‘To do thus / I learned of thee’
Shakespeare’s exemplary Roman plays
in John Fletcher’s Rome
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The chapter offers a survey of the debt of the Fletcher canon to Shakespeare’s Roman plays in general and then focuses on Valentinian, Bonduca, The False One, and The Prophetess. Valentinian is in conversation with Julius Caesar. Bonduca is shown to refashion motifs from Cymbeline and Antony and Cleopatra. The False One draws upon both Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. The discussion of The Prophetess sheds light on Fletcher and Massinger’s appropriation of Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, particularly as concerns the depiction of Diocletian, who is modelled more after Shakespeare’s Antony than the historical emperor. Fletcher appears to put Shakespeare’s Roman plays on the same level as the accounts of the classical historians, interweaving Shakespeare’s dramatic retellings of Roman history with actual historical accounts. The Shakespearean example seems to direct the choices and decisions of the Fletcherian characters by bestowing on them a kind of prescience of future events. When Fletcher’s Roman plays are considered in the broader context of the King’s Men’s repertory, the possibility arises that the effect of this Shakespearean memory could have been enhanced if the same actors performed different roles in different plays. While Fletcher’s conversation with Shakespeare’s Roman plays spans his entire career, it intensifies in 1619–23, when he seems to have been attracted to previously unpublished plays and when work towards the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio was under way. The chapter ends by wondering whether Fletcher might have had a role in the First Folio’s preparation

John Fletcher’s Rome

Questioning the Classics

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