Tyranny in Jacobean Roman tragedies (1603--1611)
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This dissertation defends the theory that Jacobean Roman tyrant-tragedies are inherently anti-tyrannical and anti-absolutist. As such, they contest the absolutist discourses of James I, which claim that legitimate kings rule by divine right and cannot be deposed of as tyrants. What makes these tyrant-tragedies anti-absolutist is that they defend the humanist critique of tyranny, which distinguishes kings from tyrants on the basis of their ethical differences. In this respect, not only do these plays show the convergence of the Senecan critique of tyranny and humanism but also the conflict between James I's discourse of absolutism and humanism. To this end, I analyze four Roman tragedies, written between 1603 and 1611: the anonymous Tragedy of Tiberius , Shakespeare's Coriolanus , and Ben Jonson's Sejanus: His Fall and Catiline . I undertake a reading of these plays from the perspective of Neostoic Taciteanism and humanism to show how these plays contested James I's discourse of absolutism.