Influence of Seneca on English Drama

It is obvious that Seneca, the Roman Dramatist, influenced the tragic writers of England more than Sophocles and Aeschylus. He left his mark on the English stage, partly because of the melodramatic element in his plays and partly because Latin was more treasured than Greek throughout the Middle Ages. Seneca taught English dramatist what to say in tragic situations and what tone or style to use. His understanding of human emotions was effective since he showed in his plays a moral tone and system of philosophy so popular in England. Seneca was the best model for Elizabethan dramatist because his plays are nearly Greek tragedy written in a new rhetorical style. Seneca believes that pain and suffering in life are inevitable but he introduced a stoical remedy against badness of man’s lot, an Elizabethan tragic dramatist accepted Senecan philosophy and style.

Thus, the Senecan flame in England was kept alive with university wits. Kyd wrote “Spanish Tragedy” and dealt with the theme of revenge. Shakespeare employed Senecan devices in Richard III, Hamlet, and Macbeth. After Shakespeare, Marston and Chapman also used Senecan elements. Webster wrote two plays in Revenge tradition. In fact, Elizabethan tragedy is highly indebted to Seneca in a number of ways. From Seneca dramatist learned that classic sense form and structure of unity, the terror of wild passion and madness, the grace and greatness of the Greek, and a number of other things.

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