Tragedy as philosophy in the reformation World

Research output: Book/ReportBook

11 Scopus citations


Tragedy as Philosophy in the Reformation World examines how a series of influential poets, theologians, and humanist critics turned to tragedy to understand providence and agencies human and divine across diverse Reformation milieux. Rejecting familiar assumptions about tragedy, crucial figures like Philipp Melanchthon, David Pareus, Lodovico Castelvetro, John Rainolds, and Daniel Heinsius developed distinctly philosophical ideas of tragedy, irreducible to drama or performance, inextricable from rhetoric, dialectic, and metaphysics. In its proximity to philosophy, tragedy afforded careful readers crucial insight into causality, probability, necessity, and the terms of human affect and action. With these resources at hand, Reformed theologians, poets, and critics produced daring and influential theses on tragedy between the 1550s and the 1630s, all directly related to pressing Reformation debates. And while some poets employed tragedy to render sacred history palpable with new energy and urgency, others marshalled a precise philosophical notion of tragedy directly against spectacle and stage-playing, endorsing anti-theatrical theses on tragedy inflected by Aristotle’s Poetics. Uncovering a tradition of Reformation poetics in which tragedy often opposes performance, the work also explores the impact of these scholarly debates on more familiar works of vernacular tragedy, illustrating how William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and John Milton’s 1671 poems take shape in conversation with philosophical and philological investigations of tragedy. Tragedy as Philosophy in the Reformation World demonstrates how Reformation took shape in poetic as well as theological and political terms while simultaneously exposing the importance of tragedy to the history of philosophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages293
ISBN (Electronic)9780198834212
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Aristotle’s poetics
  • Dialectic
  • History of philosophy
  • Humanism
  • John milton
  • Philipp melanchthon
  • Poetics
  • Reformation
  • Tragedy
  • William shakespeare


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