Tragical histories, tragical tales

Gibson, Jonathan (2009). Tragical histories, tragical tales. In: Pincombe, Mike and Shrank, Cathy eds. Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485-1603. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 521–536.



In this chapter, I isolate for study the genre of the 'tragical tale', tracing its origins in Boccaccio, Ovid, Livy and Seneca and describing in detail the key influence on early Elizabethan examples of the genre of Bandello's novelle and of Bandello's French translators, Boiastuau and Belleforest. As well as unpicking the complex relationship between history, fiction and morality in the genre as a whole, I analyse in detail four English texts: William Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1566), Geoffrey Fenton's Certain Tragical Discourses (1567), Arthur Brooke's Romeus and Juliet (1562) and Bernard Garter's The Tragical and True History (1565). I also consider the later development of the genre, including its absorption into other genres of prose fiction and partial replacement with the providentialist crime pamphlet.

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