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Caesar, Renaissance, politics, Virgil, poetry


Between the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign and the regicide of Charles I, three major English translations of Virgil’s middle poem, the Georgics, were published. Each translation appeared at a moment of religio-political crisis in England, a coincidence made more significant by the ambivalent political stance of Virgil’s text, which simultaneously communicates praise for Octavian and suspicion about an imperial program that disenfranchised the agricultural classes, an oversight which Virgil records in the Georgics as impiety. This paper charts the ways in which seemingly innocent translation decisions manage to perform a critical interrogation of monarchal authority, particularly as it pertains to the administration of a state church. Shielded by the authority of Virgil’s venerable text, the three Early Modern translators each interrogate the relationship between national governance and religious polity, a project that becomes more aggressive and more urgent in the later translations, as the status and scope of Jacobean monarchic authority moves toward its fatal redefinition.