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The Reception and Performance of Euripides' HeraklesReasoning Madness$
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Kathleen Riley

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199534487

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199534487.001.0001

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‘Even the earth is not room enough’: Herculean selfhood on the Elizabethan stage

‘Even the earth is not room enough’: Herculean selfhood on the Elizabethan stage

(p.117) 4 ‘Even the earth is not room enough’: Herculean selfhood on the Elizabethan stage
The Reception and Performance of Euripides' Herakles

Kathleen Riley

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the influence of Seneca's psychologically and ethically challenging Hercules on Elizabethan tragedy. It argues that political and cultural similarities between imperial Rome and Tudor England ensured the responsiveness of Elizabethan playwrights to the Senecan overreacher's magnetism as well as his menace. Madness and tyranny in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries are frequently construed in terms of Herculean furor, which, in turn, is rendered synonymous with an apocalyptic sense of selfhood. Among the plays discussed are Tamburlaine, Macbeth, and Coriolanus. The chapter concludes by considering the reasons why, following the Renaissance, mad Hercules disappeared from the stage and the cultural consciousness for nearly two hundred years.

Keywords:   influence, Renaissance, Elizabethan tragedy, Shakespeare, Hercules, furor, selfhood, Tamburlaine, Macbeth, Coriolanus

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