Neoclassical Tragedy in Elizabethan England

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 280pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

Examining the development of neo-classical tragedy during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), this work investigates the varied manifestations of tragedy modelled upon the classical heritage of ancient Greek drama as adapted by Seneca.

After establishing the Elizabethan views of tragedy as expressed by puritanical critics of the theatre from Gosson to Rainolds and by humanist defenders of poetry and drama from Lodge to Gager, Norland analyses the English translations of the Latin tragedies ascribed to Seneca. The book then goes on to consider in their respective contexts the extant Inns of Court tragedies produced in the late 16th century, five significant Neo-Latin tragedies performed at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and three tragedies translated or modelled upon Garnier's French tragedies: Mary Sidney's translation of Marc Antoine, Daniel's Cleopatra, and Kyd's Cornelie.

Because Neoclassical tragedy in Elizabethan England has been largely ignored by recent critics, from the new historicists and cultural materialists to the deconstructionists and postmodernists, the cultural implications and artistic dimensions of the drama have been overlooked. It is the purpose of this book to remedy this oversight by examining in detail the dramatic texts as artefacts created mainly by educated amateurs for selective audiences. Whether the authors are translating, adapting, imitating, or revising earlier versions of their subjects, their artistic choices are generally governed by dramatic precedents and the circumstances of production, though their success is finally determined by their creativity and individual talents.

A distinguishing characteristic of these neoclassical plays is the prominent place occupied by women. Although the texts are all by men - except for Mary Sidney's translation of Gamier - women are at the centre of the drama. In six of the twelve tragedies examined women are featured in the title, and in the remaining six they play major roles. This focus may relate to the position of Queen Elizabeth, who was an honoured guest at special performances, but she and other wealthy aristocratic women, including the Countess of Sussex and Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke, were also important sources of patronage.

Another distinguishing feature of neo-classical tragedy in Elizabethan England that Norland discusses is the focus on civil war, which is identified by Lodge and several other critical commentators as a traditional source and context of tragedy. More than half of the tragedies considered here involve civil conflict. In addition to the ancient Greek and Roman wars represented in four of the tragedies, British history and legend provide the characters and the setting for the conflicts portrayed in three others. What provoked this special interest in civil war appears to have been the political uncertainty that prevailed during Elizabeth's reign.

This examination of Elizabethan adaptations of classical tragedy at the beginning of its golden age of drama provides important background for students of the Renaissance and offers new insights to specialists who have overlooked the significance of the ancient models.
^ Drama ^ Shakespeare


SKU 9780874130454
Barcode # 9780874130454
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Howard B. NORLAND

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