Two Tragedies of Seneca: "Medea" and "The Daughters of Troy"by Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca 4 BC–AD 65) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder and his elder brother was Gallio.
Many scholars have thought, following the ideas of the 19th century German scholar Leo, that Seneca's tragedies were written for recitation only. Other scholars think that they were written for performance and that it is possible that actual performance had taken place in Seneca's lifetime. Ultimately, this issue cannot be resolved on the basis of our existing knowledge.
The tragedies of Seneca have been successfully staged in modern times. The dating of the tragedies is highly problematic in the absence of any ancient references. A relative chronology has been suggested on metrical grounds but scholars remain divided. It is inconceivable that they were written in the same year. They are not all based on Greek tragedies, they have a five act form and differ in many respects from extant Attic drama, and whilst the influence of Euripides on some of these works is considerable, so is the influence of Virgil and Ovid.
Seneca's plays were widely read in medieval and Renaissance European universities and strongly influenced tragic drama in that time, such as Elizabethan England (Shakespeare and other playwrights), France (Corneille and Racine), and the Netherlands (Joost van den Vondel). He is regarded as the source and inspiration for what is known as 'Revenge Tragedy', starting with Thomas Kyd's 'The Spanish Tragedy' and continuing well into the Jacobean Period.
Seneca’s Medea is a drama in five acts. It is set ten years after Jason and the Argonauts completed the quest of the golden fleece. Medea had been the sorceress daughter of the king who guarded the fleece; she and Jason fell in love during the quest and were married on their return to Greece.
Medea had done terrible things to help Jason. She killed her brother, cut up his body and scattered the parts on the ocean to delay her father’s pursuing ship. She then tricked the daughters of the Thessalian king Pelias—who had sent Jason on the quest—into murdering him. Pelias’ son Acastus assumed the throne and his vow of vengeance drove the couple off to Corinth.
As a woman from the “barbaric” East, Medea was never really accepted by the Greeks, and Jason fears both his social standing and the lingering threat of Acastus. So Jason has been courting the Corinthian princess Creusa, daughter of King Creon, and now is about to leave Medea. The play begins in Jason’s house the day before he is to marry Creusa. Medea has fantasies of a twisted revenge. The play proceeds from here.
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