Social Implications of Love Suicide in Early Modern English Drama

in Critical Survey
Emanuel Stelzer Bergamo University

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Love suicide was a situation lavishly employed by playwrights in early modern England. We generally regard as tragic heroes the dramatic star-crossed lovers who kill themselves onstage and we see their death as the sensationally pathetic climax of the play. On the other hand, in Elizabethan and early Stuart society, suicide, or, as it was called, ‘self-slaughter’ or ‘self-murder’, was considered both as a crime and as one of the most dreadful sins a Christian could possibly commit. I would suggest that the tension between these two conflicting views on suicide had a relevant emotional impact on the audiences to whom these plays were originally addressed. In order to prove this, I wish to analyse in particular domestic plays which stage the range of responses elicited within a community that has to cope with the suicide of one of its members.

Contributor Notes

Emanuel Stelzer is a doctoral student in Studi Umanistici Interculturali at Bergamo University. He is a doctoral researcher within the Ph.D. network ‘Literary and Cultural Studies’ at Justus Liebig University Giessen and a member of IASEMS (Italian Association of Shakespearean and Early Modern Studies) and AIA (Associazione italiana di anglistica). His current project consists of an analysis of the uses and effects of staged portraits in early modern English drama.

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