Howard Brenton: The Romans in Britain

(1538 words)
  • Steve Barfield (University of Human Development, Suleymanyia, Iraqi Kurdistan)
  • Julie Waddington

The Romans in Britain (National Theatre, 1980) was Howard Brenton's most ambitious attempt at epic theatre (a cast of thirty perform sixty parts) and by far his most controversial play. Its theme is an exploration of parallels and contrasts between key moments of imperialism: Julius Caesar's Roman invasion of Celtic Britain; the Saxon invasion of Romano-Celtic Britain; and Britain's actions during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. In the 19th century, Britain often used the term “Pax Britannica” (the Peace of Britain) when referring to its colonial activities, thus drawing on the cultural authority of the Roman imperial example of “Pax Romana”. For this reason, a debunking of the myth of the Roman Empire as a …

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Barfield, Steve, Julie Waddington. "The Romans in Britain". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 31 January 2005
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]