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Issues of Death : Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy - Michael Neill

Issues of Death

Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy

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Death, like most experiences that we think of as 'natural', is a product of the human imagination: all animals die, but only human beings suffer Death; and what they suffer is shaped by their own time and culture. Tragedy was one of the principal instruments through which the culture of early modern England imagined the encounter with mortality. The essays in this book approach the theatrical reinvention of Death from three perspectives. Those in Part 1 explore Death as a trope of apocalypse - a moment of un-veiling or dis-covery that is figured both in the fearful nakedness of the Danse Macabre and in the shameful 'openings' enacted in the new theatres of anatomy. Separate chapters explore the apocalyptic design of two of the period's most powerful tragedies - Shakespeare's Othello, and Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling. In Part 2, Neill explores the psychological and affective consequences of tragedy's fiercely end-driven narrative in a number of plays where a longing for narrative closure is pitched against a particularly intense dread of ending. The imposition of an end is often figured as an act of writerly violence, committed by the author or his dramatic surrogate. Extensive attention is paid to Hamlet as an extreme example of the structural consequences of such anxiety. The function of revenge tragedy as a response to the radical displacement of the dead by the Protestant abolition of purgatory - one of the most painful aspects of the early modern re-imagining of death - is also illustrated with particular clarity. Finally, Part 3 focuses on the way tragedy articulates its challenge to the undifferentiating power of death through conventions and motifs borrowed from the funereal arts. It offers detailed analyses of three plays - Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra, Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, and Ford's The Broken Heart. Here, funeral is rewritten as triumph, and death becomes the chosen instrument of an heroic self-fashioning designed to dress the arbitrary abruption of mortal ending in a powerful aesthetic of closure.

Industry Reviews

`subtle, patient, and learned study of early modern English tragedy ... Neill's work is exemplary and important ... Issues of Death is the most consistently illuminating and rewarding book on English Renaissance tragedy written in the last twenty years ... the pleasure of learning from Neill's scholarship and critical sensitivity is reinforced by the attractiveness of the physical object in which those qualities are conveyed to us. Oxford University Press have designed the book beautifully, have printed it on excellent paper, and have included a generous number of illustrations.' David Wormersley, Jesus College, Oxford, The Review of English Studies, vol 50, no 199, 1999

Acknowledgementsp. vii
List of Illustrationsp. xi
Note on Conventions Used in the Textp. xiii
Introductionp. 1
'Within all rottenness': Tragedy, Death, and Apocalypsep. 49
'Peremptory Nullification': Tragedy and Macabre Artp. 51
The Stage of Death: Tragedy and Anatomyp. 102
Opening the Moor: Death and Discovery in Othellop. 141
'Hidden Malady': Death, Discovery, and Indistinction in The Changelingp. 168
Making an End: Death's Arrest and the Shaping of Tragic Narrativep. 199
Anxieties of Endingp. 201
'To Know My Stops': Hamlet and Narrative Abruptionp. 216
Accommodating the Dead: Hamlet and the Ends of Revengep. 243
'Rue with a Difference': Tragedy and the Funereal Artsp. 263
'Death's Triumphal Chariot': Tragedy and Funeralp. 265
Finis Coronat Opus: The Monumental Ending of Anthony and Cleopatrap. 305
'Fame's Best Friend': The Endings of the Duchess of Malfip. 328
'Great Arts Best Write Themselves in Their Own Stories': Endingp. 354
Appendix the: Plague and the Dance of Deathp. 375
Bibliographyp. 377
Indexp. 393
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780198183860
ISBN-10: 0198183860
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 420
Published: 1st July 1997
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.4 x 14.5  x 2.8
Weight (kg): 0.7