Article Title

Lucanic Omens in Julius Caesar


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Until at least the end of the Renaissance, Seneca's nephew Lucan-bard par excellence of civil war and master of historical epic-was considered a major Latin writer, rivaling even Virgil, with whom he was inevitably compared.1 Though Dante awards the highest honors to Virgil, he classifies Lucan among the five greatest ancient poets (Inferno IV). Lucan's Caesar, Blissett rightly claims, is a major inspiration, immediate or proximate, of Tamburlaine and other ranting megalomaniacs of the Tudor-Stuart stage. Shakespeare scholars have also discerned Lucan's mark in their author's treatment of civil war, fame, and portents and in various verbal minutiae.2 In the pages that follow, I propose to consider the composition of Julius Caesar and to examine the likeliest evidence--some familiar, some new-that the Elizabethan dramatist actually employed Lucan in this Roman tragedy. To anyone concerned with the breadth and chronology of Shakespeare's exposure to various literary works, the question of his possible use of Lucan is of considerable interest and importance, and thus it is a matter worth· establishing carefully.

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