Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Juvenal

JUVENAL


Little is known about the life of Juvenal: born maybe around 55 AD and died maybe around 130 AD? One legend has Juvenal exiled to Egypt by the Emperor Domitian between 93 and 96. “Juvenal, like Ovid, simply could not resist the occasional mischievous jab,” which may have been what got him exiled (Green xxvi).

The Satires are rants against anything and nearly everything. I worried at first that I had been wrong in saying that Shakespeare invented railing as an art form (used effectively by stand-up comics such as Lewis Black), but what Shakespeare does is different and more … er … refined? More a matter of strings of invective, outpourings of insults. Yet, Shakespeare does occasionally seem influenced by Juvenal. See Satire III, VI (“country matters,” as in Hamlet), XI (I’m sensing Timon of Athens), and especially X, where the diatribe on old men so resembles what Hamlet says to Polonius in Act II that Earl Showerman, MD, proposes that this is actually “Hamlet’s book” (usually if tentatively identified as Cardanus Comforte).

More Juvenal/Shakespeare connections. Here are quotations from the Juvenal edition’s introduction.

“Now though a creative writer — the dramatist or novelist in particular — may indeed project a variety of fictionalized mouthpieces for his or her own purposes, a recognizable personality still tends to pervade them all: in a very real sense the writer is all his characters” (xxviii).

“In cases especially where the writer’s life is well documented — Byron, say, or Eliot, who make a nice contrast in this respect — it is clear that public and private face are symbiotically related” (xxix).

“As much as art can shape life, life is always the creative force behind an artist, literary or other” (qtd. xxix).


Works Consulted

Juvenal. The Sixteen Satires. Trans. Peter Green. 3rd Edition. NY: Penguin Classics, 2004.