‘Take your lily / and get your part ready’
Fletcher and the classics
in John Fletcher’s Rome
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This chapter begins by providing an account of Fletcher’s education and then offers a thorough and systematic analysis of the ways in which Fletcher selected and approached his classical sources in the context of his writing practice, something that has never been done before in such a comprehensive way. This leads to the identification of a modus operandi that appears to have been distinctive to Fletcher’s deployment of the classics. Fletcher was fond of consulting works by historians of Late Antiquity (especially Greek ones) rather than those belonging to the ‘golden age’ of Latin historiography. This choice of unexpected sources seems to have had a role in determining the sense of disorientation that comes across as the cipher of Fletcher’s portrayal of Rome, especially insofar as those historians generally provided a depiction of Rome that tended to be more pessimistic than that offered by golden-age writers. This chapter then considers Valentinian and The Prophetess in close detail as two case studies that effectively exemplify Fletcher’s approach to his classical sources, which also characteristically entails what appears to have been a programmatic intention to combine well-known materials with recently published works. Finally, the chapter relates Fletcher’s de facto rejection of the grammar school canon in his dramatic writing to his depiction of scholars and learning in his plays, thereby shedding light on a potential connection between his life experiences and his portrayal of education.

John Fletcher’s Rome

Questioning the Classics

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