Renæssanceforum 13 • 2018

Christian Dahl
Event and Recurrence: On the Representation of Astronomical and Historical Time in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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Departing from Reinhardt Koselleck's theory of historical time my paper investigates how Shakespeare represents famous events from the fall of the Roman Republic within a structure of recursivity. Julius Caesar (1599) is a history play which – in a manner typical of the genre – seeks to reduce an extended span of historical time to a linear narrative of decisive key events, but at the same time Shakespeare goes at length in this play to integrate these events within a cyclic structure of time through numerous references to the Julian calendar, to Roman holidays and to the hours of the day. These references are instanced by a widespread confusion among the dramatis personae concerning date and time – a curiosity that scholars explain by reference to the rivalry in Shakespeare's own time between Catholics and Protestants concerning the old Julian and the new Gregorian calendar. My paper will discuss the play's focus on the calendar as an expression of order that serves both historical and political purposes.