Tragic Seneca undertakes a radical re-evaluation of Seneca's plays, their relationship to Roman imperial culture and their instrumental role in the evolution of the European theatrical tradition.
Following an introduction on the history of the Roman theatre, the book provides a dramatic and cultural critique of the whole of Seneca's corpus, analysing the declamatory form of the plays, their rhetoric, interiority, stagecraft and spectacle, dramatic, ideological and moral structure and their overt theatricality. Each of Seneca's plays is examined in detail, locating the force of Senecan drama not only in the moral complexity of the texts and their representations of power, violence, history, suffering and the self, but the semiotic interplay of text, tradition and culture.
The later chapters focus on Seneca's influence on Italian, English and French drama of the Renaissance. A.J. Boyle argues that tragedians such as Cinthio, Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Webster, Corneille, and Racine owe a debt to Seneca that goes beyond allusion, dramatic form and the treatment of tyranny and revenge to the development of the tragic sensibility and the metatheatrical mind.
Tragic Seneca attempts to restore Seneca to a central position in the European literary tradition. It will provide readers and directors of Seneca's plays with the essential critical guide to their intellectual, cultural and dramatic complexity.
'J.A.Boyle's Tragic Seneca has redeemed the Latin playwright from the purgatory of Eliot's "second rank", and raised him to a place in the pantheon of genuine dramatic artists. He has made 1997 a true vintage year indeed.' - Times Literary Supplement
'Tragic Seneca: an Essay in the Theatrical Tradition is a very successful compromise between general introduction and scholarly monograph. ….His book presents a persuasive and sophisticated reading of Senecan Tragedy in its historicala and political context, and of Renaissance receptions. Boyle includes a useful general introduction to Roman drama up to the Neronian period, arguing forcefully that Seneca's plays were written for stage performance, and also discusses the playwright's declamatory style; the moral and theological aspects of the plays; dramatic technique…, intertextuality; metatheater, and the tendency of Seneca's characters to self-dramatization. … Boyle writes in a lively and readable style, which will be accessible to the beginner as well as the expert, and conveys a strong sense of the plays as exciting and challenging drama.' - Greece and Rome
`This book has a great deal to offer, particularly to undergraduates.' - Journal of Roman Studies