Chanmi Ko.  English Tacitism and Ben Jonson’s Sejanus his Fall   page(s): 95-119


This paper inquires into the relation between the reality of Jacobean politics and the rise of English Tacitism. King James I’s unruly desire to extend his prerogatives brought about the encroachment upon old liberties of the commons and freedom of speech. The Jacobeans were prompted to seek a voice warning of the dangers of royal misrule, when they recognized the potential perils of James’s prerogatives. Tacitism served as a rallying cry against the incipient tyranny, as Tacitus’s historiography was based on antipathy towards tyrannical rule, and as its method was to critique the present state through parallels between the past and the present. James’s reign was characterized as a tug of war between the King and the adherents of Tacitism, as the tension between the two heightened. This paper investigates this power struggle between the monarch and the English Taciteans through a study of Sejanus, where Ben Jonson uses Tacitus as a means of political criticism. Jonson adopts the Tacitean method in his work by uncovering a true picture of his times through depictions of similarities between Tiberian Rome and James’s England. Not only in the place of Jacobean court but also in the literary world did English Taciteans strive to offer political advice.       
 Keywords    Tacitism, Tacitus, Lipsius, James I, Jacobean England, Ben Jonson, Sejanus his Fall