Fletcher, Massinger, and Roman imperial character.
My implicit purpose here is to suggest that what Rymer senses about Rollo was much more a common feature of English Renaissance drama than we often think: it was often driven by characterization, and, in historical dramas, by a characterization based on historically informed conceptions of the minds of particular persons. To build up to this suggestion, I will focus on six Roman plays Fletcher and Massinger wrote, as a team and separately: their coauthored plays The False One and The Prophetess; the multiauthored Rollo; Fletcher's Valentinian; and Massinger's Roman Actor and Emperor of the East) My immediate purpose is to study this group of plays closely as they have not been studied before, as a group, one which, like Shakespeare's Roman plays, may be fruitfully examined for the interconnections between its members. But such an examination also has far wider significance, as it yields evidence contrary to our now longstanding critical attitudes about characterization--that is, that there really are no particularized historical analyses, only topical/political valences, (5) and no characters, only representatives of stock types. (6) The flatness of characterization in Fletcher and Massinger being an old commonplace, (7) if we can find something in these plays indicative of an effort toward the historical reconstruction of character, then we must begin to imagine this effort as much more pervasive in the drama than critics have generally held.
In each play, we will observe engagement with what I will term the historical tradition, a cluster of ideas about a given personage that the playwrights would encounter not only in their sources, but also in the biographical conceits imbuing the gamut of historical commentary, both ancient and contemporary. By working with and sifting through the historical tradition, each play, as it produces an understanding of the nature of its emperor's personality, amounts to a conjecture in the sense used by Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh defended the historian's use of conjecture because it was necessary "to discover the passions" that had instigated "notorious actions" and "to search into the particular humours of princes"; (8) historical inquiry meant inquiry into causation, and that in turn meant inquiry into a particular prince's character, his or her configuration of memories, conditioning, drives, and ingrained moral parameters. Our two authors conduct just such an inquiry in each play; they derive from the diverse and at times disparate ideas of the historical tradition a coherent approach to each emperor's psychology. And aiding this process, rather than detracting from it, is the framing of these characters within a stock type, that of the tyrant, as two of its strands--the tyrant as effeminized lecher and the tyrant as duplicitous stage actor--are factored into the portrait of each emperor to contribute to its distinctiveness.
In fact, observing a particular emperor's place along these two axes--ungoverned desire and histrionic dissimulation--we can view our dramatists as operating within what Judith Anderson has called "biographical truth;' the fictive and moral, but also the factual and descriptive, "reconstruction" of a life. (9) Though authoritative scholars like Edward Burns have claimed that probing individuality and inwardness concerned neither ancient life-writers like Plutarch and Suetonius nor Renaissance dramatists like Shakespeare, (10) others, such as Cynthia Marshall and Gordon Braden, have argued just the opposite: Plutarch, explains Marshall, "fostered a particularly individualistic way of thinking;' imparting to the observant Shakespeare a feel for "the ghostly others who reside within a single person"; and as Braden shows, the psychological dynamics of "imperial derangement," varying from case to case and causing so much to happen in the world, were fundamentally interesting to Plutarch and thence to Shakespeare, whose aim in the Roman plays was "the disciplined recreation of a particular historical moment, populated with specific historical characters." (11) Such was also the goal of Shakespeare's two protege, and, with the aid of the tyrant template, they pursued the vagaries of "imperial derangement" far deeper into the empire proper than their master had ventured. Identifying uncontrolled desire and overly controlled duplicity as the two important conventions of the tyrant type, Rebecca Bushnell points out that "the nexus between theater, tyranny, acting, and desire is made most luridly clear in Renaissance accounts of the theatrical Roman emperors"; (12) but I would add that histrionics and desire can both work to personalize and particularize the emperors, especially for the dramatist imagining them through the lens of the historical--including the biographical--tradition. The histrionic dimension invites us to gauge the correspondence between the performance and the personality, and the extent to which responding theatrically to political or personal situations might actually be a parcel of the emperor's disposition; we must also assess the problem of whether his acting is good or bad, in terms both of skill and of political ramifications. How did he get to be such an actor? What is he concealing? And do we peg him for a tyrant on the basis of his concealment, or of his failure to conceal, as his vices become all too public and open? And as these vices are bound to center on sexuality, the aspect of desire ties in, and here we are further encouraged to search into the character's particular inner life, specifically, into what motivates him. Being drawn to a certain woman can, like histrionics, be a marker of tyranny but can also work against it; depending on the particulars of the desires intensity, suddenness, appropriateness, frequency, consistency, and psychological and practical effects, as well as on the character of his love-object, love or lust or both might epitomize the emperor's tyranny, or be an exception to it, or render him a tyrant despite other good qualities, or prove his salvation as a person. Why does his desire take this form and affect him in this way? With the peculiarities of an emperor's desire, as with those of his duplicity, the drama can offer us a window into what drives him as a specific person--all the more so if the material is handled with an eye on how tradition has interpreted him and looked into his psyche. However unlikely it may seem, such is the case with our plays. Rollo, despite its Norman surface, carries out a study of Caracalla's pathology, and the other plays carry out similar investigations, The False One of Julius Caesar, The Prophetess of Dioclesian, The Roman Actor of Domitian, Valentinian of Valentinian III, and The Emperor of the East of Theodosius II. The plays, taking into account the complexities of the pictures painted by the historical tradition, apply both ideas--acting and desire--to examine these most famous, turbulent, and mysterious men.
With Julius Caesar, the playwrights took on a giant figure and a giant ambivalence, placing him in a phase of his career--his love affair with Cleopatra--that they recognized was not only overlooked, but also especially conducive to highlighting this ambivalence and questioning this person's character. It has been often remarked that Caesar, particularly in his assassination, was a litmus test for one's political sympathies, and that Shakespeare, with his double-sided rendition of the man and the event, captures the conflictedness about Caesar which his contemporaries would have tended to feel. (13) But this interest in the political significance of Caesar can divert us from trying to understand his nature, and, indeed, for Shakespeare, what's important is the debate about Caesar; in his few moments onstage, he concerns himself mostly with his own status as a symbol and an idea and with living up to his Caesar-ness, rather than with his own desires. By moving into the lesser known territory of Caesar's liaison with Cleopatra after the defeat of Pompey, Fletcher and Massinger, as they hint in the prologue, turn from the well-worn, public story of "how he fell / In the Capitoll" to the much more intimate one of his "amorous heates" and his attraction to the young Cleopatra's "great mind"; the playwrights sensed theirs was "Fresh" matter, and this because, I think, it provided them the rare chance to get to know the colossus that was Caesar as a person. Readers have tended not to view The False One in this way, seeing it as either a straightforward romanticization of the principals or as an equally straightforward recasting of Lucan's Caesar, the rapacious tyrant. (14) But this division of opinion in itself should alert us to the complexity of this pyla 'S characterization, which reflects the treatment of Caesar in the historical tradition. In contrasting the Stoic hero Cato with a "restless" Caesar "destroying what withstood his proud desires," (15) Lucan obviously opposed the notion of the conqueror's "magnanimity" which became so closely attached to Caesar's name (16) and which would seem to presuppose his ability either to control his passions or to channel them along virtuous lines--"he held it no lesse valour to subdue his wrath, then his enemie" wrote John Speed. (17) Unless we privilege one slant, which the play refuses to do, we glean from the various accounts of Caesar a picture of a man not completely governed or ungoverned, and in either respect having shades of both a tyrant and a virtuous, successful leader. Plutarch described Caesar's extraordinary clemency alongside his thirst for glory and compulsion to outdo himself in momentous accomplishments; (18) these two habits of mind coexisted in him, both at odds and complementary, partly rational and partly irrational. Embracing the multivalency of Caesar's history, the play, like Plutarch, creates a unified personality for him. He is subjected to passionate desires but capable of self-criticism and even self-correction; and these stirrings of emotion, to the extent they overcome him, manifest both his tyranny and his magnanimity, as they impel him recklessly to grasp for what he suddenly, violently wants, and elicit from him pity, affection, and honesty. That is, in this play, as in the historical and biographical record, Caesar is revealed both to be and not to be a false one.
The play begins this revelation of Caesar with a canny dramatization of his notorious show of sorrow at the sight of Pompey's head. Here, while the sense is preserved that the sadness may well be sincere, the display might not speak well of his capacity for rational self-governance: if the histrionics do register what lies within, we have a Caesar amenable to tender feelings, but also one whose overabundant emotions have torn the empire asunder. In The False One, Caesar may be feigning his grief, as his lieutenant Scaeva suspects (2.1.160-65), but he seems sincere and quite possibly is; hereby the playwrights avoid Lucan's contradiction on the sincerity issue, which posits a calculating actor in ill agreement, except in basic wickedness, with the Lucanic berserker. Lucan's Caesar has no genuine grief or respect for Pompey, brimming with hypocrisy as he laments the lost chance to embrace his rival in reconciliation. (19) This play's Caesar, with none of the caution Lucan's uses to confirm Pompey's identity, harps on Pompey's greatness at such a pitch that it seems he does appreciate it. In fact, ucans indignation at the effeminate Egyptians and their boy king, as horridly inadequate to doom such a hero as they are to memorialize him, (20) is transferred to Caesar's own mouth: he is appalled that the "life and light of Rome" should fall "to a Boy, / That had no faith to comprehend thy greatnesse," and tells them that, since "nothing can cover his high fame, but heaven ... Your Earth shall now be bless'd to hold a Roman, / Whose braveryes all the worlds-earth cannot ballance" (2.1.134, 138-39, 153, 158-59). The note about the intended reconciliation is hit only once (2.1.146) and is heavily outweighed by declarations of how Pompey's glory, Phoenix-like, will rise to "fixe him 'mongst the worthies," as the world will "weepe unto the Ocean for revenge" (2.1.212, 218). Thus, while the playwrights consult Lucan and allow for the long tradition of Caesar's fakery in this moment, (21) they stress the alternative tradition that not only has him crying real tears, but also encapsulating with them his magnanimity's most admirable aspect, clemency. (22)
The Machiavellian eunuch Photinus, who pushes the naive king Ptolemy to betray Pompey (1.1.295-362), tries to assume a Caesar akin to himself in ruthless scheming and killing and in dissimulation; but Caesar's apparent revulsion toward the "gift" of Pompey's head implies that, as Innocent Gentillet remarked, Photinus and the other Egyptians fatally underestimated the conqueror's "magnanimitie" (23) To Photinus, it is absurd to think that Caesar would embroil the world in slaughter and "whip his Countrey with the Sword" only to "repent afterwards" (4.3.128, 126), but this Caesar does repent. It turns out that, unlike Photinus, he has a conscience, as viewing the head sends him into a soliloquy on his troubled mind, convulsed with the knowledge of how he has made the Roman world bleed for his "ambitiones": "Pompey I over threw; what did that get me? / The slubbord name of an authoriz'd enemy" (2.3.49-50). With Pompey's head he had grown unable to speak (2.1.220), and now thoughts contrasting the satisfactions of his old, lawful wars with his current misery make him unable to sleep; he is susceptible to human, humane emotion. But if he is capable of such sentiments, we must wonder, why did he cross the Rubicon in the first place? If self-aware enough to contemplate his own guilt, is he not all the more blamable for deliberate crime? Possibly so, but the play forces us to consider that the clemency Speed would align with self-control actually opposes it; perhaps magnanimity goes along with ungoverned passion. The "wanton anger" (2.3.47) that sent him careering into civil war seems consonant with the violence of his reaction against the obsequious Egyptians:
You have found me mercifull in arguing with ye: Swordes, Hungers, Fires, destructions of all natures, Demolishments of Kingdomes, and whole Ruines Are wont to be my Orators. (2.1.198-201)
Caesar associates himself with mercy and with mayhem all at once. There is a wildness in this anger on Pompey's behalf that makes it seem authentic, but also terrible. In confronting Pompey's head, Caesar seems no false one, for he expresses the regret and anguish of a truly merciful heart; but he is a false one in the sense of being false to the self-discipline requisite in a leader. With his "noble minde" he will "be himselfe still" and would never lower himself to take any pleasure in the treacherous death of a worthy adversary (2.1.185, 205). But this magnanimous self is also tyrannical in that, whether in mercy or rage, he is a creature of emotional impulse.
Thus, while acknowledging the difficulty of access to a prince's mind, the playwrights draw us into a reasonable conjecture about Caesar, and his response to Cleopatra intensifies its focus: his gravitation toward her is at one with his propensity to tender feeling but thus also with his ambition and recklessness, but too, while it might comprise a tyrannical lapse of self-control, it is one "in character" so to speak, and as such it is also in its way commendable as a form of his "noble minde"'s constancy. This multifaceted coherence is the key to the play's dialogue with Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. When The False One's prologue, conscious of our familiarity with Cleopatra's bold death and her "fatall love to Anthony," promises it will deliver what we haven't seen onstage, it invites us to compare its Caesar with Shakespeare's Antony, especially in terms of how love conflicts with the hero's Roman-ness and hence with his identity. Caesar haunts Antony and Cleopatra, as the queen tries a little too hard to force him out of her memory (1.5.66-75) and the Romans recall that, laying aside his sword, he ploughed the royal wench and she cropped (2.2.226-28); (24) Caesar's ghost serves to bring the titanic love affair down to earth, as our awareness that a greater man was there before Antony contributes to a creeping sense of his degradation. Considering this sense, and considering the outcome, it might well dawn on us that Cleopatra's first Roman lover was better able to balance love and state affairs than her second; we might find that Shakespeare's diagnosis of Antony's fall entails a fleshing out of the notion, offered, for example, by Melanchthon, that a hopeless drive to imitate Caesar destroyed Antony--an ordinary mind trying to measure up to a superior one. (25)
Fashioning their Caesar in the light of Shakespeare's Antony, Fletcher and Massinger explore this idea that Caesar's was a singular mind, its distinctiveness evident in his relative success at maintaining his selfhood while being captivated with Cleopatra. Again, The False One deviates from the incongruous though simplified Lucanic Caesar; simply a hotheaded brigand and then simply a coldhearted sneak, Lucan's Caesar, still wet with the blood of good Romans, falls heedlessly into a disgraceful adultery with Cleopatra--now he's simply a debauched weakling. (26) He is consistent only in being devoid of noble thought, and the play transcends him. It is important that Caesar's first meeting with Cleopatra is juxtaposed in act 2, scene 3, with his guilt-ridden meditation: his sudden, powerful desire for her is of a piece with those precipitate storms he has just been castigating himself for, and yet it also crystallizes that magnanimous emotion which gave rise to the castigations, and, in another twist, perhaps lights the way for him toward self-actualization. The ardency of his sexual desire is congruent with that of his ambitious conquests, but he expresses his desire in a reverie of feeling congruent with what he expressed toward Pompey's death: there he imagined the high fame of "godlike Pompey" enshrined in heaven (2.1.127), and here he is compelled to "imagine some celestiall sweetnesse" in a creature striking him as "a thing divine" (2.3.104, 98). In each case, he is extremely sensitive to what he perceives as sublime--and the latter case, while it involves the compromising position of love, has the advantage of not involving his destroying anything. We must wonder whether this love opens the possibility for him to channel his intemperate longings and aspirations in a way that doesn't wreck the world. In Antony and Cleopatra, the young queen's famous sending herself to Caesar in a bundle is a salacious joke, an embarrassment to Antony that causes tension and needs quick dismissal (2.6.64-70); the episode points to Antony's folly, for Cleopatra had used her wiles on Caesar, and been his whore, long ago. But in The False One, Caesar's first encounter with Cleopatra is not necessarily a debasement at all--it is only so through the eyes of Scaeva, who has an instant, well-nigh crazed aversion to her. Though in his austerity he appears to sum up all that is Rome, Scaeva represents not Roman self-discipline so much as its opposite, anti-Roman fury; in Lucan he is the very image of Caesar's relentless havoc-wreaking, (27) and here his hysterical attack on lust associates masculine chastity with the civil war's ruinous, chaotic bloodletting: "Let not the deare sweat of the hot Pharsalia, / Mingle with base Embraces" (2.3.117-18). For Scaeva, what drove Caesar against Pompey is totally at variance with what drives him here, and Scaeva may be right; but was that Caesar truly greater than this one? And more likely, Scaeva is wrong. As the smitten Caesar urges Scaeva to "be more temperate" not so "inhumane" (2.3.95-96), we cannot ignore the prospect that Caesar is never more himself, and never more magnanimous, than he is while in the grip of Cleopatra's love. In fact, in proceeding to gratify his desire, he mildly forgives Scaeva's madness, intertwining the desire with that clemency which is his best trait (2.3.195-96). Though approving of the civil-war actions Lucan abhors, Scaeva's narrative, that of a martial Caesar suddenly castrated, concurs with Lucan's in being overly simplistic. In all, Caesar the conqueror seems contiguous with Caesar the lover, as both are clement and grasping, majestically high-minded and grossly intemperate; and in Caesar the lover, the positive side just might be realized more fully.
The play, then, lets us meet Caesar the lover and assess the different angles for understanding how love has affected him. That he has been brought down by love is always a possibility. But it seems outweighed first of all by the sense that his capacity and his appetite for love are intrinsic to him. Scaeva and the other Romans are probably incorrect to think of Caesar's love-dalliances as marking a change in him (3.2.1-50). The historical tradition gives us a Caesar for whom lasciviousness is part of his nature, (28) and here Cleopatra herself knows beforehand that "Caesar is amarous" (1.2.91). Attraction to women is a part of him; to love Cleopatra is merely to be true to himself. Moreover, it is a part of himself that paralyzes him quite a bit less than it does Shakespeare's Antony, the contrast with whom is always in view. In fact, for this Caesar, his love's focus on Cleopatra is potentially an inspiration toward heroic action. That Photinus is a eunuch means much in the play, for through him sexlessness is connected with Machiavellian maneuvering; the suggestion is that strict self-control and immunity to eros are the province of a false one. As Cleopatra affirms, Caesar is truly debilitated, and made less himself, rather by his fit of avarice than by his love of her. Feeling betrayed by his fascination with Egypt's riches, she excoriates him for giving his
thoughts to gold: that men of glory, And minds adorn'd with noble love, would kick at Souldiers of royall marke, scorne such base purchase: Beauty and honour are the marks they shoot at. (4.2.106-9)
His reaction to her rebuke--pleading with her to soften--is an absurd dotage, but more than that, it is a recovery from absurd dotage, as he is convinced by her alignment of amorous with martial heroism: "The bravery of this womans mind, has fired me" (4.2.130). The riches of Egypt placed him into a sickly trance (3.4.100-1), and now, while still prompted by a species of greedy desire, he is awake. Nodding to a strain of condemnation in the tradition, (29) the play permits us to see the ignominious side of his lust. The crisis of the Egyptian sneak attack fails upon him just as he's ruminating about whether to force or woo her (4.2.145-52), and his comrades, unsurprisingly, blame on his romance his shameful vulnerability to a siege by such a lowly foe (4.2.154-96). But Caesar, while he vows to become himself again (4.2.197), and while he reproaches his "lustfull folly" (5.1.2), remains under love's sway and never wavers in his esteem for "unequall'd Cleopatra": "Nor can so cleare and great a spirit, as hers is, / Admit of falsehood" (5.1.21, 24-25). Tellingly, the advice, which Caesar here rejects, either to blame Cleopatra or "leave her to her fortune," comes from Antony (5.1.26); indifferent to her now, Antony, we foresee, will be changed by Cleopatra far more radically and witheringly than has happened with Caesar. Whereas disbelief in Cleopatra's falsity will alienate Shakespeare's Antony from Fortune, (30) in The False One Cleopatra and Fortune are not at odds: Caesar can both believe in her and win. Although like Shakespeare's queen this Cleopatra showcases the Roman ideal of steadiness to "deride / Fortunes worst malice" (5.4.18-19), she does so not as a resigned loser, but as a defiant warrior; just as Caesar's mind can accommodate both love and conquest where Antony's cannot, the fortunes of events in the world accommodate for him both Cleopatra and victory in a way they never do for Antony. This accommodation is symbolized as Caesar makes his decisive, bold escape by destroying the wealth that had lured him from her (5.2.78-85); he saves himself with a disdain for baseness--and money always symbolizes baseness in this play--clearly allied with her attitudes. The result is hardly an unqualified success, as this resolve is impulsive and comes along with wrack and ruin; the city burns like another Troy (5.3.21-24). But perhaps this devastation occurs to us as less tyrannical than that he wrought at Pharsalia. Though in a way beneficial rather than deleterious to his fellow Romans, he is behaving as Julius Caesar, and not because he has departed from Cleopatra--indeed, he's on his way toward her. Hearing of his daring, if costly, victory, she comments, "'Twas like my Caesar" (5.4.153). Perhaps she's right, and he is not only his truest self--emotional and large-hearted, impulsive and appetitive--when he has given in to his passion for her, but also at his best. Such is reflected in his address to her, as he beams in triumph but curbs the fury of his pursuing soldiers, overruling Scaeva's vengefulness, and extends forgiving courtesy toward the dead Ptolemy: "and now (my dearest) / Looke upon Caesar, as he still appear'd, / A Conquerour" (5.4.202-4).
This portrait of Caesar, being a composite vision derived from the historical tradition, demonstrates how, though he cannot be approached from one angle, he can indeed be approached; the playwrights' portrait of Dioclesian, in the other Roman play they made together, The Prophetess, works in much the same way, with a personage history had treated much as it had Julius Caesar. In fact, the impression of Dioclesian tradition had handed down was so divided as to make him seem nearly schizophrenic. As a ferocious persecutor of Christians he was supposed to be a "wicked Tyrant," (31) but this did not jibe with the facts of his amazing feats of prudence and benevolence. Not only had he at the summit of the empire taken steps to cooperate and share power with others, but he had willingly retired from that power and spent his last years tranquilly as a private citizen. His anti-Christian oppressiveness could not be dismissed, and indeed Massinger drew on it in The Virgin Martyr. But for Gentillet, Dioclesian's story was a unique, "strange" case well worth a closer look; a man by nature of "unsatiable ambition and covetousnesse of glorie," he had the makings of a tyrant yet proved singularly wise and restrained. His abdication stemmed mostly from a hatred of flatterers, which was to his credit, and while in power he provided a prime example, refuting Machiavelli, that sovereign princes could unite in "consort and fellowship." (32) The Prophetess takes up this "strange" story not merely as an occasion for romance and spectacle, (33) but as an opportunity to elucidate what sort of man could have had such a tyrannical and anti-tyrannical life--or, as the Chorus puts it, to cast a "shadow" by which our apprehensive judgements will conceive" a "body" for the historical Dioclesian (4.1.11, 10, 12). The play does invent quite a bit of its matter, especially in magnifying the role of the prophetess with whom as a mere soldier Dioclesian consulted about his imperial destiny. (34) Here his commerce with her is made to extend throughout his career, and his devotion to her, on which all his prosperity depends, is measured by his commitment to her niece; he promises that he will marry the niece, Drusilla, in exchange for the prophecy's fulfillment in his rise to emperor and for continued supernatural support. But actually, through this much enhanced relationship with the prophetess, the playwrights are better able to delineate the character of an exceptional historical person, because by it, they clarify both what motivates him and how he expresses or tries to mask his motives. With the device of Delphia the Prophetess, the play proposes to us a man who, despite his ambition, has an amiable disposition deserving of power, but a man who also, because of his myopia, ultimately does well to give it up.
As the play traces Dioclesian's rise to power, from nobody to emperor, it becomes clear that destiny, working through Delphia, has chosen the proper man to rule, for no matter how unseemly his ambition, it is coupled with a conciliatory temper that exalts him above everyone else; but then again, such a well-qualified ruler ought to rule, and so his abdication is problematized. When we first meet the soldier, now named Diocles, he can think of nothing but "when I am Emperor" (1.3.9), and his faith in the prophetess is nothing more than a self-serving dream of his own grandeur. And yet, he is still contrasted favorably here, and throughout, with his flunky, Geta, and with his nephew and future partner, Maximinian. Happy to be a beneficiary of the prophecy, as Diocles will make him a senator, Geta becomes a clownish parody of the emperor: aping Diocles in renaming himself Getianus (3.2.19-24), indulging in rank injustice (3.2.37-61), and caring for nothing but "ease" (4.3.9), Geta sets off that while sudden elevation to power tends to drain from people whatever virtue they have, it has not done so with Dioclesian. Maximinian, meanwhile, sets off the emperor's immunity to envy. Diocles, since the prophecy is all about him, has much less to push him toward envy, but he is right to observe to Maximinian, "Thou hast a perfect malice" (1.3.107). Maximinian cannot stand it that Dioclesian, not he, has the glory (3.1.1-24), and when Dioclesian saves him and the empire from the Persians, Maximinian rankles with spite, even while admitting to himself that if similarly triumphant he would be much more pompous: "I burst with envie; / And yet these honours which, conferr'd on me, / Would make me pace on air, seem not to move him" (4.6.20-22). With Maximinian we are always reminded of Dioclesian's greatest strength, the easy acceptance of others' honors. The authors' revision of the emperor Charinus into an unobjectionable if lame-duck ruler goes to the same purpose. After the murder of his brother, the promising Numerianus, the feeble Charinus holds tenuous nominal power over the teetering empire. But where history had held Charinus a sensualist who made fruitless war on Dioclesian, (35) the play has him hoping for and welcoming a partner in rule, and there is never a hint of tension between the two emperors, even though Charinus inherits his power while Diodesian rises from obscurity. This fictional version of Charinus helps suggest the biographical truth of Dioclesian's fitness for empire:
'Tis vertue and not birth that makes us noble: Great actions speak great mindes, and such should govern; And you are grac't with both. Thus, as a Brother, A Fellow, and Co-partner in the Empire, I do embrace you: may we live so far From difference, or emulous Competition, That all the world may say, Although two Bodies, We have one Minde. (2.3.98-105)
Indeed, the world may well marvel at the greatness of Dioclesian's mind, which enabled him, despite Caesar-like ambition, to do what Caesar never could: coexist peacefully with others in power. His bargain with Delphia thus becomes a symbol for this view of the historical Dioclesian: she bargains specifically with him, emphasizing that he is that one-in-a-million person who ought to have power; and yet, this is so largely because he remains amenable to checks, like bargains made with other powerful people.
Then again, however, this symbolism leads us to wonder whether Dioclesian, so well oriented toward ruling, might be wrong to abide such checks on himself and eventually to relinquish his post. As Gentillet conceded, many had seen his decision to retire as shameful, motivated by mere selfishness or possibly even fury and fear; it was perhaps a kind of effeminate loss of self-control. (36) With Delphia the play points to this idea of Dioclesian, for it places his promise to marry the benign but unimpressive Drusilla at odds with his imperial majesty. When installed as emperor, he is given, and enthusiastically accepts, Aurelia, Charinus's sister--a match that everyone but Delphia and Drusilla wants, and that would do much to cement the power-sharing agreement. Forgetting about his plighted troth to Drusilla is ungrateful and ungallant, but it may be appropriate to his new position, as Dioclesian protests: "I must not pitie ye; / 'Tis not wise in me ... Nor honourable.... to keep this vow, were monstrous, / A madnesse, and a lowe inglorious fondnesse" (3.1.159-60, 170-71). Delphia's wrath is kindled, and with her vast magical power she makes him pay dearly for this transgression, but is it really such a transgression? As she herself has established, he of all people should be in charge, and so failure to consolidate his holdings might be the true violation. In a certain light, going with Drusilla, as he implies here, is tyrannical; is it not tyranny to exchange engagement with affairs of state for preoccupation with a woman? This problem is adumbrated in the eagerness of Geta, Dioclesian's alter ego, to shirk responsibility: "Is this Office? / The pleasures of Authoritie? I'll no more on't" (3.2.121-22). Much more highly evolved than Geta's hedonism is Dioclesian's personally edifying journey of self-discovery, but the implied question about the yielding up of authority lingers. Chastened by the misfortunes Delphia heaps on him for his broken promise, the contrite emperor submits to her dominance, and, winning her forgiveness, he is empowered by her to defeat the Persians (4.2); then, aglow from his victory, he withdraws into the country with Drusilla, and with a new perspective:
Hitherto I have liv'd a servant to ambitious thoughts, And fading glories: what remains of life, I dedicate to Vertue. (4.6.68-71)
He sees himself as having undergone a thorough conversion, having "cast off his ambitious Greatnesse, / And sunk into the sweetnesse of himself" (5.4.8-9), and, in a way, he is indeed a changed man, all for the better. But, in another way, the Stoic contentment he finds with Drusilla in the pastoral world is only the full realization of that virtue which made Delphia right to advance him in the first place. He can put friendly, harmonious relations with others above his own need for glory; and this sense of his special virtue, in turn, points to the negative side of his isolation from the political realm. Without him, court politics quickly become fractious (5.2), and only Delphia's magic prevents the frantic Maximinian, who though invested with all Dioclesian's powers cannot control his malice, from murdering his retired benefactor (5.4). Perhaps the world needs such leadership as only Dioclesian can provide; the play, while clearly approving of his retirement, questions whether even it, a testament to his restraint and wisdom, may be in a way tainted. Has the good leader lapsed into a tyrannical love of ease and pleasure?
While we need to ponder this explanation, the play suggests we take a different tack: he is good but not optimal, and it benefits the Roman world that he make way for the better era just about to dawn, with the rise of Constantine. The prophecy, the promise to marry Drusilla, the retirement, and the overseeing of it all by Delphia reveal both the shortcomings of Dioclesian's character and the limits to his desirability as a leader. His main virtue never falters; he is always remarkably good at getting along with others. But this amiability is counterbalanced by short-sightedness and smallness of vision. Always stuck in the moment, he reacts only to immediate superficies, at times at the expense of principle, dignity, and sincerity. When we first meet him, Delphia's prediction that he will ascend to power after killing a "boar" has sent Diocles into a frenetic, and ridiculous, pig-hunt; (37) his literalism circumscribes, and diminishes, his reactions. Having amassed piles of boar carcasses, he has grown impatient that he is not yet emperor, and he complains to Delphia of how she speaks "darkly" and keeps him unable to "cleer [her] Mystery" (1.3.171, 175); the very concept of allegory eludes him, and he shuns any sort of mystery. Moreover, the obtuseness of this complaint is compounded in that he is also trying to trick her here, having stupidly agreed to the skeptical Maximinian's notion to test her prescience by distracting her while Maximinian surprises her. When she is easily able to see through Diodes' pretense and detect the hidden Maximinian, she exposes the foolish one-dimensional thinking of the soon-to-be-emperor: "Poor doubtfull people, / I pity your weak faiths" (1.3.220-21). His inability to read beneath surfaces causes the hunting, the complaining, and the dissembling, all of which are silly, futile, and unbecoming. The dissembling turns into a recurring flaw in him. Upon finally realizing that the fulfillment of the prophecy lies in his killing of the usurper, named Aper, Diodes' literalism induces him to make sure to use his own hand to kill Aper (2.3.43-46), an "outward shew" of justice the histories jeered, (38) and soon he proclaims his lack of ambition with absurd disingenuousness (2.3.71-81). Just though his actions are, they have a whiff of tyrannical histrionics about them, and this is tied to their rootedness in immediate circumstance. He breaks his promise to marry Drusilla mostly because Aurelia, suddenly offered him, is there: "till this happie minute, / I nere saw beauty" (2.3.120-21). With the present minute consuming him, his promise to Delphia and her predictable anger at his reneging cannot operate on him, for they are abstractions. Subsequently, winning back Delphia's graces, he thinks, involves dissimulation, as he "must speak fair" (3.3.191): he pretends love for Drusilla, in keeping with what the moment seems to call for. Only urgent adversity evokes remorse that he has been false (4.2); he can conceptualize "faith" only when the practical consequences of deviating from it are thrust upon him. He takes to country life, one suspects, because immersed therein: "'Tis sweet indeed (love) / And every circumstance about it, shews it" (5.4.22-23). Delphia, whose magic decorates the country atmosphere, is in effect his religion, and she represents nothing so much as fortune, the "every circumstance" of the world. In his crisis, he had determined, "She was my good angell, and bound Fortune / To prosper my designes: I must appease her" (4.2.65-66), and proceeded to pray to her. This Dioclesian lacks adherence to principle and cannot deal well with abstract ideas; in this the play connects the savvy leader with the persecutor. In The Virgin Martyr, Dioclesian presides over bustling prosperity but also savage torture of innocent Christians--he cannot understand what higher truth the martyrdoms signify. (39) Though much more sympathetic, The Prophetess develops this conception of him, offering us a way of squaring the clever, constructive, cooperative emperor with the unenlightened tyrant whose brutality set the stage for public Christianity, just on the horizon.
The playwrights had inherited ambivalent ideas about Julius Caesar and Dioclesian, but certainly not about Caracalla and Domitian: they were purely tyrants. And yet, "imperial derangement" comes in different forms, and, as the historical tradition had shown, there were distinctions to be made with these two. That Rollo and The Roman Actor bring out these distinctions becomes evident if we read them in conjunction with each other. The plays might seem to have little in common, the former being muddled by the intervention of several hands beyond those of Fletcher and Massinger, and probably also by a number of revisions, and the latter being a polished solo effort. But as Caracalla and Domitian were parallel tyrants, (40) the plays, looked at side-by-side, appear as parallel lives in the Plutarchan sense: biographies of persons so similar that it is instructive to note their differences. It is perhaps no accident that Domitian's dying words (5.2.72) precisely echo Rollo's (5.2.144), each claiming he has been "basely" slain: the plays seem linked, and this because, I suggest, The Roman Actor's Domitian is in conversation with the Caracalla The Bloody Brother had originally set out to depict. With constant reference to the historical tradition, Rollo and The Roman Actor foreground the two strains of the tyrannical mind, histrionics and lust, but in ways that draw contrasts between the mind of Caracalla and that of his predecessor, Domitian. And the central contrast that comes to light involves self-control: while Caracalla's tyranny originates in his constitutional inability to control himself, Domitian's is much subtler and more sinister. Thus while Caracalla is pathetic, being doomed in his nature, Domitian is pitiable only when falling into passion.
As the plays convey, Caracalla and Domitian are similar in trying to function in the shadow of a father and a brother; but whereas this shadow has a deterministic effect on Caracalla, for Domitian it is not enough of an influence, as the tyrant is largely self-fashioned. Caracalla is the son of Severus, who could be as ruthless as his name, (41) and although the father attempted to mold his son's character from the outside in, by giving him the auspicious name Antoninus, (42) Caracalla's violent disposition, imparted from his father, was not to be suppressed. (43) Severus's wishful thinking about his older son led him into the fatal of error of leaving the empire in the joint custody of Caracalla and his younger brother Geta, but as Spartianus pointed out, Severus's high hopes were dashed by his elder son's own character. (44) Rollo opens by replicating this sense that uneducable nature, bad estate planning on the part of the late ruler, and overoptimism about Rollo's mentality have combined to make an untenable situation. The factions at court are rallying around the two estranged brothers, Rollo and Otto, as each asserts what he thinks is his right: Rollo claims the whole dukedom, Otto the half their father intended for him. The noble Aubrey insists that Rollo's education should have instilled decency in him (1.1.121-27) and laments how receptive he is, despite his education, to flatterers (1.1.139-45); but the counselor Baldwin points out, "'Twas not in me my Lord to alter nature" (1.1.128). As in Gentillet's account of Caracalla, wherein he is "audacious ynough" and all too "readie" to listen, (45) flatterers play a key role, but one subordinate to nature, which makes Rollo apt not only to heed bad advice but also to act on it. His flatterer, Latorch, works not very hard to convince him to break the peace and move against Otto, as Rollo is merely yielding to instinct: "I am satisfied, / And once more am my selfe againe" (2.1.74-75). Rollo's inherent instability makes the "will of the dead Duke" (1.1.171) impossible to carry out, and their mother Sophia's passionate appeal to the brothers only affirms the impossibility of any detente.
As Rymer saw, Sophia's speech counseling against division of the realm (1.1.332-57) is merely an embroidering of that of Julia, her counterpart in Herodian. For Rymer, this moment in the play epitomized its inelegance, for Sophia appears much less "a Woman of great spirit" than Herodian's Julia--so poor was the drama that it was aesthetically inferior to the raw history. (46) But Rymer missed how the playwrights are actually pursuing the raw truth, elaborating here on Herodian's insight into the situation. For Rollo's Sophia, declaiming against the idea of a divided Normandy is merely part of her categorical opposition to division, which she holds contrary to health and life; a bit earlier, she harps on how her sons' division is dividing her very soul (1.1.275). But if she seems to lack a great spirit, perhaps it is because she fails to understand how she herself reveals the hopelessness here. Like Julia, she seems to forget that this division is precisely what the late ruler had arranged for; her husband had set things up for disaster. Moreover, like Julia, she seems to share her dead husband's naive imprudence, for she fails to see that division will prevail in any case. As she herself notes, Otto's very existence ensures division (1.1.340-48), and the only hope for peace lies in the good will and self-restraint of Rollo; all depends on his living up to her image of him as "so noble, that he dares doe nothing basely" (1.1.308). As with the name Antoninus, Sophia's words bespeak a fantasy about her son's character, and though Aubrey shares it (2.3.79-83), it is ripe to be dispelled. Striving to unite the brothers, she has only proven that division is incurable, because of the father's lack of foresight, the oldest son's volatility, and the general failure, in which she partakes, to gauge the scope of that volatility. And so, as Herodian has it, the brothers "departe, wythout any finall, or determinate conclusyon"--the mother's plea has only deferred the inevitable, in the meantime underscoring why it is inevitable. (47) Her maternal emotion defies the intractable logic at hand; this is a dilemma that cannot be happily concluded. Rollo, born without self-control, has been placed in circumstances wherein his badness is bound to come to full fruition; hence, I think, the play's concern with astrology. Referencing Caracalla's own obsession with divination, (48) act 4, scene 2, sends Latorch to consult with astrologers on how to prevent danger to Rollo, and the farce, as the charlatans contrive to tell Latorch what he wants to hear, points to the immovability of fate: Rollo cannot escape what birth and circumstance have made him. (49)
Domitian's birth and circumstances, meanwhile, incline him toward success; he is the actor who has himself perverted the script set forth for him. As the son of Vespasian and the brother of Titus, Domitian began his reign under high expectations, and the historical tradition stresses his initial "counterfaytinge" of a capacity to justify them. (50) His tyranny could be viewed as issuing not so much from a deficiency of self-control as from an intrinsic histrionic sensibility, which he redirected from feigning virtue to posturing as a god. (51) Such is, I contend, the view of him in The Roman Actor, in respectful disagreement with C. A. Gibson's assertion that Massinger's learned use of sources, especially Suetonius, attenuates Domitian's character into that of a "stock tyrant" with a "fixed and inexplicable sadism." (52) Massinger's aim is, in fact, biographical truth, as T. I.'s commendatory poem assumes: he aims to make, in the mode of "a cunning Painter," Domitian to be "reviu'd," by means of a copy "more faire then the Originall"--an exaggerated but nevertheless true-to-life image of a subject, patterned after the artist's conception of that subject's historical reality. (53)
The play opens with three salient ideas about Domitian: he maintains a close relationship with stage actors, who "oft haue cheer'd" him in "his most sullen moodes" (1.1.40-41); he is astoundingly different from his father and brother (1.1.81-91); and as a boy he evinced signs of his current cruelty, with Suetonius's anecdote about his fatuous killing of flies transposed from his early reign to his youth (1.1.98-102). (54) Taken together, these ideas figure a character built up not from nature and nurture, as it should be, but from a matrix of theatrical pretense. Domitian's is a mind that responds so strongly to theater because it responds to the world only as theater. In Suetonius, the fly-killing is not mere sadism, but self-dramatization; newly installed as emperor--the time of his effective public performance--Domitian finds it necessary behind closed doors to pretend to might and majesty. The play makes this peculiar self-dramatization a parcel of his boyhood in order to situate it at the core of his being; oddly untethered from the genetics and the conditioning that should have bound him to his father and brother, (55) he has always staged his own self-aggrandizement, and is now simply doing so to the extreme: "to stile himselfe / (As if the name of Emperour were base) / Great Lord, and God Domitian" (1.1.106-8). Unsurprisingly, then, he enters in a flourish that predicates his proclamation of his godhood on both his disconnectedness from Vespasian and Titus, whose conquests "will be no more remembred" (1.4.34), and his self-consciousness of his idiom--it is not to be confused with that of the Plautine miles gloriosus (1.4.27). His being is entirely how he "stiles" himself, as his mind creates both a character and a world that agrees to the truth of that character: "the stile / Of Lord, and God, which thankefull subiects giue me / (Not my ambition) is deseru'd" (1.4.35-37). Hence Massinger's dilation of Dio Cassius's mentioning of Minerva as Domitian's patron deity. (56) Domitian directs his performance to please neither the masses nor the gods, and all the universe is to go unregarded except as a set built to reflect his greatness--all that is "but wise Minerua that's mine owne and sure" (3.2.31). The principle of craft and guile, of artful disclosure and concealment, is the only principle he has ever internalized. Minerva becomes not so much a goddess as a symbol of his confidence in his performance, specifically in how he has convinced himself of his godhood. When it strikes him that "I am lost / Nor am I Caesar," then he cries, "assist mee great Minerua"; he is her "votarie" when he needs to shore up his belief in his role and inhabit it fully (5.1.81-82, 95-96). This misapprehension, that life is theater, shows through in the play's inversion of Rollo's astrology: here prognostication is legitimate and impervious to the state's manipulation (5.1.107-30). In order to ratify his prediction of Domitian's death, the soothsayer Ascletario predicts accurately his own corpse's being eaten by dogs, despite the emperor's attempt to stage a funeral pyre that would alter destiny. We see that Domitian's own role-playing is what will make Ascletario right; Domitian's tragedy comes from the very histrionic hubris he exhibits here, trying to play his self-scripted god-part: "Are we the great disposer / Of life, and death yet cannot mocke the starres / In such a trifle?" (5.1.122-24). Whereas sham astrology signifies how Rollo's fate was fixed at his birth, Ascletario's unimpeachable forecasting signifies how Domitian has fixed his own destiny through his failure to acknowledge a realm outside his stage-play world.
These parallel, inverted experiences with divination (57) affirm parallel, inverted experiences of controlled acting and uncontrolled desire. As the histories ascribe to Caracalla some moments of adroitness at dissembling, (58) Rollo summons the necessary composure to sway the citizens with his pro se defense (3.1.343-77), more successfully perhaps than his counterpart in Herodian. (59) But as we learn, even at its best his rhetoric is weak, its hold on the masses fleeting (4.1.19-22). With Rollo, as with Caracalla, tyranny lies primarily not in stealth but in its lack; subject to no interior bridle, his inner tumult continually bursts forth in blatant villainy. Hiding this tumult in role-playing demands a purposefulness he cannot achieve; he is unable to "stile" himself. Sophia and Aubrey may be fooled by what Otto terms Rollo's "crafty art" (2.3.116), but this is the fault of blindness, as Otto says (2.3.107-8), for Rollo is all too transparent. His attempt to be devious, as Otto foresees, will invariably give way to "open violence" (3.1.42); as their sister Matilda puts it:
Who knowes not the unbounded flood and sea, In which my brother Rollo's appetites Alter and rage with every puffe of breath His swelling bloud exhales? (3.1.56-59)
No one knows it not--it is patently obvious, as Rollo drives home by quickly storming in and running Otto through. Accordingly, Rollo makes much of how Caracalla with raving impetuousness ordered the jurist Papinian executed for refusing to fabricate an oration acquitting him: Rollo voices Caracalla's lunatic scolding of his men that an ax was used instead of a sword (3.1.257-60); (60) and he redoubles the crime, executing both Gisbert and Baldwin for their scruple against public lying (3.1.202-60). The scene encapsulates Rollo/Caracalla's utter ungovernability: an abysmal actor, he responds with horrid rashness when he cannot find a way to smooth over his horrid rashness. Moreover, much as Gentillet does with Caracalla, the scene connects Rollo's rhetorical desperation with his twisted sexual desires. For Gentillet, Caracalla's marrying Julia, his mother, comes from the same hopeless defiance of natural law as his frustrated attempt to coopt Papinian's oratory; (61) though not incestuous like the histories' tyrant, Rollo similarly proves the absoluteness of nature: he falls headlong into an unquenchable lust for Baldwin's daughter Edith here (3.1.320-28), even trying too late to stop Baldwin's execution in order to placate her. Expressing the compulsiveness of his desire for Edith, the spontaneous attempt to undo his own cruelty also gestures at those pangs of remorse that supposedly afflicted Caracalla (62)--and it is likewise ineffectual to help anything. However he might want to negotiate with it, redefine it, ignore it, gloss it over, or cover it up, nature always wins, and his nature consigns him to open, immitigable depravity. Rollo progressively loses sight of Caracalla, as Rollo's foppish disdain for war (5.1.1-14) is merely stock tyrant stuff and belies Caracalla's manic soldiering. (63) But though the play's permutations have told on it by act 5, elements of how the original play sought to understand Caracalla remain, and they locate his tyranny in his congenitally tempestuous nature.
The Roman Actor's Domitian is Rollo/Caracalla's mirror opposite in tyranny: rather than lacking a sense of subtlety and style, Domitian has little else in him; and rather than desire manifesting an uncontrollably monstrous nature, Domitian's desire marks his one chance to step out of his play-acting. Domitian's histrionic sensibility makes for a particular brand of cruelty, one underwritten by dramatic aesthetics. We are to be clear that he is not simply another actor-tyrant, as Massinger borrows Tacitus's stipulation about what sets him apart: "Nero and Caligula / Commanded onely mischiefes, but our Caesar / Delights to see 'em" (3.1.107-9). (64) To create and watch a carefully arranged spectacle of torture and death is Domitian's life, not simply his amusement. Suetonius's Domitian has a cruelty "not onely excessive, but also subtill and craftie; comming upon men when they looked least for it"; (65) Massinger's prime illustration of such cruelty, fittingly, entails theater, as Domitian puts the miser Philargus to a surprise death for resisting the moralizing of the actors' "Cure of Avarice" (2.1.265-447). This didactic drama is geared to cure Philargus by forcing him to watch the humiliation and conversion of a miser like himself. In consenting to the "Cure" Domitian had let fall that should it fail to persuade, the emperor would minister a "cure" himself (2.1.161-66); pretending to allow the drama as a favor to his servant Parthenius, the victim's son, Domitian in effect sets the stage for the annihilation of Philargus, positioning the stubborn miser to lose either his entire worldview or his life. Domitian crafts this annihilation exquisitely, satisfying his own sense of dramatic structure--in a comedy, the senex must be cured at the end--and in the process brutally enforcing his vision of the interpenetration of stage and world. As Domitian says, "One way or other. / Wee'l cure him neuer doubt it" (2.1.423-24): Philargus must die because of Domitian's demand that the miser, a real person, be equated absolutely with the onstage miser-persona cured in the playlet.
The fixation on Domitia, however, interrupts Domitian's world of revels. At first it seems that the appropriation of her is enfolded neatly into the theatrical design, as his speech finalizing their union has all the markers of it (2.1.230-59): he springs an astonishing death on her helpless ex-husband, Lamia, with the same dramaturgical preparation used with Philargus (see 2.1.174-79); he invokes Minerva; he compares his exercise of power to the killing of flies; and he dissociates himself from Vespasian and Titus. But his desire for her soon takes on a different aspect. He orders the compression of "The Cure of Avarice" as watching drama becomes "tedious," working only to "diuorce" her from his embraces (2.1.281,278); hereby this playlet, symbolizing and enacting the collapse into each other of world and stage, is partitioned from the realm of his love and pleasure. His desire for her exists on another plane, another time-scheme than drama. Strikingly, it is he who divorces stage and world as they watch the second playlet (3.2), which she has commissioned and directed and into which she becomes absorbed: "'Tis in jest Domitia"; "'Tis his part, / Let 'em proceed"; "Why are you / Transported thus Domitia? 'tis a play, / Or grant it serious, it at no part merits / This passion in you" (209, 213-14, 282-85). Concentrated on her, he is now able to distinguish between a role and a person; indeed, he says not to be able to do so is to be "transported'.' As Bushnell notes, here we see her, in her lust for the actor Paris and her conflation of theater and reality, become a double of Domitian, a female version of his tyrannical histrionics. (66) But even as she becomes another Domitian, he becomes something else: a man who can feel something genuine, apart from theatricality. No wonder he dings to her so tenaciously, even explicitly putting aside his god-role so he can as a mere mortal argue for her innocence, with a mortal's reasoning about the world: "I will put off/The deitie ... / And argue out of probabilities ... / As if I weare a man" (4.1.132-35). She, or rather his feeling about her, represents his sole tie to an outer reality. His revelation of her infidelity comes in the form of an intrusion into her stage-play romp with Paris, and in its wake he becomes confused about whether to play the role of wrathful tyrant, as Minerva seems to enjoin, or yield to his feelings and be merciful (4.2.138-52); his feeling for Domitia opposes theatricality, and it also steers him toward his only brush with clemency. As Domitian proceeds to kill Paris through a drama, ingeniously set up, as before, to unify stage and life, we see how anomalous for him is his feeling, and his forgiveness, toward Domitia. In Suetonius, taking her back is "impatient" the knee-jerk action of a mind out of control; (67) in Massinger it is the same, a product of "strange passions" (5.1.6), and yet it is more than that. As the foil of wild Rollo/Caracalla, this Domitian is at his most characteristically tyrannous when most controlled; and whereas Rollo/Caracalla could benefit from a dose of the histrionic, a dose of passion humanizes Domitian. His uxoriousness, while terrible, unveils the only potentially not terrible thing in him: a latent capacity to respond to another person. (68)
By outlining this distinction between parallel tyrants, we find that a tyrant's particular point along the axes of desire and histrionics makes him highly idiosyncratic; we find the same thing in comparing two emperors who should have nothing in common, Valentinian III and Theodosius II. While Valentinian was supposed to be a standard tyrant, his older kinsman and benefactor, the mild, pious Theodosius, was held up as proof that power did not always corrupt. But just as the two fifth-century emperors were associated in stewarding the implosion of the empire--for Speed, they jointly exemplify the world's "Mutabilitie" (69)--so do Fletcher's Valentinian and Massinger's Emperor of the East show how they were beset with analogous psychological inadequacies. Roughly twenty years after his mentor's unassisted Roman tyrant tragedy, Massinger composed what might be viewed as a kind of prequel to it. (70) The Emperor of the East is on the surface far from a tyrant tragedy--but only on the surface. The play's Theodosius, like The Prophetess's Dioclesian, is no tyrant but nevertheless has shades of one, mostly because he lacks those two qualities that border on the tyrannical in Dioclesian: the engagement with immediate practicalities and the histrionic bent to dissemble feelings and play the part of an emperor. Though like Dioclesian in insusceptibility to envy, Theodosius is an idealist all too susceptible to feminine and effeminizing forces that divorce him from the world and inhibit his imperial role-playing; as such, he prefigures and helps account for the tyranny he visited on the world in the form of his cousin Valentinian III.
For all the apparent conventionality of Fletcher's Valentinian, to view him in generalizing terms is a mistake, which we see because other characters repeatedly succumb to it. In fact, his is a special case of tyranny: his ungovernable passion an extension of his unique subjugation to femininity, he cannot deal with his immediate surroundings and has no aptitude for dissimulation. The indispensable general Aetius refutes as subversive the complaints he constantly hears about Valentinian, and though it has been sensibly argued that through him Fletcher is discrediting absolutist theory, (71) I would contend that Aetius's real misconception lies in applying any theory to what is sui generis. His insistence that "majestie is made to be obeyed / And not inquired into" (1.3.27-28) misses the point of his interlocutor Maximus that their emperor is not simply exhibiting the typical flaws of young, randy princes, but is singularly wrong for the job, his particular excesses far outside the parameters of what the system can tolerate and still work:
why do these, the people call his pleasures, Exceed the moderation of a man? Nay ... why are they vices And such as shake our worthes with forraigne Nations? (1.3.59-62)
The vices of this emperor place him beyond precepts, ideas, and categories, and at this moment, with the barbarians at the gate, the notion of obedience to him becomes merely academic. Aetius would hinge the safety of the empire on adherence to the principle that a sitting monarch is inviolable (3.3.145-63), but indeed it is dearly on him, Aetius, the famous defender of the West against the ravages of Attila, that Rome depends; the very presence onstage of Aetius disproves his theorizing by alerting us to the barbarian menace that hangs implicitly but ominously over the play. Though the play ends with a Rome struggling to put itself back together, we cannot suspend our knowledge that Valentinian's murder of Aetius ensures Rome's fall. (72) Aetius's misguided generalizing is echoed by Lucina, Maximus's virtuous wife, as she appeals futilely to Valentinian to spare her from rape:
you are Cesar, Which is the Father of the Empires honour, Ye are too neere the nature of the Gods, To wrong the weakest of all creatures: Women. (2.6.31-34)
Fletcher departs from his main source here, D'Urfe's Astrea, (73) to convey that the idea of what befits a Caesar can have no meaning for this Caesar, whose loving and lustful, adoring and destructive feeling for her is its own particular sickness. But what is its kind?
Like Caracalla's, Valentinian's ungovernability was inborn, imprinted on him by nature and nurture, but in Valentinian's case, the malignant influence was decidedly maternal and feminine. As another source, Procopius, informs us, Valentinian was shaped most strongly by the indulgences of his mother, Placidia, with the result that he was "effeminate" not merely in the sense that he eschewed arms, but also in that he was "filled with wickedness from childhood ... being an extraordinarily zealous pursuer of love affairs with other men's wives" (74) Hence the dense population of bawds in the Rome of Fletcher's play; an industry has arisen to cater to what everyone knows is the emperor's addictive pursuit of women. As it turns out, however, the substance of his "wickedness" lies not primarily in theft, adultery, or lechery per se, but in a tendency of monomania toward a certain unattainable woman; in both D'Urfe and Procopius, as in Fletcher's play, Valentinian becomes transfixed with Maximus's wife such that he burns to marry her himself. (75) The idea of him in Fletcher's play as "a Prince so full of woman" (2.3.27), then, has a pointedness to it: he is "full of woman" in that female power dominates him. Appropriately for the son of Placidia, Valentinian construes women as strong and forceful creatures who "hold the hammer" (1.3.118), and, as he agonizingly dies, he receives the motherly attentions of his wife (and future avenger) Eudoxa (5.2.23-45). This subjection to the feminine entails his placing a woman immovably at the center of his consciousness, and so his thought is "full of woman": Lucina's image, to the exclusion of all else. Lucina's hold on him is unshakable, such that the warnings of Aetius, whom he knows to be "the Bull-wark of the Empire" though they have "div'd so deep" into him, cannot take root:
of all The sins I covet, but this womans beautie, With much repentance, now I could be quit of: But she is such a pleasure, being good, That though I were a god she would fire my bloud. (1.3.245-50)
Confronted by Aetius with a dire situation, the armys cancerous discontent and unpreparedness, and recognizing it as dire, he nevertheless is thrown back to the deal of possessing Lucina's beauty and goodness. After the rape the ideal persists undeterred, despite her scathing declaration of the true circumstances: he has ruined her, himself, and the empire's security with this crime (3.1.30-134). Such affairs of the world as these are but "noyse" to him, as he remains "the same man still" animated solely by the thought of how "excellent" she is (3.1.100, 103). Not even her death changes him. The ideal of her only intensifies, as he redefines all sexual pleasure beyond her as rancid whoredom: "Am I a man to traffique with diseases? / Can any but a chastity serve Caesar? / And such a one the Gods would kneele to purchase?" (4.1.37-39). Obsessing over her death hermetically seals him in the world of his own mind; he doubts his power and his identity, wondering "Why do ye make me God that can do nothing?" (4.1.32), and rejects whatever "may concerne the Empire" merely by asking rhetorically, "Is she not dead?" (4.1.81-82). Not accidentally, it is at this moment that he gets taken in by Maximus's plot to exact revenge on him by turning him against Aetius; isolation from the real world conduces to the supreme policy error. In contrast to Domitian's, and perhaps Julius Caesar's, Valentinian's love-idolatry leads him further away from the reality of his environment; but like Domitian's, it also opposes stealth and histrionics. A concerted effort to stage-manage the seduction of Lucina fools her not at all (2.4-5), and Maximus's adeptness at hiding his feelings and pulling others' strings underscores the emperor's childish, helpless openness. Whereas Domitian appears convinced of his own brilliancy at his role, Valentinian tries to believe that an admittedly obnoxious performance will incur no penalty for him: "I am far above the faults I doe" (3.1.119). Like Caracalla, but in a different vein, Valentinian has no sense of dramatic decorum.
Whether this makes his brand of tyranny more or less odious to us, the point is that it is his own, and it can be described; (76) furthermore, with The Emperor of the East we may comprehend it even better, for here Massinger's innocuous Byzantine emperor shares much of Valentinian's damaged psyche, and perhaps even sets the precedent for it. In early Christian historiography, Theodosius II, brought up to the strictest Christian discipline by his saintly, sedulous sister, the regent Pulcheria, is used to evidence how prosperity comes to those God favors for their religiosity; and so Massinger's main source, a translation of Caussin's Holy Court, builds from this view an extended argument that ascetic perfection, even in the highest heights of worldly power, is no "impossibility" (77) But did this radically sheltered education, administered by women, have an adverse effect on the emperor's confidence and decisiveness as a warrior and governor? Did it perhaps have something to do with his ill-advised but enthusiastic advancement of Valentinian III, whom he installed as emperor of the West and made his son-in-law? In The Holy Court, despite its hagiography, these historical questions abide. It is conceded that Theodosius's heroism was of the nonmilitary variety, and while the link to Valentinian is made ostensibly to distinguish the vicious ruin of the West from the religious thriving of Constantinople, it is made nevertheless, in the process referring to the abject chaos of those times. Moreover, Theodosius's malleability in Pulcheria's hands comes across ambiguously: though he willingly gives himself to her tutelage because "naturally disposed" to, that he "resigned his hart to be handled as a soft piece of waxe" seems deferential to a fault, especially when we learn later that foremost among his faults, "the cause of his ruine" was the "ouer much facility of his nature, which many times made his hart of waxe, to be moulded in the handes of those, who were nearest vnto him" When Theodosius marries the beautiful supplicant Athenais, Pulcheria's choice for him, he is "moulded" even more thoroughly by female hands. The friction between his strong-willed wife and sister takes over court politics, and thereafter, passion for Athenais virtually takes over Theodosius's life, as he's consumed by grief when an apple he had given her turns up elsewhere, seemingly indicating her adultery. In an interesting juxtaposition, The Holy Court brings up the tension between the women, introduces the "Apple of Discord" story line, and mentions the future connection with Valentinian III, all in close proximity. (78) In adapting this matter, Massinger would have seen this passage, and his response to the problems of character it raises is what makes his Theodosius not only much less of a paragon than the Holy Court's, but also oddly reminiscent of Fletcher's Valentinian.
While female power itself is disparaged neither here nor in Valentinian, (79) we see that this particular case of R has been at least partly detrimental for this particular emperor. Theodosius's passion for Athenais--whose symbolism is affirmed in his renaming her "Eudoxia" after his mother (3.1.12)--though as chaste as Caussin would have it (1.2.360), comes upon him overpoweringly, and even paralytically; gazing at her from afar he can merely groan, "Vmph" (1.2.324). (80) Troublingly, he compares his adoration for her to that of Pygmalion for the statue he created; Theodosius has fallen under the spell of his mind's image of a woman's perfection, and for its possession "most willingly I would resigne my Empire" (2.1.337). Even though he has taken precious little responsibility before this point, leaving all to Pulcheria, his "prouident Protectresse" he has "already" begun to "grow weary of the absolute command" of empire (2.1.370-71). The "violence" of his love (2.1.392), though decently confined in marriage, is as out of control as Valentinian's and soon leads to dereliction of duty, with his prodigal, indiscriminate granting of petitions, his "violent bounties" (3.2.86). His self-congratulation for being flawed only in generosity (3.4.138-43) both points to his ignorance of his situation and hints at what his careless charity is going to produce: the catastrophe of his future son-in-law. Pulcheria's trick to awaken him to his neglect succeeds, but only by means of keeping his wife from him, all else being unnoticeable to him. The "Apple of Discord" story, as Theodosius's "passions" fall into a "violent course" (5.2.39-40) when the apple appears, substantiates the parallel to Valentinian's love-idolatry: each emperor suffers a shock over his idealized image of his love-object, Theodosius because of Athenais's seeming guilt and Valentinian because of Lucina's preference of death to him, but neither emperor's mind works on anything outside his ideal, all sense being lost of a reality beyond it. (81) Indeed, Theodosius's reaction to the shock somewhat resembles Valentinian's mad tirade over Lucina's suicide, as the emperor throws himself into existential doubt as to whether he is really an emperor at all: "Wherefore pay you / This adoration to a sinfull creature?"; "Can I call backe yesterday, with all their aides / That bow vnto my scepter?" (5.2.80-1,101-2). In each case, too, the emperor's removal from reality comes along with poor histrionics. Ironically, Theodosius best projects self-assertiveness when he's defending his yielding of center stage to Pulcheria (2.1.108-115), and soon even this is lost, as in an adolescent pique he falls into the same resentment of her he had just been repudiating: she's not his governess, he's not her pupil, and "Let it suffice / My wardships out" (2.1.202-3). Assuming power here, he does not assume an imperial idiom, and instead joins Valentinian in maintaining his right to prioritize his love affair over his public performance: "Let mee bee censur'd fond, and too indulgent, / Nay though they say vxorious, I care not" (3.2.34-35). Hereafter, the only time he effectively manages his performance is when he pretends to be a friar in order to test Athenais's innocence (5.3); not only is she reinscribed as his motivation--he too is "full of woman"--but the scene leaves a reminder of the tradition of Theodosius, under his nun-like sister's guidance, as acting more like a priest or a monk than an emperor. (82) Massinger's Theodosius takes pains to avoid tyranny, and they earn our sympathy; but the violence of his passions, and their source in feminine influences, align him with his Fletcherian counterpart in the same way the historical tradition had aligned the two emperors.
Such parallels and distinctions about imperial character had been drawn in the historical discourse, and it is my conviction that they were drawn in the drama as well. In each of the Roman plays of Fletcher and Massinger, as I hope I have demonstrated, we find an attempt to portray an emperor's unique character, on the foundation of how such psychological factors as the vector of a person's desire and the authenticity and style of a person's outward shows reflect the contours of a specific personality. Abetting this process is the idea of the tyrant, which to the sufficiently thoughtful artist was flexible and multivalent rather than rigid and stultifying, especially when used in coordination with what was observed about a personage in the historical tradition. It is pertinent to note that of our six plays, only half are proper tyrant tragedies, and we have found appreciable differences in the characters of Rollo/Caracalla, Domitian, and Valentinian; meanwhile, Julius Caesar, Dioclesian, and Theodosius, though they have definitive ties to the tyrant type, straddle tyranny and proper monarchical comportment, and this in differing ways. These characters will never command our attention the way Shakespeare's Romans, or for that matter his medieval Englishmen, always have. But if the Roman emperors of Fletcher and Massinger do seem, after a fresh look at them, to be characters, then we can perhaps be more assured than we have been for a long time that Shakespeare was making characters as well: conjecturing, in Raleigh's sense, who a particular person from history truly was.
(1) For the thorny problem of Rollo's authorship, see Bertha Hensman, The Shares of Fletcher, Field and Massinger in Twelve Plays of the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, 2 vols. (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1974), 2:239-79; and George Walton Williams, introduction to Rollo, Duke of Normandy, in The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, ed. Fredson Bowers, 10 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966-96), 8:155-59. Acts 3 and 4 are the most disputed, with the remainder usually assigned to Fletcher or Massinger, though in varying configurations.
(2) See Hensman, 2:244-62; Williams, introduction to Rollo, 8:156-57. Why the pseudohistorical Norman fable, which seems to go against the tide of Rollo's reputation as a hero, was superimposed over the Roman history remains, in my opinion, insufficiently explained.
(3) Thomas Rymer, The Tragedies of the Last Age Consider'd (London, 1678), 14, 36, 16, 19. For Rymer on Rollo, see Lawrence B. Wallace, Fletcher, Beaumont, and Company: Entertainers to the Jacobean Gentry (New York: King's Crown, 1947), 34-35; Eugene M. Waith, The Pattern of Tragicomedy in Beaumont and Fletcher (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952), 131-32; and Edward Burns, Character: Acting and Being on the Pre-Modern Stage (New York: St. Martin's, 1990), 177.
(4) References to the four Fletcherian plays are from The Dramatic Works. References to Massinger's two plays are from The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976).
(5) This would obviously pertain to plays on Rome. For the usefulness of Rome to Renaissance dramatists, especially regarding politics, see, for example, T. J. B. Spencer, "Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Romans," Shakespeare Survey 10 (1957): 27-38 (29-32); J. Leeds Barroll, "Shakespeare and Roman History" Modern Language Review 53 (1958): 327-43 (327-40); Herbert Lindenberger, Historical Drama: The Relation of Literature and Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), 8; Robert S. Miola, Shakespeare's Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 3-11; Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 55-80; Robin Headlam Wells, Shakespeare's Humanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 132; Lisa Hopkins, The Cultural Uses of the Caesars on the English Stage (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), passim. For relevant accounts, see Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983),164-209; Martin Butler, "The Romans in Britain: The Roman Actor and the Early Stuart Classical Play" in Philip Massinger: A Critical Reassessment, ed. Douglas Howard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 139-57; Pauline Kewes, "Julius Caesar in Jacobean England," Seventeenth Century 17 (2002): 155-86 (on The False One, 172-79).
(6) If by "character" we mean the drawing of an imagined individual psychology, that the conventional scholarly wisdom on Renaissance drama has been and remains anti-character should seem reasonable to assume. Of this, the massive influence of works like Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), esp. 252-57, and Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), esp. 17-21,249-71, should sufficiently convince us. For an efficient (though unsympathetic) account of this conventional wisdom and its luminaries, see Tom McAlindon, Shakespeare Minus "Theory" (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 6-12. That the trend against character is alive and well is evident in the recent forum "Is There Character After Theory?" Shakespeare Studies 34 (2006): 21-74; throughout, the contributors eschew the study of character, but see esp. Alan Sinfield, "From Bradley to Cultural Materialism" 25-34. For a prominent and particularly emphatic recent salvo against character, see Margreta de Grazia, "Hamlet" without Hamlet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), esp. 5-22. Anti-character approaches have also been abetted by work on philosophical context; for premodern models of personhood, see, for example, Timothy J. Reiss, Mirages of the Self: Patterns of Personhood in Ancient and Early Modern Europe (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 29-32, 112-13; and Gall Kern Paster, Humoring the Body: Emotions on the Shakespearean Stage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 1-24. For a relevant specialized anti-character approach, see the account of the dramatists' recourse to stock types in G. M. Pinciss, Literary Creatures: Conventional Characters in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Wolfeboro, N.H.: Brewer, 1988), 2-5.
(7) On Fletcherian characterization, the nearly universal view is expressed in Waith, Pattern, 9-11, 25, 28, 38-41. See also E. H. C. Oliphant, The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927), 39-44, 60-63; Wallace, 144-46, 219-20. For an example of how this view has since become entrenched, see Lee Bliss, "Beaumont ,"d Fletcher," in A Companion to Renaissance Drama, ed. Arthur E Kinney (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 524-39 (536).
(8) The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, ed. William Oldys and Thomas Birch, 8 vols. (New York: Franklin, 1964), 4:613-14.
(9) Judith H. Anderson, Biographical Truth: The Representation of Historical Persons in Tudor-Stuart Writing (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 7.
(10) Burns, 34-37; for Shakespeare and Rome, 112-17. For Plutarch's moral purpose, see also A. J. Gossage, "Plutarch" in Latin Biography, ed. T. A. Dorey (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967), 45-77 (55-56); C. P. Jones, Plutarch and Rome (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 88, 102. See also the general remarks on the exemplarity of historical personages overwhelming particularity and characterization in Timothy Hampton, Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990), 24-26.
(11) Cynthia Marshall, "Shakespeare, Crossing the Rubicon," Shakespeare Survey 53 (2000): 73-88 (74-75); Gordon Braden, "Plutarch, Shakespeare, and the Alpha Males," in Shakespeare and the Classics, ed. Charles Martindale and A. B. Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 188-205 (189). For "imperial derangement," see Braden, Renaissance Tragedy and the Senecan Tradition: Anger's Privilege (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 10-23 (14). For the ancient biographers, see also Gossage, 57-58; G. B. Townend, "Suetonius and His Influence" in Latin Biography, 79-112 (84, 92-93); Marilyn L. Williamson, Infinite Variety: Antony and Cleopatra in Renaissance Drama and Earlier Tradition (Mystic, Conn.: Lawrence Verry, 1974), 37-43. For Shakespeare, see also Spencer, 28; Williamson, 42-43, 181-82; Paul Cantor, Shakespeare's Rome: Republic and Empire (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976), 9-11; Allan Bloom, Shakespeare on Love and Friendship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 29-30; John Roe, "Character' in Plutarch and Shakespeare: Brutus, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony," in Shakespeare and the Classics, 173-87.
(12) On the background and traits of the tyrant type, see Rebecca Bushnell, Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990), 20-36, 56-69 (62). For discussions of our plays and the stock tyrant type, see Bushnell, 164 (Valentinian), 172-73 (Emperor of the East), 174-76 (Roman Actor); and see C. A. Gibson, "Massinger's Use of His Sources for The Roman Actor" AUMLA 15 (1961): 60-72 (60, 70-72); Russ McDonald, "High Seriousness and the Popular Form: The Case of The Maid of Honor" in Philip Massinger: A Critical Reassessment, ed. Douglas Howard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 91-97 (Prophetess); Robert Y. Turner, "Responses to Tyranny in John Fletcher's Plays," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 4 (1989): 123-41 (129-30, 134-36, Valentinian and Rollo; 137-38, Prophetess); Philip J. Finkelpearl, Court and Country Politics in the Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 213 (Valentinian); Ira Clark, The Moral Art of Philip Massinger (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1993), 103-4, 109-11 (False One), 53-59 (Emperor of the East), 60-61, 75-77 (Roman Actor); Gordon McMullan, The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), 96,170-72 (Valentinian), 183, 186-87 (Prophetess); Pavel Drabek, "The Prophetess and Life is a Dream: Two Early Modern Plays on Worldly Prerogative," Brno Studies in English 28 (2002): 119-26 (120-23); Kewes, 173; Marina Hila, "'Justice shall never heare ye, I am justice': Absolutist Rape and Cyclical History in John Fletcher's Valentinian" Neophilologus 91 (2007): 745-58 (746).
(13) See, for example, Ernest Schanzer, "The Problem of Julius Caesar" Shakespeare Quarterly 6 (1955): 297-308; William Blissett, "Lucan's Caesar and the Elizabethan Villain" Studies in Philology 53 (1956): 533-74; Spencer, 33-34; Barroll, 340-41; Miola, 76-115, esp. 77, 96; Mark Rose, "Conjuring Caesar: Ceremony, History, and Authority in 1599" English Literary Renaissance 19 (1989): 291-304; Hampton, 205-8; Roe, 174-76; Hadfield, 56-58.
(14) For the romantic greatness of Caesar and Cleopatra, see Waith, Pattern, 124-28; Waith, Ideas of Greatness: Heroic Drama in England (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971), 157-60; Cyrus Hoy, "Massinger as Collaborator: The Plays with Fletcher and Others" in Philip Massinger: A Critical Reassessment, ed. Douglas Howard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 51-82 (67). For the play's Caesar as Lucan's tyrant, see Clark, 103-14; Kewes, 172-79. For the debts to Lucan, see Hensman, 1:127-40.
(15) From Marlowe's translation, in Complete Plays and Poems, ed. E. D. Pendry (London: Everyman, 1976), 492.
(16) For magnanimity as the salient trait necessary for portraying Caesar, see George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Gladys Doidge Willcock and Alice Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936), 151-52; and Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (London, 1612), sig. F4.
(17) John Speed, The History of Great Britaine under the Conquests of ye Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans (London, 1611), 188.
(18) Plutarch, "Julius Caesar" in The Liues of the Noble Grecians and Romaines, trans. (from French) Thomas North (London, 1603), 736-37.
(19) Lucan, De Bello Civili, trans. J. D. Duff, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 9.1035-1104 (pp. 582-87).
(20) Ibid., 8.542-60 (pp. 476-79); 8.823-72 (pp. 498-501).
(21) For Caesar's crocodile tears, see, for example, Dio Cassius, Dio's Roman History, 9 vols., trans. Earnest Cary, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 42.8 (4:127-29). Of course, Petrarch's Rime 102, and Wyatt's translation, had made the story proverbial for hypocrisy.
(22) For Caesar's clemency, especially in being conciliatory to the dead Pompey, see Plutarch, "Julius Caesar" 733; Suetonius, "Caius Julius Caesar" in History of Twelve Caesars, trans. Philemon Holland, ed. Charles Whibley, 2 vols. (London: David Nutt, 1899), 74-75 (1:67-69); Aurelius Victor, "Life of C. Iulius Caesar" in An Epitomie of the Liues and Manners of the Romaine Emperors (London, 1606); Eutropius, A Briefe Chronicle, trans. Nicholas Haward (London, 1564), fol. 66; Richard Rainolde, A Chronicle of All the Noble Emperours of the Romaines (London, 1571), fols. 13-14; Thomas Rogers, A Philosophical Discourse Entitled The Anatomie of the Minde (London, 1576), fols. 8-9, 42-44, 141.
(23) Innocent Gentillet, A Discourse upon the Meanes of Wel Governing, trans. Simon Patricke (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1969), 270-71. For the influence of Patricke's Gentillet on the play, see Hensman, 1:140-45.
(24) William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, ed. M. R. Ridley, Arden Shakespeare (New York: Vintage, 1967).
(25) Melanchthon, Philosophiae Moralis Epitome, in Opera, ed. K. G. Bretschneider and H. E. Bindseil, 28 vols. (New York: Johnson, 1963), 16:58.
(26) Lucan, 10.70-81 (pp. 594-97). We might also note how the anonymous Caesar's Revenge has Cleopatra directly turn Caesar away from his lamentation over Pompey, and we then see Caesar throw off not only compassion but all sober thought, resolving to lose himself in pleasure. However, I would argue that even this play, though it treats Caesar much more cursorily than The False One, is not entirely simplistic. See The Tragedie of Caesar and Pompey or Caesars Reuenge (London, 1607), 2.3, sig. D-D2.
(27) See especially Lucan, 6.144-48 (pp. 314-15).
(28) For Caesar's amorous disposition, see Suetonius, "Caesar," 50-52 (1:52-54); Dio, 42.34 (4:167); Rainolde, fols. 7-8; Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Holbrook Jackson (New York: Vintage, 1977), 22.214.171.124 (p. 85).
(29) For the shame incurred by the lust-addled Caesar's being besieged by the Egyptians, see, for example, Plutarch, "Julius Caesar," 733-34 ; Lucan, 10.443-60 (pp. 622-25); William Fulbecke, An Abridgement, or rather, a Bridge of Roman Histories (London, 1608), 148-49; Pierre de La Primaudaye, The French Academie (London, 1614), 227.
(30) For Shakespeare's Cleopatra as Fortune, adverse to Antony, see Peggy Munoz Simonds, "'To the Very Heart of Loss': Renaissance Iconographyin Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra" Shakespeare Studies 22 (1994): 220-76. This is not to imply a one-sided view of Shakespeare's Antony, who, if compromised in his Roman, martial virtue, might be elevated by love in other ways; see Richard S. Ide, Possessed with Greatness: The Heroic Tragedies of Chapman and Shakespeare (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 102-31.
(31) For the persecuting emperor, see, for example, Eusebius, History of the Church, trans. G. A. Williams (London: Penguin, 1989), 8.13 (pp. 272-73); Orosius, The Seven Books of History against the Pagans, trans. Roy J. Deferrari (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1964), 7.25 (p. 322); Thomas Beard, Theatre of Gods Iudgements (London, 1612), 34-35; Speed, 256 (quote). Rainolde, fol. 100, calls Dioclesian "by nature" both "wittye, quicke, subtill in his gouernment" and "cruell" as a "great ennemy to Christian Religion"
(32) Gentillet, 31-32, 47. See the praise in Eutropius, fol. 122; Lodowick Lloyd, Consent of Time (London, 1590), 577.
(33) See Waith, Pattern, 129; Hoy, 64-65; McDonald, 93-97; McMullan, 183-84, 191. For the popularity of the play and its adaptations as a "semi-opera," see George Walton Williams, introduction to The Prophetess, in Dramatic Works, 9:223-24.
(34) For the prophetess, see Vopiscus, "Carus, Carinus, Numerian," in Scriptores Historiae Augustae, trans. David Magie, 3 vols, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), 14-15 (3:436-39); Speed, 254.
(35) For Charinus, see Vopiscus, 16-18 (3:440-45); Victor, "Carus," in Epitomie; Eutropius, fols. 117-18; Rainolde, fols. 99-100.
(36) Gentillet, 32. See Orosius, 7.25 (p. 322); Victor, "Diocletianus," in Epitomie; Rainolde, fol. 102; Beard, 35.
(37) Vopiscus, 15.1-4 (3:438-39); Speed, 254.
(38) Vopiscus, 15.5-6 (3:438-39); Speed, 254 (quote).
(39) Compare act 1, scene 1, and act 5, scene 2, of The Virgin Martyr, in The Plays of Philip Massinger, ed. William Gifford, vol. 1 of 4 (London: Nicol, 1813).
(40) See, for example, Beard, 493; Gentillet, 285-86. Caracalla occasions a list of the bad emperors, including Domitian, in Lloyd, 567-68.
(41) Spartianus, "Severus," in Scriptores, 14.12-13 (1:404-5); Orosius, 7.17 (p. 311).
(42) Spartianus, "Severus," 10.3-6 (1:394-95), 19.2 (1:416-17), "Antoninus Geta," 1-2 (2:32-37); Gentillet, 285; Speed, 231.
(43) Spartianus, "Antoninus Caracalla," 2.1 (2:4-5), 9.3 (2:24-25); Dio, 78.6 (9:291); Eutropius, fols. 104-5; Orosius, 7.18 (pp. 312-13); Gentillet, 174, 285.
(44) Spartianus, "Severus," 20.3-4 (1:418-19).
(45) Gentillet, 48. For Gentillet as a source, see Hensman, 2:250-56.
(46) Rymer, Tragedies, 49-52. For Julia vs. Sophia as an example of history's superiority to the tragedy, see 42.
(47) Herodian, The History of Herodian, trans. Nicholas Smyth (London, 1556), fol. 48.
(48) See ibid., fols. 54-55; Dio, 79.2 (9:343); Gentillet, 95-96; Speed, 232.
(49) Despite the nonsense here, a viable horoscope emerges; see J. C. Eade, The Forgotten Sky: A Guide to Astrology in English Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 189-97.
(50) Suetonius, "Flavius Domitianus" in History, 2-3 (2:236-38); Dio, 67.2 (8:321); Eutropius, fol. 83; Victor, "Domitianus," in Epitomie; Rainolde, fol. 53 (quote); Lloyd, 553; Speed, 213.
(51) For Domitian's self-assumed godhood, see Eutropius, fol. 83; Victor, "Domitianus"; Orosius, 7.10 (pp. 304-5); Lloyd, 553; Beard, 135; Gentillet, 20.
(52) Gibson, 60, 71.
(53) For this view of portrait painting as able to bring forth the truth of a subject's personality, see Plutarch, "Alexander" in Liues, 673; and John Donne, Sermons, ed. George R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson, 10 vols. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1953-62), 8:178.
(54) Suetonius, "Flavius Domitianus," 3 (2:237-38). See Gibson, 71.
(55) For an emphatic statement of this, see Speed, 213.
(56) Dio, 67.1 (8:317).
(57) See the connection in ibid., 78.18 (9:327); Gentillet, 204.
(58) Spartianus says he could affect kindness at times, but, "natura truculentus," he antagonized and horrified everyone with blatant tyranny; see "Caracalla," 4-5 (2:10-13). Dio says that he was capable of eloquence, but only haphazardly: "thanks to his authority and his impetuosity, as well as to his habit of blurting out recklessly everything alike that came into his head and of no feeling of shame at all about airing his thoughts, he often stumbled upon a happy phrase" (78.11; 9:303). Each portrait agrees with my argument about Rollo, I think. But in Speed, 232, Caracalla is a skilled actor.
(59) Herodian, fols. 49-50.
(60) Dio, 78.4 (9:285-87); Spartianus, "Caracalla," 4.1-2 (2:10-11). For Caracalla's words as an egregious instance of someone "demonstrating internal exsuperant ill will," see Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind in General, ed. William Webster Newbold (New York: Garland, 1986), 5.240-45 (p. 291).
(61) Gentillet, 26. For Caracalla's incestuous lust, see Spartianus, "Caracalla", 10.1-4 (2:26-27); Victor, "Antoninus Caracalla," in Epitomie; Beard, 384. The relation of Julia to Caracalla is confused.
(62) Herodian, fols. 50-51; Dio, 78.15 (9:317); Burton, 126.96.36.199 (p. 402).
(63) Herodian, fol. 51; Dio, 78.13 (9:313); Rainolde, fol. 71.
(64) Tacitus, Agricola, in Tacitus, trans. Maurice Hutton, 5 vols., Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), 45.2 (1:110-11).
(65) Suetonius, "Flavius Domitianus" 11 (2:247). See also Dio, 67.1 (8:317).
(66) Bushnell, 76-78.
(67) Suetonius, "Flavius Domitianus," 3 (2:238).
(68) For Domitian's inability to love, except for a few women (presumably including Domitia), see Dio, 67.1 (8:317).
(69) Speed, 278. See also Rainolde, fols. 129-30; Lloyd, 583-86.
(70) For the probable dates, see Robert K. Turner Jr., introduction to The Tragedy of Valentinian in Dramatic Works, 4:263; Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson, introduction to The Emperor of the East, in The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 3:391. For the possible connection between the plays see Peter G. Phialas, "The Sources of Massinger's Emperour of the East" PMLA 65 (1950): 473-82 (475).
(71) See Finkelpearl, 213-15; Hila, 746-47.
(72) See the matter on Aetius in the play's two principal sources: Procopius, History of the Wars: The Vandalic War, in Procopius, trans. H. B. Dewing, 7 vols., Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953-61), 3.4.24-28, (2:41-43); Honore D'Urfe, Astrea: A Romance (London, 1657), 405, 414-15. For these as sources, see Turner, introduction to Valentinian, 4:263. For the disaster to Rome issuing from this entire episode, see also Beard, 393-96.
(73) The lady Isidore references many particularities about Valentinian, and her appeal succeeds; see D'Urfe, 407.
(74) Procopius, 3.3.10-12 (p. 27). See also Beard, 393, on Valentinian's "euill bringing vp, and gouernment vnder his mother Placidia, being too much subject to his owne voluptuousnesse, and tyed to his owne desires"
(75) D'Urfe, 406-8; Procopius, 3.3.16-18 (p. 39).
(76) For the observation that Valentinian concerns itself with inwardness, see Clifford Leech, The John Fletcher Plays (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962), 129-31.
(77) See, for example, Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, trans. Blomfield Jackson, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 14 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1890-1900), 5.36 (3:155-56); Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, trans. A. C. Zenos, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 14 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 7.21-23 (2:164-66), 7.42 (2:176); Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, trans. Chester D. Hartranft, in Select Library (1957), 9.1-3 (2:419-21 ). Nicholas Caussin, The Holy Court, trans. Thomas Hawkins (Paris, 1626), 504. See Phialas, 476-82; I. E. Gray, "The Source of The Emperor of the East" Review of English Studies 1 (1950): 126-35.
(78) Caussin, 480, 540-41, 552, 494, 530, 512-13. For the promotion of Valentinian, see Socrates, 7.24 (2:166), 7.44 (2:177).
(79) Indeed, each play virtually advocates female power. Massinger's Pulcheria needs no argument; for Valentinian and female rule, see Eileen Allman, Jacobean Revenge Tragedy and the Politics of Virtue (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999), 18, 117-29.
(80) Burton, 188.8.131.52 (p. 240), commends Theodosius's choice but within the context of marriage as a cure for love melancholy.
(81) Massinger's allusions to Othello aid this sense, for the Moor similarly loses sight of reality in his fixation on Desdemona; focused so passionately on her, his imagination constructs a false world from a mere handkerchief, much as Theodosius's does from the apple. See Edwards and Gibson, 393-94.
(82) Socrates, 7.22 (2:164), 7.42 (2:176); Caussin, 505-9.
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|Title Annotation:||John Fletcher and Philip Massinger|
|Author:||Curran, John E., Jr.|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2009|
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