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Sad Realities: The Romantic Tragedies of Charles Harpur

Falk, Michael (2020) Sad Realities: The Romantic Tragedies of Charles Harpur. Romantic Textualities, 23 . pp. 200-217. E-ISSN 1748-0116. (doi:10.18573/n.2017.10148) (KAR id:82574)

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Abstract

Charles Harpur (1813–68) is recognised in his native Australia as a pioneering Romantic poet, but his achievements are little recognised elsewhere. This essay considers his contribution to the development of Romantic tragedy. He wrote two tragedies, The Bushrangers (1853, orig. 1835), a gothic bandit drama in the tradition of Schiller’s Die Räuber (1781), and King Saul (c. 1838), an incomplete Biblical drama apparently inspired by Byron’s Cain: A Mystery (1821). Like many European playwrights of the period, Harpur was deeply influenced by the new kinds of melodrama that were sweeping the stage, but also sought to distinguish his literary productions from more popular fare. His alienation from the popular theatre was exacerbated by his colonial context, where strict censorship, rising snobbery and plentiful cultural imports from Britain stifled the early efforts of nationalist, convict-born writers like himself. These contexts help to explain three distinctive aspects of Harpur’s Romantic tragedies: they were direct in an age when drama was often evasive, radical even in an age of revolution, and mystical in an age of increasing religious scepticism. Whatever his theatrical merits, Harpur was a bold playwright who worked through controversial political and aesthetic problems in a remarkably explicit way.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.18573/n.2017.10148
Uncontrolled keywords: Australia, Australian literature, colonialism, digital humanities, drama, gothic, intertextuality, poetry, Romanticism, tragedy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1600 Drama
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English > Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth Century
Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English > Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Research
Depositing User: Michael Falk
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2020 09:04 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:14 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/82574 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Falk, Michael: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9261-8390
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