Activity: Talks and presentations › Conference presentations
Nicolas de Montreux’s tragedy "La Sophonisbe" (1601) dramatizes the suicide of the Carthaginian noblewoman Sophonisbe, who opts to kill herself to avoid being taken captive by the Romans. A minor event in Ancient historical sources (among others Livy’s Ab urbe condita, Appian’s Punic Wars, and Plutarch’s Life of Scipio), Sophonisbe’s death became a popular subject for French Renaissance dramatists. Contrary to his predecessors, such as Saint-Gelais’ 1556 French translation of Trissino’s Sofonisba (1515) and Montchrestien’s Sophonisbe from 1595, Montreux downplays the romantic knot between Masinissa and Sophonisbe and instead stages a world of personal and political hopelessness. By using Walter Benjamin’s interpretation of women as a historical creature in the German Trauerspiel, this paper presents a reading of Sophonisbe’s lamentation in act 5 as a reflection on the precariousness of historical existence. I will argue that the play’s rhetoric of mortality engages its audience to think about historicity, thus highlighting a neglected reflective dimension of the drama.