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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Julius Caesar and Religious Art
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0159  Monday, 13 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Tom Bishop <
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	Date: 	Friday, 10 Mar 2006 10:11:40 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

[2] 	From: 	R. A. Cantrell <
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	Date: 	Friday, 10 Mar 2006 09:19:09 -0600
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

[3] 	From: 	William Sutton <
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	Date: 	Friday, 10 Mar 2006 08:10:57 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

[4] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 11 Mar 2006 20:23:48 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0140 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

[5] 	From: 	Jack Heller <
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	Date: 	Monday, 13 Mar 2006 08:29:39 -0500 (EST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tom Bishop <
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Date: 		Friday, 10 Mar 2006 10:11:40 -0500
Subject: 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

I must say I like Peter Bridgman's reading. It has just that 
particularly Shakespearean amphibology (as Stephen Mullaney puts it so 
well for Macbeth) about it. With the Catholic executions in the 
background somewhere, not only is Decius Brutus' reading of the dream as 
it were sub rosa reminding us that Caesar will literally bleed, but the 
play's questions about the meaning and value of Caesar's life and death 
multiply against the controversy over those executions:  were they 
really traitors? were their deaths martyrdoms? are those  who press for 
"tinctures, stains, relics and cognizance" deluded or  pious or 
dangerous? and so on. There's no polemic point being made here, but much 
doubt about how to begin deciding such questions, a Gordian knot of 
ironies about what history can and can't know of itself, how tragic 
circumstances echo across time.

Tom

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		R. A. Cantrell <
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Date: 		Friday, 10 Mar 2006 09:19:09 -0600
Subject: 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

 >>Your statue spouting blood in many pipes,
 >>In which so many smiling Romans bathed,
 >>Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck
 >>Reviving blood, and that great ment shall press
 >>For tinctures, stains, relics, and cognizance.

 >When these lines were written there were no
 >longer any paintings or statues of the crucifixion in any church in
 >England or Wales.

I don't know the English Church well enough to make a pronouncement, but 
weren't all the Friars and Holy Fathers long gone as well?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Sutton <
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Date: 		Friday, 10 Mar 2006 08:10:57 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

I admire Peter Bridgman's confident assertions but exactly where does 
this specific knowledge of execution behaviour come from?

How does he know that all the religious paintings in England and Wales 
were actually destroyed and not hidden from view? Art lovers cross the 
religious divide.

And we don't know for certain whether or not Shakespeare did any form of 
European travel, in which case he may have seen paintings there.

Also if Sh. had Catholic connections then some form of crucifixion 
iconography may have escaped the admittedly sweeping clean up of the 
Protestants, by virtue of being brought in after Elizabeth's 
continuation of her daddy's reforms. Canvas is easily rolled up and 
carried. And I'm sure HM Customs wasn't as thorough back then.

I invoke sonnet 59 as argument for Shakespeare's understanding of things 
past, present and future.  'If there be nothing new, but that which is, 
hath been before, how are our brains beguiled...whether we are mended, 
or where better they, or whether revolution be the same.'

Surely he would have known of crucifixion paintings as well as hangings 
at Tyburn etc. so couldn't this be and/and rather than no way?

Yours,
William Sutton

PS along with the Chandos thread we seem to be dealing with the state of 
Art History in the time of Elizabeth. Who were the collectors, Artists, 
Schools?  are there sources in this field? Vasari's descriptions of his 
contemporaries for example provides descriptions of religious 
iconography, but was this known and translated?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Saturday, 11 Mar 2006 20:23:48 +0000
Subject: 17.0140 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0140 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

To Jack Heller, Calpurnia's dream

 >"seems to parody the sacraments of both
 >baptism and the Eucharist, and it alludes as well to the
 >controversies over relics."

  Jack Heller, once again, is right on target.

Clearly the scene is designed to recall the sacramental sacrifice, as 
noted in earlier posts (SHK16.1693 and SHK16.1707). Caesar's spouting 
wounds may be seen as new gaping bleeding wombs (following Paster et 
al), offering an antibaptism of blood. Shakespeare uses Lavinia 
similarly in his earlier TITUS as a mutilated bleeding Tree of Life, so 
often associated with the crucified Christ. Other echoes include 
Mithras' sacrifice of the Bull (ritualized in the Taurabolium), spraying 
vivifying blood throughout the Cosmos, and the cannibal feast of 
hunter-assassins, incorporating the potent spirit of their prey.

Equally provocative is Decius' suckling prophecy: "from you great Rome 
shall suck/ Reviving blood..." Jesus was often pictured in medieval and 
Renaissance art as a nourishing maternal figure, his saving blood 
issuing forth from his wounds--his chest wound drawn at or near his 
nipple. Nearby are angels, maidens, or allegory figures (like Queen 
Charity) typically holding one or more chalices to collect the sacred 
blood. One 15th C. painting (THE SAVIOR) by Quirizio has Jesus 
withdrawing a wafer from his wound for a praying supplicant! Also 
available are "double intercession" paintings where Jesus, offering his 
wound blood, is paired with his mother Mary, offering her bare breast to 
the viewer--again linking breast milk with Jesus' saving blood. Milk in 
fact was held to be a refined form of blood. Related is the pelican 
mother pecking her own breast to nourish her brood with her blood. 
(Queen Liz, wearing a pelican pendant, often posed as self-sacrificing 
Mother of the Nation.) Surely Shakespeare was familiar from the pulpit 
and from his reading, if not from surviving paintings and statues, with 
these iconotypes. Jack might check out Bynum's 1986 "The Body of Christ 
in the Later Middle Ages" in RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY, vol. 39, for details 
and pictures.

The suckling metaphor as antitype can, I believe, be extended even 
further. European witch hunters of the period were desperate to 
demonstrate corporeal interaction of humans with demons, thus validating 
the Christian creed by their principle of contrariety: if the 
antiChristian Devil exists, so must the Christian God. On the Continent 
and in Scotland, the interaction sought by leading interrogation and 
torture of the suspect witch was carnal copulation during the Witch's 
Sabbath or elsewhen. English witch hunters, however, usually sought such 
interaction in the form of the witch nursing her demonic familiars with 
blood from her teats. The hunters probed and fondled the suspect's body 
for cold insensitive spots reflecting supernumerary teats, the fount of 
the unHoly blood. Caesar, with his newly incised supernumerary teats, 
may be similarly seen in this context--his "reviving blood" nourishing 
his own demonic Roman familiars, en route to World Empire.

Hail Caesar! --- the Wicked Witch of the West!

Joe Egert

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jack Heller <
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Date: 		Monday, 13 Mar 2006 08:29:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0149 Julius Caesar and Religious Art

I would not want to argue that a specific painting influenced the lines 
from Julius Caesar, but paintings, prints, and woodcuts-like plays-come 
in genres. I think it can be shown that visual representations of St. 
Sebastian and St. Anthony influence some of the dramatic representations 
of characters who share their names. These lines from Caesar-

In which so many smiling Romans bathed, Signifies that from you great 
Rome shall suck Reviving blood, seem to call for some consideration of 
their relationship to the Christian sacraments, and it was a painting 
I've seen of characters bathing in Christ's blood that would seem to 
complement the association. While I am aware of the artwork lost to 
iconolasts in England, there would be more than one way to keep an image 
in current discourse. Peter Bridgman brings to my thinking one 
possibility--contemporaneous illustrations in martyrologies. Foxe would 
have avoided any illustration of the collection of relics from the 
Protestant martyrs; however, there were also well illustrated Catholic 
martyrologies. I am less familiar with their illustrations, so I would 
be interested in knowing if connections can be made between this passage 
on Caesar's blood, the illustrations in the Catholic martyrologies, and 
the sacraments.

Jack Heller

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