French origins of English tragedy

By Richard Hillman

French origins of English tragedy


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8847-6
  • Pages: 121
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £13.99
  • Published Date: September 2012
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: plays & playwrights, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, LITERARY CRITICISM / Drama, Literary studies: general, Literature: history & criticism, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Ireland, Literature, Early Modern Literature


Richard Hillman applies to tragic patterns and practices in early modern England his long-standing critical preoccupation with English-French cultural connections in the period. With primary, though not exclusive, reference on the English side to Shakespeare and Marlowe, and on the French side to a wide range of dramatic and non-dramatic material, he focuses on distinctive elements that emerge within the English tragedy of the 1590s and early 1600s. These include the self-destructive tragic hero, the apparatus of neo-Senecanism (including the Machiavellian villain) and the confrontation between the warrior-hero and the femme fatale.

The broad objective is less to 'discover' influences - although some specific points of contact are proposed - than at once to enlarge and refine a common cultural space through juxtaposition and intertextual tracing. The conclusion emerges that the powerful, if ambivalent, fascination of the English for their closest Continental neighbours expressed itself not only in but through the theatre.


French Origins represents a valuable contribution to an expansive and painstaking
life's work.

French Origins offers a persuasively nuanced critique of what Hillman calls the "Myth of the Single Source," and memorably demonstrates its central premise that writers read and wrote "through and across" multiple texts.


1. On the generic cusp: Richard II, La Guisade and the invention of tragic heroes
2. Out of their classical depth: From pathos to bathos in early English tragedy; or, the comedy of terrors
3. Staging the Judith Jinx: Heads or tales?
Early texts and editions
Critical and historical scholarship
Textual notes


Richard Hillman teaches at the Centre d'Etudes Superieures de la Renaissance in the Université François-Rabelais, Tours

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