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Tragic Inspiration in Jasper Heywood's Translation of Seneca's Thyestes: Melpomene or Megaera?

Mike Pincombe

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199566471
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199566471.013.0032

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Tragic Inspiration in Jasper Heywood's Translation of Seneca's Thyestes: Melpomene or Megaera?

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This article addresses the following question: What — or who — is the source of tragic inspiration in Jasper Heywood's Thyestes? Heywood seems to hesitate between two figures: Melpomene and Megaera, the one a Muse and the other a Fury. It shows how Heywood wants to insert tragedy into a Renaissance model of literary culture based on the ancient notion of litterae humaniores, in which some kinds of ‘literature and learning’ (litterae) are conceived to be ‘more human and/or humane’ (humanior) than others. In other words, he wanted to insist on the humanist credentials of tragedy. However, his heart told him that Senecan tragedy was far from humane — or even human. Heywood's own conception of tragedy is ‘not yet humanist’ — he wants to claim tragedy for the Muses, but he knows it is really possessed by the Furies.

Keywords: tragic inspiration; Jasper Heywood; plays; Muse; Fury; Renaissance; literary culture; Senecan tragedy

Article.  7970 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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