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About this book

Rome was a recurring theme throughout Shakespeare's career, from the celebrated Julius Caesar, to the more obscure Cymbeline. In this book, Paul Innes assesses themes of politics and national identity in these plays through the common theme of Rome. He especially examines Shakespeare's interpretation of Rome and how he presented it to his contemporary audiences. Shakespeare's depiction of Rome changed over his lifetime, and this is discussed in conjunction with the emergence of discourses on the British Empire.
Each chapter focuses on a play, which is thoroughly analysed, with regard to both performance and critical reception. Shakespeare's plays are related to the theatrical culture of their time and are considered in light of how they might have been performed to his contemporaries. Innes engages strongly with both the plays the most current scholarship in the field

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Books on Shakespeare’s Roman plays share the general set of problems that accompany any attempt to group his works into coherent sets or patterns. There are always objections to the procedure, while at the same time there seem to be, at least on the surface, good reasons for following it. Even matters of textual choice are open to negotiation and to questioning; for example, this volume includes Cymbeline as a so-called ‘Roman play’. Ultimately, what matters may not be so much the texts chosen in and of themselves, but the relationships between them, the hidden, underlying reason why a particular collection, set of essays or book makes the choice it does. The interest here accordingly is not so much on the source materials available to Shakespeare, as the ways in which he manipulates that material in different ways in different plays.1
Paul Innes

1. Titus Andronicus

Abstract
Perhaps more than any other Shakespeare play, Titus Andronicus confronts its audiences and readers from the outset with a series of seemingly insuperable problems. Jonathan Bate, editor of the play for the Arden 3 series, begins his extensive Introduction by quoting Peter Brook’s verdict:
When the notices of Titus Andronicus came out, giving us full marks for saving your dreadful play, I could not help feeling a twinge of guilt. For to tell the truth it had not occurred to any of us in rehearsal that the play was so bad.1
Paul Innes

2. Julius Caesar

Abstract
Julius Caesar is almost entirely absent from Julius Caesar. He appears in person in only three scenes of a play that is ostensibly named after him, and is killed during the third of them. Even when he is present on the stage, he seems to be mostly enacted upon by others, despite his own protestations to the contrary, his fixation upon his seemingly unassailable position at the apex of Roman society notwithstanding. The rest of the play is concerned with the struggle over the Roman state precipitated by his death, pointing to a deep concern with the implications of his demise that go well beyond the immediate effects of his brief appearances.
Paul Innes

3. Antony and Cleopatra

Abstract
The figure of Cleopatra has fascinated the popular and critical imagination for centuries. She seems to stand out as someone exceptional, above and beyond her relationship with Antony; she has certainly outstripped the second of her erstwhile Roman husbands in the popularity stakes. Shakespeare has done a great deal to cement her standing, but the process was already well under way by the time he wrote his play. Indeed, a long-term historical process has been at work, one that has at least as much to do with representations of this particular Macedonian queen as Egyptian as it does with any form of reality. Such misrespresentation forms the main subject of this chapter, which therefore differs from the previous two in that it takes as its starting point an analysis of critical positions and predispositions. Central to the argument here will be the ways in which Shakespeare’s play both looks back towards its classical roots, and also at the same time to the present requirements of its own performance culture.
Paul Innes

4. Coriolanus

Abstract
Coriolanus probably never existed. As a historical personage, his veracity or otherwise is almost impossible to ascertain, but modern historians such as Philip Matyszak seem to think that ‘Coriolanus is probably fictional.’1 Matyszak includes a section on the figure of Coriolanus in his chronicle of the rulers of the Roman Republic, but he is very cautious when it comes to delineating the man himself, preferring to see him as part of a wider range of personages from the early days of the Republic who function in certain ways:
Many of the figures of early Rome may indeed be foundation legends. However, each of these legends is probably based to some degree on fact. Coriolanus is less probable than most, but the Romans believed that he existed, and this tells us something about the Romans.2
Paul Innes

5. Cymbeline

Abstract
As noted in the Introduction to this book, Cymbeline hardly figures in Cymbeline. Indeed, the play begins not with the king or even with one or more major characters, but in a sort of minor key:
Paul Innes
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