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Is Shakespeare History? The Romans

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's treatment of Roman history, where he had scope to explore ideas too threatening for English histories.

In the second of two programmes marking In Our Time's 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's versions of history, continuing with the Roman plays. Rome was the setting for Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and parts of Antony and Cleopatra and these plays gave Shakespeare the chance to explore ideas too controversial for English histories. How was Shakespeare reimagining Roman history, and what impact has that had on how we see Rome today?

The image above is of Marlon Brando playing Mark Antony in a scene from the film version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 1953


Sir Jonathan Bate
Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford

Catherine Steel
Professor of Classics and Dean of Research in the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow


Patrick Gray
Associate Professor of English Studies at Durham University

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

42 minutes

Last on

Thu 18 Oct 2018 21:30


Jonathan Bate at the University of Oxford

Catherine Steel at the University of Glasgow

Patrick Gray at Durham University

Shakespearean history - Wikipedia



Paul A. Cantor, Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy: The Twilight of Antiquity (University of Chicago Press, 2017)

Paul A. Cantor, Shakespeare’s Rome: Republic and Empire (first published 1976; University of Chicago Press, 2017)

Patrick Gray, Shakespeare and the Fall of the Roman Republic: Selfhood, Stoicism, and Civil War (Edinburgh University Press, 2018)

Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Livy (trans. Aubrey De Selincourt), The Early History of Rome: Books 1-5 (Penguin, 2002)

Livy (ed. T. J. Luce), The Rise of Rome: Books 1-5 (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Geoffrey Miles, Shakespeare and the Constant Romans (Oxford University Press, 1996)

Robert S. Miola, Shakespeare’s Rome (Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Plutarch (trans. Robin Waterfield), Roman Lives: A Selection of Eight Lives (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Plutarch (trans. Rex Warner), Fall of the Roman Republic (Penguin, 2006)

Plutarch (trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert), Rome in Crisis (Penguin, 2010)

Plutarch (trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert), The Rise of Rome (Penguin, 2013)

Duane W. Roller, Cleopatra: A Biography (Oxford University Press, 2010)

H. H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome 133 B.C. to A.D. 68 (first published 1959; Routledge, 2011)

Kathryn Tempest, Brutus: The Noble Conspirator (Yale University Press, 2017)

Edward J. Watts, Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny (Basic Books, 2018)

Greg Woolf, Et Tu, Brute?: A Short History of Political Murder (Harvard University Press, 2008)



  • Thu 18 Oct 2018 09:00
  • Thu 18 Oct 2018 21:30

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