Antonio’s Sadness in the Stoic Theatrum Mundi of the Early Modern City

Rasmus Vangshardt

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    Antonio's opening claim in The Merchant of Venice, that he is ‘so sad’ because he has been given a sad role on the world stage, has often been neglected in the history of the play's reception. The present analysis begins with an examination of central passages to clarify the role of sadness in relation to the trope of the theatrum mundi. It shows that the sadness is persistent and earnest, and that this is caused by an understanding of the meaning of the theatrum mundi, which has hitherto been overlooked. The article then considers the historical light in which the theatrum mundi should be seen in the context of the play with respect to the prior textual analysis. The suggestion is that in relation to both the intellectual history of ideas and to Elizabethan audience-response, the play negotiates a Christian-Stoic version of the theatrum mundi without breaking away from the genre of comedy and paradoxically not abandoning Antonio's sadness.

    TidsskriftOrbis Litterarum
    Udgave nummer4
    Sider (fra-til)264-277
    StatusUdgivet - 17. jul. 2019

    Bibliografisk note

    Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, theatrum mundi, world theatre, Stoicism, sadness


    • Shakespeare
    • The Merchant of Venice
    • Theatrum mundi
    • world theatre
    • Stoicism
    • Sadness


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