After Titus Oates’ “popish forgeries”, and in the moment in which James of York’s suitability to the throne was called sharply into question by parliamentary debates, the production of a play that celebrated the birth of a republic was probably not a very safe idea. Indeed, the Dorset Garden Theatre production of Nathaniel Lee’s Lucius Junius Brutus had a very short, even though successful, run and was suppressed by the Lord Chamberlain in early December 1680. As Shakespeare, Jonson, and others before him, Lee looked back at ancient Rome as a political paradigm to depict a moment of crisis and transition, but, at least from a Tory point of view, the late 1670s were not meant to bring along any constitutional revision or shift, let alone a republican one. Yet, in the play Brutus’s oratory heavily relies on republican discourse as, according to him, the good of the res publica derives from the differentiation between ‘partial tyrants’ and ‘freeborn people’ (5.2.44), and as was the case of many anti-monarchical writings of the 1640s and 1650s, the play pivots on the distinction between “king” and “tyrant”. In fact, Brutus expels the “name” and retain the “thing”, the substance of kingship, since he invests his consulship with the power which was once Tarquin’s, and is eventually addressed as ‘more Tyrannical than any Tarquin’ (5.1.114). Lee’s depiction of Brutus as a tragic figure, whose ambition and executionary rigour leads him to sending both his sons to the scaffold, may be read as a warning against, rather than the celebration of, the “cause of liberty”, which, after the overthrow of kingly power, retains its very essence and yet disfigures it into despotism. Nevertheless, this apparently proved too subtle (or maybe too cryptic) an interpretation for the contemporaries to recognize it, and the play was (safely) consigned to censure, lest it stirred the bugbear of a new “Commonwealth without a king”.
|Titolo:||'The Name of King will light upon a Tarquin': republicanism, exclusion, and the name of king in Nathaniel Lee's Lucius Junius Brutus|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2018|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||02.01 Contributo in volume (Capitolo o Saggio)|