Relentless punishments : mirrors of hell from Sackville to Shakespeare
This thesis seeks to establish the literary background to the representation of Hell in Elizabethan tragic drama. It uses historicist techniques to posit a causative relation between religious change introduced by the Elizabethan religious settlement and the form and content of Elizabethan tragedy, both dramatic and non-dramatic. More particularly I am concerned with the post-Reformation conceptions of the spaces of the afterworld, especially those consequent upon the dissolution of purgatory and the developing emphasis on Hell. I am also interested in the new emphasis on predestination and the effect on theological doctrine concerning the divine or diabolical origin of sin on earth. If sin originates with the Devil then sinful acts on earth are linked with Hell, and the link between Hell and the Devil is articulated in tragedy as a particular discourse of tyranny. At the start, I cite Shakespeare's Richard III, a familiar Elizabethan text, that demonstrates how the secular and religious anxieties about the endless punishments in Hell generate a fear that the forces of Hell penetrate earth and produce "mirrors" of Hell on the Elizabethan stage. Then Igo back to look at less familiar texts leading up to it, starting with the Elizabethan adaptations of the de casibus form in the William Baldwin editions of A Mirror for Magistrates, especially the contributions from Thomas Sackville, and also Richard Robinson's The Rewarde of Wickednesse. In part three I include a discussion of Jasper Heywood's translations of two Senecan tragedies, Troas and Thyestes, and the Reformers' debates on the treatment of tyranny in four early Elizabethan tragedies: Gorboduc, Cambises, Horestes and Jocasta. The final part of this thesis examines Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine and their engagement with the discussions of Hell and earthly sin.