‘Of Higher State | Than Monarch, King or World’s Great Potentate’: The Name of Caesar in Early Modern English Drama

Domenico Lovascio


This paper investigates the circulation and significance of the name of Caesar in early modern English literature and culture, with a special focus on drama. Julius Caesar’s habit of referring to himself in the third person was picked up by several early modern English playwrights in their portrayals of the Roman general. In their hands, the name of Caesar became an independent entity with strong symbolic and quasi-divine connotations. The motif is most fully developed and exploited in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1599), and scholars have long acknowledged and widely commented on the focus placed in this play on the titular character’s third-person self-referencing and relentless repetition of his own name as parts of his well-devised strategy of self-aggrandisement. However, virtually no attention has been paid to the appearance of similar features in other early modern English plays portraying Caesar as a stage character: Thomas Kyd’s Cornelia (1594), the anonymous Caesar’s Revenge (c. 1595), William Alexander’s Julius Caesar (1607) and John Fletcher and Philip Massinger’s The False One (c. 1620). Therefore, the essay will first provide an in-depth historical, philological, psychological and political discussion of Caesar’s self-mythopoeic use of his own name so abundantly displayed in Shakespeare’s play—backed by an unavoidable thorough survey of the main critical contributions on the subject. Then, it will especially focus on the broader significance attached to Caesar’s name in medieval and Renaissance England and account for its ubiquity in early modern English drama at large as a particular manifestation of certain late Elizabethan and Jacobean political misgivings and anxieties.


Caesar; names; reception of classical antiquity; ancient Rome and early modern England; myth; civil war

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.