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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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Constancy and Opinion: Renaissance Neostoicism

Constancy and Opinion: Renaissance Neostoicism

(p.63) 4 Constancy and Opinion: Renaissance Neostoicism
Shakespeare and the Constant Romans

Miles Geoffrey

Oxford University Press

Fifteen hundred years after the death of Seneca, Stoic constancy once again became a subject of debate. In the later sixteenth century ‘Neostoic’ or ‘Christian Stoic’ writers — Montaigne, Lipsius, Du Vair, and others — revived the ideals of classical Stoicism, with particular emphasis on the virtue of constancy and its opposition to the corrupting power of ‘opinion’; and this Stoic revival in its turn led to an anti-Stoic reaction. The Renaissance, however, inherited an ambivalent attitude to Stoicism, based on the coexistence throughout the history of Christianity of two conflicting attitudes towards pagan thought, the ‘Alexandrian’ and the ‘Augustinian’. Lipsius and the Neostoics, with their idealization of constancy and its capacity to make human beings divine, and their emphasis on the dangers of opinion as an enemy to constancy, provide a crucial background to Shakespeare's Roman plays.

Keywords:   Renaissance Neostoicism, Stoic writers, Christianity, Montaigne, Du Vair, pagan thought, constancy, Lipsius

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