Tunnicliffe, Clive (1984)
A study of Christian and pagan warrior heroes in Shakespeare's tragedies, with special reference to the influence of earlier English drama and classical literature on the heroic idea in Shakespeare.
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The thesis comprises eight chapters. The first three investigate the development of an anti-heroic attitude towards mankind in general, and the warrior archetype in particular, in Augustinian theology, the mystery cycles and the Tudor morality play respectively. In the fourth chapter this humanistically minimizing, essentially tragic, vision of the heroic protagonist is contrasted with the more overtly heroic attitude towards the epic hero found in Elizabethan poetic theory and heroic poetry and also operative in Henry V. It is suggested, however, that the heroic image developed in Henry V is atypical of Shakespeare's depiction of the Warrior, particularly in his heroic tragedies, where the career of the protagonist more significantly echoes the formal experience of the morality protagonist in its insistence on the moral ambivalence of the warrior and the failure of the world or his heroic ideals to live up to the faith that he put in them. The second half of the study goes on to develop this intuition concerning the formal debt which the Shakespearean tragic hero owed to the heroic metaphor of the morality tradition. lt is further suggested, however, that the anti-heroic awareness fostered by the early drama helped to alert Shakespeare to the anti-heroic elements which were also latent in classical literature, so that he not only showed himself to be aware of the ideas which underlay the classical anti-heroic, but he was able to make use of the formal expression of that anti-heroic aspect of classical literature in his own tragedies.Thus the succeeding chapters seek to illustrate the formal and intellectual influence of Ovid's Metamorphoses on Titus Andronicus, of the Aeneid on Hamlet, the Iliad and the medieval matter of Troy on Troilus and Cressida and Seneca's Hercules Furens on Macbeth. The method employed is typically the illustration of significant-perhaps symbolic-episodes of earlier literature, and how they can be seen to shape the themes and forms of Shakespeare's plays. In effect it is suggested that the morality metaphor unites with classical metaphor(s) to produce complex heroic images befitting Shakespeare's status as a morally aware artist living during the convergence of medieval-Christian and Renaissance culture. lt should be stated, however, that one further theme of the study is that Shakespeare acknowledged the distinction bet-ween Christian and classical-pagan civilizations, and (along lines first outlined by Augustine) recognized the differing social, moral and eschatological imperatives which each milieu put on its warrior figures. Thus it is argued, although he was quite willing to adapt morality play forms to pagan plays and pagan forms to Christian plays, he did so along-side the recognition that for the heroic protagonist the metaphorical implications of his heroic career were radically different, in a Christian world than in one where revelation and the possibility of salvation had no place.
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Institution: University of London, Bedford College (United Kingdom).