This essay reassesses Shakespeare’s engagement with Senecan tragedy, arguing both that Hamlet’s use of the Senecan dramatic tradition is more robust and sophisticated than has hitherto been accepted and also that it is best understood as part of a larger cultural conversation about agency and action in revenge tragedy. The essay therefore offers a revisionary account of the reception of Senecan tragedy in early modern England. In doing so, it also suggests that recovering Shakespeare’s engagement with Seneca may require rethinking Hamlet’s own reception history, since Shakespeare’s play is so often discussed as a key text of emergent modernity.

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