Renaissance tragedies represent fury in diverse shapes: mortal, immortal, monstrous, ordinary, male, female. If these plays are filled with furious significations, how is it possible that anyone could ignore or avoid them? In the study from which the epigraph above derives, Ruth Padel offers one reason when she shows that the ancient Furies, so hideous in aspect and action, appear in Greek tragedies after reciprocity has been violated. To “see” them is to imagine great “damage” in a process of social bonding that often extends across families, cities, and generations.1 Single them out according to type or focus upon them through a gender-specific lens and Padel’s Furies may disappear. In this chapter on the angry descendants of Hecuba I will emphasize incremental and collective elements of their roles and suggest other reasons for their reduced visibility to Renaissance scholars. These include the vitality of Senecan conventions on the Renaissance stage, ethical and psychological views that devalue anger, and a tendency in current critical discourse that Luke Wilson terms “hysteresis,” an “elision” of the agencies through which events unfold.2 I will argue that Renaissance playwrights often distribute the active fury of women among their relatives and henchmen—not to stigmatize these agents as feminine, but, instead, to expand a tragic investigation of how justice and creativity become damaged.


Greek Tragedy Grim Reaper Epic Element Social Depen Renaissance Scholar 
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  1. 6.
    The Eumenides, trans. Richmond Lattimore, Greek Tragedies Vol. 3, ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1960). Goldhill comments on the Oresteia: “Each character appropriates diké to his or her rhetoric. It is this sort of one-sided laying claim to evaluative and normative words that I term ‘the rhetoric of appropriation’” (46).Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Quotations from Shakespeare throughout this essay refer to The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton, 1997). Emrys Jones believes that Hecuba, translated into Latin by Erasmus and used as an example in Sidney’s Apology for Poetry, was probably known to sixteenth-century writers (95–97). After surveying the influence of Hecuba through the Renaissance, Judith Mossman finds “strong affinities” rather than “precise links” in English tragedies (236). Mossman also emphasizes Tamora’s differences from Hecuba (236n67, 241–43).Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Edward the Second, ed. W. Moelwyn Merchant (London: Benn, 1967).Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    The White Devil, ed. John Russell Brown (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1985).Google Scholar

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© Naomi Conn Liebler 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith Weil

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