In War, Liberty, and Caesar, Edward Paleit discusses how readers and writers of the English Renaissance read and understood Lucan's (Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, c. AD 39 - 65) epic poem on the Roman civil wars. It argues that the period between 1580 and 1650 in England, during which his text was much read, edited, discussed, imitated, translated, and quarreled over, can arguably be termed as the 'age of Lucan'. Looking at engagements with Lucan across a wide variety of literary forms, including poetry, drama, translations, and prose treatises, Paleit questions what made this Latin author so relevant during this period. Are there common features to the way readers responded to him? In what ways did Lucan help readers to structure and come to terms with their political experiences?
Among major English authors discussed are Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Samuel Daniel, Philip Massinger, and Thomas May. As well as examining the factors that shaped Lucan for early modern readers - for example London literary communities, or the reading practices instilled by humanist pedagogy - Paleit examines Lucan's impact on debates over the English constitution and the nature of freedom, his use as a war poet by militaristically inclined readers, and the perverse thrill many readers experienced on encountering his blood-curdling descriptions of the horrific and unnatural.