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Passion's Triumph over ReasonA History of the Moral Imagination from Spenser to Rochester$
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Christopher Tilmouth

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212378.001.0001

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Renaissance Tragedy and the Fracturing of Familiar Terms

Renaissance Tragedy and the Fracturing of Familiar Terms

(p.114) 4 Renaissance Tragedy and the Fracturing of Familiar Terms
Passion's Triumph over Reason

Christopher Tilmouth (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines three factors which resist the rationalism of Elizabethan moral philosophy. The first is the human penchant for self-delusion, a theme which is explored in Montaigne's Essays, and via Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. In the latter, Brutus represents Caesar's assassination to himself as a rational imperative, the logical demand of Roman republicanism; yet Brutus is overcome by guilt and doubt about his own motives after the fact. The chapter also considers the ungovernable nature of sexual passion, reason's aspirations to hegemony within the soul notwithstanding. Here, the focal text is Chapman's Bussy D'Ambois, in which the lead characters quickly become slaves to the erotic demands of body and blood. Finally, this chapter also charts the relentless power of self-interest in distorting reason's otherwise moral and upright thought processes. This is the dominant concern in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, a work which in various respects anticipates Hobbes's philosophy.

Keywords:   Montaigne, Julius Caesar, self-delusion, Bussy D'Ambois, sexual passion, Troilus and Cressida, self-interest

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