Early Modern visual-verbal esoteric imagery and the theatre: Julius Caesar 1.3

Svenn-Arve Myklebost


Adopting a method which combines close readings of iconography and playtext with broader historicist and cultural investigations, this article attempts to contribute to the field of visual-verbal Shakespeare studies through outlining how polysemous images and imagery are recombined within circular designs (wheels, spheres, globes, playhouses) upon which ‘actors’ are ‘staged’, in order to facilitate spiritual and practical insight into the micro- and the macrocosm. All these elements—or equivalents thereof—are present in the Renaissance theatre also, and Act 1 Scene 3 of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar contains a striking range of esoteric verbal-visual imagery offering an opportunity to analyse its compositional design and to assess its effects. This article argues that the esoteric visual tradition plays a major role in the composition and generation of meaning within that play, and that studying these aspects of Julius Caesar and the stage upon which it was performed aids us in seeing how it approached societal and political issues in Elizabethan England.


early modern; Renaissance; Shakespeare; Julius Caesar; the Globe; western esotericism; magic; occult; alchemy; emblems; astrology; Frances Yates

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