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Senecan Influence On The Elizabethan Age

1797 words - 8 pages

With the newfound flourish in the literary arena, the Elizabethan era is responsible for the rebirth and growth of drama. The seed of this new life of drama began in the medieval period where the Italian and English renaissance started to rediscover their love of theatre and went back to the origin of drama in their Greek and Roman base. The Italians were particularly interested in the approach of Lucius Annaeus Seneca and the English playwright was inspired from the Italian success. Seneca was a part of the Roman court during the time of Nero and when he entered his life of writing, with the end of his political career, most of his writings were inspired from his own life and surroundings. ...view middle of the document...

‘The tragedy of blood’ or ‘the revenge tragedy’ genre of English literature features elements or ingredients that include- the hero’s quest for vengeance, the influence of ghost or supernatural characters of murdered kinsmen, characters displaying traits of insanity or madness, a concept of play-within-a-play, masque or dumb shows, horror of violent killings, cold-bloodedness of characters and their manipulation, scenes of mutilation and carnage, cruelty, wrath, anger, individual ego, conspiracy etc. These elements are characteristics of Senecan dramas. The acceptability of such characteristics in the Elizabethan theatre gave rise to the modern day melodrama. Such excess of passion was accepted by the audience who was looking for pure entertainment. The target audience for such new age drama belonged to all social class and forms unlike the medieval era, where dramas like the morality plays were targeted only towards the educated with some cultural background.

Another reason for the ready acceptance of such plays in the Elizabethan society is because of the intrigue created by the philosophy of Seneca or Stoicism. Stoic philosophy informs that the great paradox of human condition is not between life and death but between fate (fatum) and chance (fortuna). Human happiness is not measured by the achievement and pleasure but the ability to accept suffering and the hammers of fate. Since we have no control over what our fate retained for us, what our concern must be is how we endure the happenings of our lives. Misfortunes are just conditions or situations which allows us to show our moral worth. A good person endures well and understands to act accordingly and thus has self-command. To establish this philosophy in his plays Seneca introduced the horrors and the violence which tests the characters of their moral values. In the Elizabethan drama The Spanish Tragedy we see the characters of Heironimo, Bel-Imperia etc on face of such test of their morals. The characters face the violence, the horrors, of cold blooded murders in front of them. Heironimo is seen to endure and seek for the truth behind the murder of his son Horatio. Bel-Imperia act to length to seek justice. Her letter to Heironimo informing the acts of Lorenzo and Balthazar and eventually her own interpretation of justice of killing Balthazar clearly shows the test of her morale. Kyd has to incorporate characters like Lorenzo and Balthazar to show the opposite side of the coin. The inclusion of elements like the manipulation conspiracy, cold-blooded planning, the emotionless murders and the violence revolving all these was to portray the tension between good morale and selfish appetite of the antagonistic characters. Thus Kyd was successful in the portrayal of Machiavellian characteristics through these elements of revenge tragedy, especially through the character of Lorenzo.
The Senecan style elaborating the working of human condition is further evolved in the...

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