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The Senecan AestheticA Performance History$
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Helen Slaney

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198736769

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198736769.001.0001

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‘Excess is her Disease’

‘Excess is her Disease’

(p.71) 2 ‘Excess is her Disease’
The Senecan Aesthetic

Helen Slaney

Oxford University Press

Once translated into English as the Tenne Tragedies, Seneca’s tragedies became available for vernacular English playwrights to imitate his style. Although they did not use Senecan plots, they typically applied senecan diction—especially as realized by the translators of the Tenne Tragedies—to other historical and mythological subject matter. Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy, and the anonymous Locrine are some examples. Shakespeare often uses this style as a foil to indicate that his protagonists do not belong in a senecan universe; Hamlet, for example, would like to be a revenger, but lacks the revenger’s obsessive single-mindedness. In the early seventeenth century, Ben Jonson revived some features of senecan dramaturgy in his history plays, while various revenge tragedies also show traces of familiar senecan tropes.

Keywords:   Tenne Tragedies, revenge tragedy, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spanish Tragedy, translation, vernacular

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