The Big Read II: I, Claudius

Chapters 7-10

Chapter 7:  Claudius drops a mention of a certain Urgulanilla, “to whom I was married at this time” – before going back to tell us about the girl he really liked, Medullina Camilla.  So of course you know that anything with Camilla – any love match EVER in this book – can only end badly.  “I stood, very nervously, in my chaplet and clean robe waiting with Germanicus by the family altar for Camilla to appear.  She was late.  She was very late.”  And you know what THAT means. 

Chapter 8: I got confused for a bit here and mixed up Urgulanilla and Urgulania and thought that Claudius was saying he’d been married off to his grandmother’s crony.  For all the other horrible things that happen, at least that didn’t happen.  *Shudder* 

“‘The Chief Vestal, poor woman, being so unworldly.’”   For whatever reason, this line of Livia’s cracked me up.  

I’m not really paying enough attention to how the story is laid out – the back and forths in time, the way the emphasis of each chapter changes – since I’m more caught up in the story and trying to keep characters straight.  But I have a feeling that there’s some significance to the order – and that there’s some greater order.  It’s a smart enough book that I doubt the stories are thrown together willy-nilly.  (And how on earth did Graves keep it all straight when he was writing?)   

Chapter 9: Great discussion about history and historical writing – I particularly liked the comment that Livy credits “the Romans of seven centuries ago with impossibly modern motives and habits and speeches” – one of my pet peeves in historical fiction.  The comments about comparing today’s immorality to the virtue of yesteryear also never goes out of date.  “‘Perhaps there isn’t so much difference really between their wickedness and ours.  it may be just a matter of scope and opportunity.’”  Claudius has it figured out. 

Hmm, that’s interesting little comment from Pollio advising Claudius to exaggerate his physical problems.  He’s a smart one, Pollio. 

Chapter 10:  Claudius compared to a parrot.  Nice one, Livia.  “I refuse ever to eat in the same room as that fellow: it would give me indigestion.”  She’s past-master at twisting things around, is Livia.