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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The enthusiastic series of receptions of Philip Massinger’s 1623 play The Bondman by royalists and republicans alike has puzzled critics: Why did audiences from Prince Charles, to republicans resisting the possibility of Charles II’s return, to the spectators of the Restoration all respond to the play enthusiastically despite their disparate political vantage points? This essay argues that the play appealed to disparate constituencies by displacing focus from the sources of sovereignty onto the stability of the state. Drawing on Stoic philosopher Seneca’s De clementia, which Thomas Lodge had newly translated in 1614, The Bondman centers both generically and politically on clemency. Clemency infuses the play’s mode of tragicomedy and presents a vision of politics that prioritizes the general welfare of the state over any particular form of rule.

Keywords: Phillip Massinger, The Bondsman, Seneca, clemency, sovereignty, tragicomedy, stoicism, Thomas Lodge

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