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3. Elizabethan Seneca
About this Lecture
In this module, Helen examines the influence of Seneca on Shakespeare's predecessors. This was the period that saw the first translation of Seneca into English. It was at this point that Seneca was given its grandiosity, with the earliest translators rendering the rather compact Latin into much more expansive English. The availability of Seneca in English led to a string of sensational amateur productions, among them 'Warning for Faire Women' and 'Misfortunes of Arthur'.
Shakespeare’s most famous – and infamous – tragedies draw on the Roman playwright Seneca for their dramatic form and theatrical style - including ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’, and ‘Titus Andronicus’. Seneca also had a huge influence on Shakespeare’s contemporaries: Thomas Kyd’s ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ brought the Senecan themes of revenge and ultra-violence onto the English stage, while Tamburlaine’s thundering rhetoric and superhuman ambition in Christopher Marlowe’s play of the same name echo Seneca’s ‘Hercules’. But who was Seneca? What did he write? And why? This course introduces Seneca and explores his enormous influence on theatre in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Helen Slaney holds the Randall McIver Junior Research Fellowship at St Hilda's College, Oxford, where she is currently conducting practice-based research into Roman tragic pantomime. Helen's main field of interest is classical reception studies. In 2012 she completed a doctorate on the performance reception of Senecan tragedy. Her postdoctoral research will focus on embodied encounters with antiquity in the late eighteenth century.
Cite this Lecture
Slaney, H. (2018, August 15). Seneca and Early Modern Drama - Elizabethan Seneca [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/seneca-and-early-modern-drama/elizabethan-seneca
Slaney, H. "Seneca and Early Modern Drama – Elizabethan Seneca." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019, https://massolit.io/courses/seneca-and-early-modern-drama/elizabethan-seneca