Presenting Seneca in print: Elizabethan translations and Thomas Newton’s Seneca his Tenne tragedies

Emily Mayne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Seneca His Tenne Tragedies (1581) was the first printed collection of Seneca’s tragedies in English. This article re-examines this publication in the context of early modern production of collected unannotated editions of Seneca’s tragedies on the European mainland, and of the editorial and intellectual interests of its compiler, Thomas Newton. It identifies Newton as something of an early modern ‘print professional’, who was involved in the production of a wide variety of texts, translations, and commendatory poetry, and who used a variety of sophisticated strategies in print to draw attention to and to promote his own capacities and achievements; and it shows how the Tenne Tragedies participates in these practices. Attending to Newton’s activities alongside Jasper Heywood’s translation of Hercules furens reveals significant discontinuities in approach between the Tenne Tragedies and one of its constituent texts. Heywood’s translation first appeared in 1561 in a parallel-text format that was not designed for inclusion in a single-language collection such as the Tenne Tragedies, as one early modern reader’s response to the translation in this later printed context may show. Newton’s presentation of the Tenne Tragedies volume, and his particular attitude towards ‘Seneca’, complicates current critical understanding of the reception and uses of Senecan tragedy in Elizabethan England, and of any ‘project’ of Senecan translation in the period, which may be more an effect of Newton’s editorial proclivities, combined with modern understanding of Seneca as a single author, than reflective of attitudes towards Senecan tragedy in early modern England more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-846
Number of pages24
JournalReview of English Studies
Issue number297
Early online date19 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

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