The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0133 Monday, 12 February 2007
Date: Saturday, 10 Feb 2007 14:19:36 -0500
Subject: 18.0113 Renaissance Tragedy
Comment: Re: SHK 18.0113 Renaissance Tragedy
Hannibal Hamlin asks, "does tragedy disappear with the Puritan
revolution (and do you mean during it or after it?)? I suppose with the
closing of the theaters, tragedy is at least taken off the stage, but
then so is everything else. But don't the royalists cast the whole
historical period as tragic? Isn't Eikon Basilike a tragedy of sorts?
Or is it that tragedy and Puritanism are incompatible? But then what to
do with Milton? Leaping ahead in time and across the ocean, isn't The
Scarlet Letter a kind of Puritan tragedy (or tragedy of Puritanism)?"
This requires no quick answer, because there are several inherent
confusions of terms. The "Puritan Revolution" is a misnomer: it was the
English Civil Wars (note the plural), for which Protestants (not simply
or only the sect known as "Puritans") were largely (but not solely)
responsible, and though those in power tended to be of that persuasion
after the regicide, the closing of the theatres occurred long before the
The _Eikon Basilike_ ("King's Book") may be "tragic," but it is
certainly not a "tragedy" by generic definition: it is an apologia, and
to some degree a histrionic remonstrance, and it is melodramatic, but it
is prose, not drama.
Milton's "dramatic poem" (_Samson Agonistes_) is seen by some as
tragic-and in terms of classical tragedy, it is-but it is also comic
from a Christian perspective, and, I have argued, seems to have been
intended by Milton to be interpreted both ways.
But the quality of being "tragic" does not automatically equate to
"tragedy," Hannibal. Certainly, Milton's being struck with blindness at
the height of his career, or Charles' execution before his fiftieth
birthday were "tragic"-but they are not "tragedy."
And if tragedy doesn't survive in the Western world (albeit having
undergone a sea-change") in _West Side Story_ or _Death of a Salesman_
or a hundred other dramas before and after, on both sides of the pond,
then it never existed at all.
I'm not sure what you were driving at, but I think the original post was
asking something else.
Best to all,
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