Tragical Histories, Tragical Tales

Jonathan Gibson

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Tragical Histories, Tragical Tales

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



In Tudor literature, ‘tragical’ events come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The words ‘tragical’, ‘tragic’, and ‘tragedy’ were often employed quite loosely to refer simply to grim events involving such things as extreme violence and sudden death. This article describes ‘tragical histories’ involving lurid happenings overwhelmingly motivated by sexual desire: rapes; suicides of rape victims; accidental deaths of young lovers; murders of love rivals — or of people wrongly perceived to be love rivals; murders of unfaithful lovers — or of lovers erroneously thought to be unfaithful; violent revenges for sexual assaults; violence against sexually promiscuous family members; murders undertaken to keep illicit relationships secret.

Keywords: tragedies; tragic events; sexual desire; rape; suicide; accidental death; murder; revenge; violence

Article.  8000 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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