Queen Elizabeth's Seneca

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1559, Jasper Heywood dedicated his translation of Seneca's Troas (as he called it-the play is more usually known as Troades) to Queen Elizabeth I. He notes in his dedicatory epistle that he has done so because reading Seneca in Latin "delights greatly Your Majesty." This essay suggests that Heywood was right, and it examines the nature of Elizabeth's interest in Seneca by thinking carefully about what she chose of his to translate: Moral Epistle 107 and much of a choral ode from the play Hercules Oetaeus. Taking a fresh look at these translation choices, the essay considers what they can tell us about Elizabeth's ideas concerning the utility of Seneca and about Seneca's place in the intellectual culture of Elizabeth's milieu. It recovers and examines the queen's longstanding engagement with Seneca as a writer of politically useful stoic philosophy compatible with a brand of Christianized neostoicism to which she was consistently drawn. In doing so, it also gestures toward a revisionary account of the importance of Seneca's writings within the learned culture that Elizabeth inherited, inhabited, and, of course, helped to shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Modern Improvisations
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on History and Literature in Honor of John Watkins
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781032698304
ISBN (Print)9781032698281
StatePublished - Jun 3 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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