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Thinking Allegory Otherwise$
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Brenda Machosky

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804763806

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804763806.001.0001

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The Function of Allegory in Baroque Tragic Drama

The Function of Allegory in Baroque Tragic Drama

What Benjamin Got Wrong

(p.87) Four The Function of Allegory in Baroque Tragic Drama
Thinking Allegory Otherwise

Blair Hoxby

Stanford University Press

This chapter proposes a revised theory of allegory in baroque tragic drama. It rejects Walter Benjamin's contention in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928) that the Trauerspiel or “tragic drama” is a demonstration of mourning and melancholy distinctly different from “tragedy” that triggers a response of mourning. Instead, it argues that “tragic drama” employs allegorical modes together with dramatic mimesis to create an experience of mourning. In challenging and expanding Benjamin's notions of the genre, the chapter examines John Ford's The Broken Heart (1629–1633), a tragedy that is replete with the accoutrements of death consistent with Benjamin's description of the Trauerspiel. Through a detailed reading of Nahum Tate and Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1684–1689), however, it also illustrates how the trappings of mourning are not essential to the form. Thus, the experience of tragic drama is aligned with seventeenth-century expectations about the pleasure of mourning.

Keywords:   allegory, tragic drama, Nahum Tate, Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, mourning, Trauerspiel, John Ford, The Broken Heart, Henry Purcell

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