The Following images are those used for Unit 1
of the ALRI Shakespeare's
Rome course. Click in the small images or on
the links to see larger images.
Shakespeare and his theatres
The four plays covered in this course are Coriolanus, Julius
Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Titus Andronicus
Shakespeare's visage (and even his existence) has
been widely debated. Those who refuse to believe that a
glove maker's son from the village of Stratford could have
become a world renowned playwright and who would rather find a
noble author are just snobs. As to his appearance, only
recently has a contemporary portrait emerged that confirms that
our pictorial image of the man is accurate. The image
above, the "Chandos portrait", is the most familiar.
The picture opposite the dedication page of the 1623 First
Folio was engraved for people that personally knew the already
dead author, and it would certainly have been seen by his
children and perhaps by his wife, who may still have been alive
(she died that year). If it was inaccurate, they would
The bust over Shakespeare's tomb in Trinity Church,
Stratford, was also in place before 1623 and would have
been seen by family and friends who knew his appearance.
Shakespeare's royal patrons were Elizabeth I and James
I. Hence, the appellations Elizabethan and Jacobean for
the literature of their periods.
It has been suggested that some of of Shakespeare's Jacobean
plays were meant either to parody the court of James or to
present object lessons to King and court. The royal court
and the actions of the king -- especially his relationship with
male "favourites" was widely ridiculed: e.g., "Elizabeth
was King and James is Queen". It is also documented that
Shakespeare was a member of the cast in the first
production of Ben Johnson's Sejanus, which was a
blatant parody of the first Jacobean court and which
caused considerable trouble for its author.
Sources of Shakespeare's Roman tragedies:
The sources for Shakespeare's classical Roman and Greek plays
were English translations of classical authors. It's clear that
Shakespeare did not use the sources in their original languages
-- he lifted vast stretches of lines from the English
North's English translation of Plutarch's lives is on the
Internet at http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/plutarch-plutarchs-lives-englished-by-sir-thomas-north-in-ten-volumes.
The performance of the 19th century: the distinguished
Shakespearean Booth brothers acted together for the first and
only time in a benefit performance of Julius Caesar 0n November
25, 1864. John Wilkes Booth, who played Mark Antony, the
only Booth non-assassin in the production, became one less than
five months later on April 14, 1865, in Ford's Theater.
for how the acting may have triggered the action.
Live entertainment was the only kind available in Shakespeare's
London, so there had to be many venues. Shakespeare's
plays were first produced in theatres in the northeast of the
city. Later, health restrictions, religious pressure, and
a dispute over a lease caused Shakespeare's company to pull up
stakes and move to the south side of the Thames.
Purpose-built English theatres had round orchestras like ancient
Greek theatres (as opposed to the semi-circular orchestras of
ancient Roman theatres. Instead of the sloping caveae of
the ancient theatres, the London "O" theatres had several tiers
of balcony seats where the higher paying customers sat.
They were open to the air and almost always hosted daytime
performances. London theatre companies also played in
square or rectangular open courtyards of inns. The "King's
Men", Shakespeare's acting company, eventually also played in
the indoor Blackfriars theatre.
The old Globe theatre was octagonal and was built on the
southern shore of the Thames. The drawing shows it
standing in isolation, but on theatre days if would have been
surrounded by tents, booths, and kiosks where food and souvenirs
were available for the audience which could reach 3,000.
The old Globe burned in 1613 but was rebuilt for the next year's
season. The new theatre was closed by the Puritans when they
came to power in 1642 and never reopened.
The modern Globe, which was built near the site of the derelict
1614 Globe, opened in 1997. Its thatched roof is the first
that was allowed in London since the great fire of 1666.
The roof is heavily treated with fire retardants, and it and the
theatre have a complex sprinkler system.
Interior of the modern Globe
View from the stage of the modern Globe
A drawing of the interior of the Blackfriars theatre
Richard Burbage, the entrepreneur who arranged the King's Men
use of the Blackfriars, which had been built by his father on
the compound of the old Blackfriars monastery.
Nothing is left of the London Blackfriars Theatre, but a full
scale replica is in Staunton Virginia.
Coriolanus is a 1608 tragedy by William Shakespeare, based on
the life of the legendary Roman leader, Gaius Martius
The text of the play was first published in the 1623 First
Folio. The detailed stage directions that were printed
with the text lead Shakespeare scholars to believe that the play
was copied from a performance prompt book.
The action in Coriolanus takes place in Rome and the towns of
The exact location of the town of Corioli, from which the
cognomen Coriolanus was derived, already was
lost in ancient times although we know its approximate location
from references to its former agricultural properties. A
cognomen was a name added behind a person's
praenomen and nomen to show a place of origin or a personal or
family characteristic. An agnomen was an honorific
cognomen given to a person, for example, after a military
victory. Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus had the
cognomen Scipio and the agnomen Africanus. Coriolanus was
Gaius Marius with the cognomen Coriolanus. According to
Roman mythology "Coriolanus" was an agnomen he acquired for
capturing the town of Corioli, but agnomens did not come into
use until several centuries later, so it was probably a cognomen
indicating his place of origin.
After the defection of Coriolanus to the Volsci, he led two
campaigns during which he captured highland and lowland towns
that had previously been under Roman authority.
Antium (the headquarters of Aufidius of the Volsci) today and
during the 2nd World War
The nymphaeum fountain from Nero's villa in Anzio is now in a
museum in Rome
Remains of Cicero's Antium villa
Coriolanus takes leave of his mother and his wife
Virgilia mourns the absence of her husband Coriolanus
The mother of Coriolanus intercedes with her son
Shakespeare strongly implied a homosexual relationship
between Coriolanus and Aufidius.