Government 90bn SHAKESPEARE’S ROME Paul Cantor

Fall, 2007

Visiting Professor of Government Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English, University of Virginia Seminar, Wednesdays 2-4 PM Lowell Lecture Hall B13 Instructor’s Office: 1737 Cambridge St, CGIS North 410 617-496-0234 The power and endurance of Rome’s political institutions deeply impressed people in the ancient world, and understanding how and why they functioned so well became a problem for classical thinkers. The fascination with Rome continued into the modern world, and some of the most important political philosophers—from Machiavelli to Montesquieu and beyond—developed their ideas in the form of meditations on Roman history. Issues such as the nature of a republic, the dynamics of imperialism, the possibility of a universal community, and the limits of politics—all have been explored by looking at Roman experience. Among writers about Rome, Shakespeare occupies a special place. Four of his ten tragedies are set in ancient Rome, and in the Renaissance spirit of reviving classical antiquity, he deals with Roman matters throughout his plays. Shakespeare did as much as any writer to shape our image of ancient Rome, and he did a remarkable job of accurately reflecting the changing nature of Rome and its institutions. Studying his Roman plays gives us a chance to reflect on Rome’s place in world history. We will read his principal plays devoted to Rome, not in the order in which they were written, but in historical order, from the early days of the Republic in Coriolanus to the late days of the Empire in Titus Andronicus. We will thus focus on Shakespeare’s sense of the changing Roman regime, especially the epochal break between the Republic and the Empire. In Cymbeline, we will study the connections Shakespeare explores between Roman and British history. We will also read a number of the most significant thinkers about Rome, including Polybius, Machiavelli, and Montesquieu—both to develop a background in Roman history and to compare Shakespeare on Rome with other thinkers. REQUIRED TEXTS (available at the Harvard Coop): Shakespeare, William Shakespeare: Three Roman Plays Penguin 0140434615 Shakespeare, Pericles/Cymbeline/Two Noble Kinsmen Signet 0451530357 Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus and Timon of Athens Signet 0451529561 Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire Penguin 0140443622 Montesquieu, Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline Hackett 0872204960 Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy University of Chicago 0226500365

SCHEDULE OF READINGS AND CLASS MEETINGS: Sep 19 Sep 26 Introduction General Discussion of Roman History Read Polybius Book VI (pp. 302-52) and all of Montesquieu You should be reading Machiavelli’s Discourses throughout the semester Coriolanus Coriolanus Julius Caesar Julius Caesar Antony and Cleopatra Antony and Cleopatra Cymbeline NO CLASS (Thanksgiving) Cymbeline PAPER TOPICS DUE

Oct 3 Oct 10 Oct 17 Oct 24 Oct 31 Nov 7 Nov 14 Nov 21 Nov 28 Dec 5 Dec 12 Jan 11

Titus Andronicus Titus Andronicus and Conclusion SEMINAR PAPER DUE

COURSE REQUIREMENTS: A)Class participation; this will include one 10 to 15 minute class presentation—topic to be determined in consultation with the instructor. B)A seminar paper—20-25 pages—topic to be determined in consultation with the instructor—a 2 to 3 page statement of your topic will be due at the class meeting on November 28; the paper will be due on Friday, January 11. Class participation will count 25% of your final grade; the seminar paper 75%.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.