Roman Remains: Classical Antiquity in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries

Module code: EN7246

At the start of Philip Massinger’s tragedy The Roman Actor, the character Paris‘the Tragaedian’ declares that: ‘Our aime is glorie, and to leaue our names/ To after times’. This module will focus on how the ancient world and some of the ‘names’ it made culturally famous were represented in the ‘after times’ of early modern England, gloriously or otherwise. We look at how Shakespeare and his contemporaries represented republican and imperial Rome, particularly, and also consider how legendary events like the Trojan war were brought to the London stage.

The module will be taught as five two-hour seminars, and students will be asked to read one play per seminar, typically including: William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599); Ben Jonson, Sejanus his Fall (1603); William Shakespeare, Coriolanus (1608); William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida (1602); Philip Massinger, The Roman Actor (1626). Two film screenings will accompany the seminars: Julius Caesar (dir. by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1953); and Coriolanus (dir. by Ralph Fiennes, 2011). Students will be encouraged to develop their own research interests, and the module will be assessed by one 3,000-word essay.


  • 10 hours of seminars
  • 140 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, 3,000 words (100%)
  • Formative exercise, 500 words (0%)