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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

When Masters Became Tragic Heroes

30th August 2017, 17:30 to 19:00, Alington House, 4 North Bailey, Iman Sheeha

When playwrights around the end of the sixteenth century brought ordinary rather than noble characters to the stage, it changed the face of theatre. Explore the significance of domestic tragedy in this free public talk. Part of our Late Summer Lectures Series.

About this talk

In this lecture, entitled '"The Lamentable And Trve Tragedie of M[aster] Arden of Feversham in Kent:" When Masters became Tragic Heroes,' I examine the change in theatrical tradition that the anonymous play, The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham heralded in 1592. The group of plays usually described in criticism, since the nineteenth century, as domestic tragedies appeared between the 1590s and 1620s, distinguishing themselves by placing characters not belonging to the royal and noble classes centre stage and celebrating them as fit subjects of tragedy. The combination of a protagonist’s humble social origins, the home-based setting of events, the personal, intimate and domestic subject matter and the tragic mode of theatrical representation that these plays share was something of a novelty at the end of the sixteenth century. Conventional theory of drama, with its origins in Aristotle, relegated the domestic, the personal and the socially humble to the medium of comedy, reserving the medium of tragedy to the depiction of socially elevated characters and to the representation of affairs of state and political rule. Examples of more traditional tragedies include Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. Domestic tragedies shifted the balance, featuring English settings, English men and women, and subject matter that catered to the interests of ordinary men and women in their domestic and intimate lives.

This lecture offers insights into the change that domestic tragedies constituted, drawing on examples from five plays representatives of the genre, the anonymous Arden of Faversham (1592) and A Warning for Fair Women (1599), Thomas Middleton’s A Yorkshire Tragedy (1605), Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness (1603) and Thomas Dekker, John Ford and William Rowley’s The Witch of Edmonton (1621). Key themes discussed are the genre’s departure from convention, representations of the domestic, of gender, and the use these plays make of the contemporary commonplace analogy between household and state to reflect on topics of a political nature.

About Iman Sheeha

Iman Sheeha is Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at The University of Warwick. She holds a PhD in early modern drama from The University of Warwick. She is working on a book on representations of household servants in early modern English domestic tragedy, under contract with Routledge, forthcoming in 2019. She is also co-editing a collection of essays on the topic of early modern political culture and domestic plays, under contract with Manchester University Press, forthcoming in 2018. Her articles have appeared in Early Modern Literary Studies and The Apollonian: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Contact latesummerlectures@gmail.com for more information about this event.

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