersecting Times, Spaces, Languages


Edited By Daniela Guardamagna

This book addresses the memory of Rome: the dialectic between the glorious historical past of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire and its echoes, representations and interpretations in the works of Shakespeare. The essays explore multiple layers of time and place in relation to Shakespearean plays: throughout the world (from Romania to Japan) and down the centuries, in the arts (paintings, music) and in dramatic performances.

Individual essays (by Michel Dobson, Peter Holland, Richard Wilson and Piero Boitani, among others) address multiple aspects of the complex relationship between two countries (England and Italy) and two moments in time (the Ancient Roman and Early Modern periods). Essays include analyses of less studied works (e.g. Cymbeline), rewritings of Roman narratives (e.g. Titus Andronicus and The Rape of Lucrece), modern enactments of Shakespearean performances around the world, the representation of Shakespearean myths in Renaissance paintings, and the music accompanying the text of Roman plays.

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1 Nationalisms, National Theatres and the Return of Julius Caesar (Michael Dobson)


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1 Nationalisms, National Theatres and the Return of Julius Caesar


The national theatre institutions which have developed across Europe since the Renaissance share a contradictory double mission: to nurture and defend their distinct national dramatic traditions, and at the same time to purvey the shared classics of world theatre. In the light of the spate of topical revivals of Julius Caesar which proliferated worldwide from 2015 through 2017, this chapter looks at the role Shakespeare’s Roman tragedies have played in the repertories of national theatres over the last two centuries – works which purport to represent classical civilization, but written in a dramatic mode which successive vernaculars have found liberatingly unclassical. It looks in particular at the significance of Julius Caesar in London, Washington, Riga, and Bucharest.

At least half of the point about the best texts from the English Renaissance is that they have not confined themselves either to England or to the Renaissance. This has been especially true of its plays, in part because theatre is by its nature an art form at odds with the everyday sequential progression of time. In the playhouse, we experience in the immediate present a show which is actually a repetition of something assembled in a rehearsal period in the recent past. In the case of productions of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, furthermore, that show’s narrative content may date from 2,000 years ago and its words from 1,600...

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