English Seneca

Jessica Winston

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

English Seneca


Jasper Heywood helped develop interest in Seneca's works by making them accessible for a new generation of readers and writers. However, he was not wholly responsible for the ancient tragedian's growing popularity. How, then, can we explain the increasing interest in and importance of Senecan drama in the latter half of the sixteenth-century? This article addresses this question, making special reference to Thyestes, ‘the most influential of all the tragedies on Elizabethan theatre’. Several critics have noticed the political relevance of Seneca's works in Renaissance England, and this article is especially influenced by Gordon Braden's Renaissance Tragedy and the Senecan Tradition (1985), which explores the significance of Seneca's views on tyranny for Renaissance authors. Still, most studies, including Braden's, focus only on the later Elizabethan reception of the tragedies, and the article contributes to this topic by distinguishing between the early and later phases (the 1560s and the 1580s–1590s). Doing so allows it to address some of the similarities and differences in the character and political orientation of the translations and adaptations of Seneca in each one.

Keywords: Thyetes; Jasper Heywood; Senecan drama; Renaissance England; Gordon Braden

Article.  7744 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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