On Tragedy in the Nineteenth Century
This chapter suggests that all the works discussed in this study—both canonical and minor, composed in verse or in prose—ask profound questions about the nature of the tragic mode and its relation to Christian thought. The nineteenth-century dramatic imagination is deeply political, staging memorable protests against the rhetoric of utilitarianism in political economy, Calvinism in religion, and the unjustifiable sacrifice of the one for the welfare of the many in ethics and anthropology. In contradistinction to the many studies which sideline dramatic writing in the long nineteenth century, this chapter concludes that dramatic form retains its value in this period as a significant vehicle for comment upon far-reaching questions of justice and ethics. Ultimately, theology raised too many important questions to be permanently excluded from the public stage—and the theatre was too valuable a forum to ignore religious experience.
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