In the previous chapter we discussed the performing contexts for Webster’s plays, including their original place and time of performance, and touched on the possible influences of other writers on his work. In this chapter, we shall broaden that approach by considering what other writers, both theorists and dramatic practitioners, thought about ‘tragedy’ as a genre. The purpose of talking about tragedy in this more theoretical way is to enable us to consider how general and historical ideas about the form of tragedy, and its expressed purposes, help us to understand what Webster was doing. We shall also discuss some tragic generic conventions, and the broader political and philosophical contexts to which we have referred elsewhere in the book.
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