Shakespeare's Octavius: his background and significance
Kalmey, Robert Pohl
Master of Arts
Half of this essay is directed toward revealing what was written in the Elizabethan (here defined by the dates 1564-1636) histories about the Roman emperor, Octavius Caesar Augustus. The purpose of the study of the histories is to substantiate a revision of our understanding of Shakespeare's Octavius in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. If Shakespeare's Octavius can be seen as part of a widespread and traditional concept of Octavius, we may be more precise in our explanation of the character in the plays by noticing how Shakespeare uses the tradition. The revision of our understanding of Shakespeare's Octavius is principally a means for approaching the problems presented by the plays. The final goal is a revision of our understanding of the plays themselves, and the attainment of this goal constitutes the second half of the essay. Line citations from Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra concur with the editions of the two plays in the Pelican Shakespeare, general editor: Alfred Harbage.