Motherhood and the classical tradition
in Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage
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English theatre had always combined entertainment with the transmission of moral, Christian and political ideas and had developed its conventions accordingly. The rediscovery of classical dramatic texts for use in grammar schools and the advent of cheap printing made possible the writing and dissemination of translations and imitations that had a significant effect upon drama. Models that addressed the mother in new ways became available as the works of Greek and Roman dramatists, and appeared in translation throughout the second half of the sixteenth century. The mother figure was measured against her counterparts in newly available and popular narratives, notably the work of Seneca. In a discussion of the Latin play Roxana, William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine, connections between maternity and the depiction of violence are traced to show how an assertion of the maternal, both in rhetoric and through dramatic spectacle, serves to emblematise both the causes and consequences of conflict and to elicit an affective response that invites reconsideration of the political in the light of the personal.


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