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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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‘Untired Spirits and Formal Constancy’: Julius Caesar

‘Untired Spirits and Formal Constancy’: Julius Caesar

(p.123) 7 ‘Untired Spirits and Formal Constancy’: Julius Caesar
Shakespeare and the Constant Romans

Miles Geoffrey

Oxford University Press

Returning to Shakespeare, this chapter looks at the lines quoted at the beginning of the first chapter: ‘Let not our looks put on our purposes; But bear it as our Roman actors do, With untired spirits and formal constancy’. ‘Formal constancy’ means ‘consistent decorum’: playing one's part without slipping out of character. ‘Untired spirits’ suggests a more Stoic kind of constancy: souls which do not tire but steadfastly withstand adversity. The Ciceronian and Senecan forms of constancy are thus linked. At the same time, the perverse attribution of ‘constancy’ to actors, whose job is to play a number of roles, suggests a potential incongruity between the two halves of the line — between the inner spiritual strength of an ‘untired spirit’, and the public hypocrisy of assuming a merely ‘formal’ constancy.

Keywords:   Julius Caesar, formal constancy, Shakespeare, Roman constancy, Roman actors

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