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date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article addresses the following question: What — or who — is the source of tragic inspiration in Jasper Heywood's Thyestes? Heywood seems to hesitate between two figures: Melpomene and Megaera, the one a Muse and the other a Fury. It shows how Heywood wants to insert tragedy into a Renaissance model of literary culture based on the ancient notion of litterae humaniores, in which some kinds of ‘literature and learning’ (litterae) are conceived to be ‘more human and/or humane’ (humanior) than others. In other words, he wanted to insist on the humanist credentials of tragedy. However, his heart told him that Senecan tragedy was far from humane — or even human. Heywood's own conception of tragedy is ‘not yet humanist’ — he wants to claim tragedy for the Muses, but he knows it is really possessed by the Furies.

Keywords: tragic inspiration, Jasper Heywood, plays, Muse, Fury, Renaissance, literary culture, Senecan tragedy

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