Roman tragedy
The case of Jonson’s Sejanus
in The genres of Renaissance tragedy
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This chapter examines Jonson’s Sejanus as exemplifying the tension generally distinguishing Renaissance English tragedies on Roman subjects: that between the accurate dramatic reconstruction of history and the building up of decorous stateliness and didacticism. Arguments from Roman history intensified the imperatives of historiography along with those of instruction and grandeur, and these imperatives tended to come into conflict. Three features Jonson and other dramatists imagined as characteristic of the Roman mind include a pronounced sense of national identity and history, a preoccupation with forms and processes of government, and a reliance on Stoic moral philosophy. The chapter also touches on Shakespeare’s Roman tragedies, Lodge’s Wounds of Civil War, Massinger’s Roman Actor, and the anonymous Statelie Tragedie of Claudius Tiberius Nero.


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