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Shakespeare and the Constant Romans$
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Geoffrey Miles

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198117711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117711.001.0001

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Cicero and the Roman Actors

Cicero and the Roman Actors

(p.18) 2 Cicero and the Roman Actors
Shakespeare and the Constant Romans

Miles Geoffrey

Oxford University Press

More than any other writer, Marcus Tullius Cicero defined for posterity the concept of ‘Roman virtue’. His philosophical works blended an eclectic but Stoic-flavoured version of Greek ethical thought with traditional Roman values to produce a distinctively Roman Stoicism: moderate, public-spirited, placing all its emphasis on the social virtues, and inculcating courage, temperance, honour, and duty in the service of Rome. In particular their influence on the Renaissance was incalculable. Most popular of all was Cicero's last work, his treatise on civic virtue, De officiis. If there is one classical text, outside Ovid and Plutarch, that Shakespeare must have read, it is De officiis. Shakespeare's conception of his noble Romans as actors, this chapter argues, derives ultimately from these passages. He is fascinated by the questions raised by Ciceronian decorum, and its ambiguous relationship with other, more heroic forms of Stoic constancy.

Keywords:   Roman virtue, Cicero, Roman actors, De officiis, decorum, Stoicism

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