MEMS 314 - The Figure of Rome in Shakespeare and 16th-Century Painting
Section: 001
Term: WN 2008
Subject: Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS)
Department: LSA History
Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

In this course we will read a selection of Shakespeare's Roman plays, Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline, in the light of their ancient sources, especially Ovid, Livy, Plutarch, Caesar, and Augustine. We will ask what the figure of "Rome" means in the context of each play, and how that historical reference point is used to frame problems of contemporary import in Shakespeare's own time. As comparison and contrast, we will also examine the reclamation of Rome by artists of the Renaissance and the Counter-reformation, especially Mantegna, Titian, and Caravaggio, in order to make arguments concerning antiquity and memory; martyrdom and authority; and the status of the image. We will complete our study by inquiring how (and why) Renaissance artists, historians, and antiquarians began to construct a pre-Roman paganism. What sources did they use? Was there a political or cultural motive behind this construction?

  1. Blood Cries out: Martyrdom and Authority.
    • Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus;
    • Ovid, selections from the Metamorphoses;
    • Livy, selections from the Early History of Rome;
    • Augustine, selections from The City of God;
    • Caravaggio paintings.
  2. The Lion and the Fox: Strategies of Power.
    • Plutarch, Lives of Julius Caesar and Brutus;
    • Shakespeare, Julius Caesar;
    • Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince;
    • Mantegna paintings.
  3. The Snare of Love.
    • Plutarch, Life of Anthony;
    • Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra;
    • Titian paintings.
  4. Inventing British Paganism.
    • Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War (Selections);
    • Shakespeare, Cymbeline

MEMS 314 - The Figure of Rome in Shakespeare and 16th-Century Painting
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 2:00PM - 3:30PM
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