Politics in the Roman Plays
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.
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