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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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Signalling through the Flames

Signalling through the Flames

(p.219) 7 Signalling through the Flames
The Senecan Aesthetic

Helen Slaney

Oxford University Press

Shelley’s 1819 tragedy The Cenci displays a number of Senecan affiliations on the verbal, dramaturgical, and thematic levels. Most obviously, Shelley uses the senecan technique of applying densely figured language to an act too traumatic to be expressed in ordinary discourse. Although written for performance, The Cenci could not be staged at the time because of its ‘abhorrent’ subject matter. It was taken up, however, in 1935 by director–theorist Antonin Artaud, who was already interested in Seneca as a proto-exemplar of the theatrical form he termed ‘Theatre of Cruelty’. Artaud attempted a staging of The Cenci that would be a practical demonstration of Cruelty, but the production was a failure.

Keywords:   Shelley, The Cenci, Beatrice Cenci, trauma, Antonin Artaud, Theatre of Cruelty, Théâtre du Cruauté

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