Heavenly Stratagems is a 12,000 word dissertation I wrote as part of an MA I completed at the Shakespeare Institute. It examines astrological fate in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar, including astrological evidence for dating early performances.

Table of contents

1. Outline

2. Astrology

2.1 Astrology in early modern English culture

2.2 Astrological technique and practice

3. Romeo & Juliet

3.1 Astrological fate in Romeo & Juliet

3.2 Astrological evidence for dating of early performances

4. Julius Caesar

4.1 Astrological fate in Julius Caesar

4.2 Astrological evidence for dating of first performance

5. The evidence of ephemerides and almanacs

6. Conclusions


Appendix: Table of astrological symbols


The belief that terrestrial affairs are influenced by the stars and planets and can be interpreted by observing the heavens was an essential part of the intellectual framework of the educated in early modern England, with its basic principles well known to the wider public. We might therefore expect astrology to be referenced in Shakespearean drama.

To give this proper consideration, it is necessary to understand the prevailing astrological world-view and the basics of astrological theory and practice.

This paper examines this perspective and uses it to consider two Shakespeare plays, Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar, that are promising in terms of an astrological reading, given their concerns with fate and its potential inevitability.

It also considers the support astrology gives to establishing the dates of their early performances.

If you would like to read it in full, e-mail me and I’ll send you a pdf of the complete dissertation.