«The Great Patrician of the Speaking Art»: Cicero, from the Republic of Letters to the English Republic

  • Janet Clare University of Bristol and Institute of English Studies, Uni-versity of London.

Abstract

This article explores the reception of Cicero in early modern England, specifically his centrality to the humanist education programme and as an exponent of civilizing rhetoric. It is contended that throughout the sixteenth century humanists were highly selective in their appreciation of Cicero to the extent that the political contexts and arguments of his oratory were largely ignored. The Cicero celebrated for De officiis (one of the most popular texts in England) was rarely joined to the Cicero of the Philippics, countenancing tyrannicide, even though these texts were composed within months of each other. The surge of interest in classical republicanism in the period of civil wars and the establishment of the English Republic in 1649 marked a decisive change in the representation of Cicero. The transition is exemplified in the play The Tragedy of that Famous Roman Orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (1651). Here, as a supporter of regicide and exponent of the freedom from a tyrannical state, Cicero’s political voice powerfully resonates across time and place.

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Author Biography

Janet Clare, University of Bristol and Institute of English Studies, Uni-versity of London.

Janet Clare (janet.clare@bristol.ac.uk) is Research Professor in English at the University of Bristol and Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies, University of London. In 2016 she was Visiting Professor at the Università degli Studi di Firenze and has lectured in France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Brazil and Japan. She is the author of Art Made Tongue-Tied by Authority: Elizabethan and Jacobean Dramatic Censorship (19992); Drama of the English Republic, 1649-1660 (2002); Revenge Tragedies of the Renaissance (2006) and Shakespeare’s Stage Traffic: Imitation, Borrowing and Competition in Renaissance Theatre (2014, 2017).

Published
2020-12-31