- Miola, Robert S. Shakespeare and Classical Tragedy:
- The Influence of Seneca. Oxford: Clarendon, 1992.
Thesis: Miola's general topic is the influence of the Roman
tragedian Seneca on Shakespeare, but he has only one passage which
directly concerns Julius Caesar. It occurs in the course of
Miola's consideration of Seneca's Stoic philosophy:
The scenes of Brutus and Hamlet, two Shakespearean Stoics, responding
to the deaths of their loved ones are revealingly dissimilar. A true
Stoic, Brutus appears to give no place to 'accidental evils'
(JC IV.iii.146); he bears the sorrow of Portia's death with
reserve, remaining scrupulously attentive to his public role and
duty. Upon hearing of Ophelia's death, Hamlet leaps forward and
wrestles wildly with Laertes, ranting and outbraving the brother in
grief. At first glance, Brutus seems to respond with the requisite
impassivity and calm. Yet the burden of his grief, we realize,
probably accounts for the uncharacteristic anger and petulance in the
quarrel scene. As if to underline this possibility, Shakespeare
lifts the news of Portia's death from elsewhere in Plutarch,
inserting it here in the infamous form of the double revelation.
Hamlet, by contrast, loses all composure when he faces Ophelia's
death. The emotions that sturdy Brutus represses erupt
uncontrollably in the sensitive and theatrical Dane. And the
differences here tell much. We wonder at Brutus' remarkable display
of self-disciplinecourageous, stiff, self-congratulatory, and
slightly inhuman. We grieve, however, with Hamlet in his histrionic
but human outcry of pain and impotence. Though he has caused much
suffering, Hamlet's anguish at the loss of Ophelia is real and
Bottom Line: Sensible.