Patrick Gray, Shakespeare and the Fall of the Roman Republic: Selfhood, Stoicism and Civil War, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019, pp. 308


  • Paul Cantor



Patrick Gray’s Shakespeare and the Fall of the Roman Republic provides an orthodox Christian interpretation of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, chiefly Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, with some discussion of Coriolanus. Gray argues that Shakespeare believed the Republic fell because of the insatiable will to power of its leaders, which led to destructive civil wars. As aggressive males, the Romans needed to embrace their feminine sides and learn compassion in order to live together peacefully. Gray approaches the Roman plays against a background of Augustinian theology and medieval mystery plays. In contrast to many critics, he rejects the possibility that Shakespeare admired his ancient Romans and presented them as tragic heroes. Gray objects to political interpretations of the Roman plays and favours a purely ethical approach. General readers will probably not profit from Gray’s book, which sometimes gets bogged down in scholarly disputes. But Shakespeare scholars will learn from his careful analysis of particular scenes in the plays.

Keywords: Patrick Gray; Shakespeare; Roman plays; Roman Republic