From Sovereignty to the State: The Tragicomic Clemency of Massinger's the Bondman
Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, ed. Bradin Cormack and Lorna Hutson (Forthcoming)
29 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2016
Date Written: March 2016
The enthusiastic series of receptions of Philip Massinger’s 1623 play The Bondman by royalists and republicans alike has puzzled critics. This essay argues that the play appealed to disparate constituencies by displacing focus from the sources of sovereignty onto the stability of the state. Drawing on Stoic philosopher Seneca’s De Clementia, which Thomas Lodge had newly translated in 1614, The Bondman centers both generically and politically on clemency. Clemency infuses the play’s mode of tragicomedy and presents a vision of politics that prioritizes the general welfare of the state over any particular form of rule.
Keywords: stoicism, clemency, sovereignty, republicanism
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