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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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Seneca and the Stoic Hero

Seneca and the Stoic Hero

(p.38) 3 Seneca and the Stoic Hero
Shakespeare and the Constant Romans

Miles Geoffrey

Oxford University Press

If Cicero defined Roman virtue for posterity, Seneca defined Stoic virtue. He has always been seen as ‘the Archestoike’, and his extravagant style and his own ambiguous character and career have made him a focus for both admiration and hostility towards the Stoic ideal. In particular, he is identified with the idea of constancy as a heroic virtue, and with the image of the sapiens, the Stoic hero-sage — courageous, passionless, immovably enduring in adversity, demonstrating his superiority to fortune by resolute death or suicide. It is an ideal of which Shakespeare and his Roman heroes are very conscious. The long-standing debate over Seneca's influence on Shakespeare, and on the English Renaissance in general, has focused on Seneca's plays.

Keywords:   Seneca, Stoic hero, sapiens, Shakespeare, Stoic constancy, suicide

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