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1. Shakespeare's Sources
About this Lecture
In this module, Helen explores some of the ancient sources for Shakespeare's dramas, including Ovid, Plutarch, and Seneca. While the influence of Ovid and Plutarch often manifests in direct quotation by Shakespeare, however, the influence of Seneca is more dramaturgical, being observed in the structure of his plays, the themes, and his characters. Helen ends by looking at the Senecan in Shakespeare, from characters such as Hamlet and Lady Macbeth, to plays such as Titus Andronicus.
Shakespeare’s most famous – and infamous – tragedies draw on the Roman playwright Seneca for their dramatic form and theatrical style - including ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’, and ‘Titus Andronicus’. Seneca also had a huge influence on Shakespeare’s contemporaries: Thomas Kyd’s ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ brought the Senecan themes of revenge and ultra-violence onto the English stage, while Tamburlaine’s thundering rhetoric and superhuman ambition in Christopher Marlowe’s play of the same name echo Seneca’s ‘Hercules’. But who was Seneca? What did he write? And why? This course introduces Seneca and explores his enormous influence on theatre in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Helen Slaney holds the Randall McIver Junior Research Fellowship at St Hilda's College, Oxford, where she is currently conducting practice-based research into Roman tragic pantomime. Helen's main field of interest is classical reception studies. In 2012 she completed a doctorate on the performance reception of Senecan tragedy. Her postdoctoral research will focus on embodied encounters with antiquity in the late eighteenth century.
Cite this Lecture
Slaney, H. (2018, August 15). Seneca and Early Modern Drama - Shakespeare's Sources [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/seneca-and-early-modern-drama/shakespeare-s-sources-9022f65c-1d31-4a76-bc7c-89616eee1725
Slaney, Helen. "Seneca and Early Modern Drama – Shakespeare's Sources." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/seneca-and-early-modern-drama/shakespeare-s-sources-9022f65c-1d31-4a76-bc7c-89616eee1725