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Rethinking Shakespeare's Political PhilosophyFrom Lear to Leviathan$
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Alex Schulman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748682416

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748682416.001.0001

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Pagan Christs

Pagan Christs

Politics in the Roman Plays

(p.55) Chapter 2 Pagan Christs
Rethinking Shakespeare's Political Philosophy

Alex Schulman

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the premise of Shakespeare's ancient Rome — civic virtue, or the attachment to the good of the commonwealth. It begins with the analysis of Coriolanus, where civic virtue is in the final stages of its conflict with a warrior aristocracy that views the masses as raw material facilitating elite achievements. Antony and Cleopatra depicts an aristocracy that depends upon providing the people abundant goods, but does not want to give up its own wasteful prerogatives. Julius Caesar shows how imperial looting threatens domestic republicanism by shifting politics' focal points outside the city. The chapter maintains that the politicisation of warrior charisma involves connecting to common desires rather than separating from the commons. This political aristocracy, however, is not far from being flawed, as evidenced by the decline of the republic and coming of the empire, and of Christianity.

Keywords:   civic virtue, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, warrior charisma, political aristocracy

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