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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.3, 361 ~ 382, 2018
Shakespeare’s Roman Plays and His Skepticism
Woosoo Park
Shakespeare reflects/refracts the controversial spirit of his age in the epistemological and political skepticism of his Roman plays: Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. Skepticism doubts all received truth and suspends judgment, and it often takes the form of mental jousting on both sides of a question. Renaissance skepticism was strengthened by rhetorical education. Arguing on both sides of the question (in utramquem partem) was a practice taught in Shakespeare’s grammar school in order to enhance students’ mental abilities in logic and dialectic. This rhetorical exercise seldom leads to a third-term resolution: it just reveals all the apparent and hidden aspects of a problem at issue. Shakespeare’s Roman plays, especially his Julius Caesar, demonstrate this skeptical attitude, leaving the judgment to the audience.
Key Words
Shakespeare, skepticism, Roman plays, rhetorical argumentation, epoche
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