Reviving Lucan
Marlowe, Tamburlaine, and Lucans First Booke
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This chapter examines the revivification of the figure of Julius Caesar in three early modern responses to Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile, avoiding an overtly political reading of Lucan to trace instead an intimate conversation between classical poet, early modern translators and imitators. Starting with Lucans First Booke – a translation that presents as blood-transfusion – I show how Marlowe’s reanimation of Caesar as a Roman Tamburlaine enables the anti-hero to escape the bounds of Lucan’s censoriously moralising and fractured poem. Turning next to the anonymously authored academic drama The Tragedie of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar’s Revenge, we find the full articulation of a Caesar who fulfils and exceeds this Marlovian potential, and an author who runs the attractions to negative repetition in Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile to their natural endpoint: dissolution of the cosmos and the complete confusion of its moral eschatology. The chapter concludes by analysing the destabilising effects of such a revivification of Caesar for both poem and author, via close reading of Thomas May’s 1627 Pharsalia; and in the same author’s attempts both to kill Caesar and ‘end’ Lucan in his 1630 Continuation. The multiple iterations of May’s translation and supplement enact the struggle to resist the super-charged early modern Caesar and Lucan’s unresolved, repetitive poetics alike: and May can accomplish his task in the end only by succumbing to Lucan’s regressive poetics of repetition, adopting early modern tragedy's politics of personal vengeance, and appropriating for his own authorial self the blood-transfusion metaphor of Lucans First Booke.

Conversations

Classical and Renaissance intertextuality

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