Seneca: The Madness of Hercules, Translated and Introduced by Dana Gioia
Publication Date: April 19, 2023
Seneca was not only Rome’s major Stoic philosopher. He was its great tragic playwright. Classics of Latin literature, Seneca’s dramas also inspired the revival of tragic theater in the Renaissance. They served as models for Shakespeare, Kyd, Racine, Corneille, and Calderon.
Dana Gioia’s new book provides two ways of approaching Seneca—the critical and the creative. The book begins with a compelling account of Seneca’s remarkable life in Imperial Rome. It interweaves the Stoic’s roles as philosopher, politician, and playwright. There is no better introduction to this influential and often misunderstood genius of Classical culture.
Gioia then offers a vivid poetic translation of Seneca’s powerful tragedy, The Madness of Hercules. This violent and visionary play explores the utmost extremes of human suffering expressed in passionate language. It also contains a spellbinding descent into the Underworld, an account that haunted later poets from Dante to Eliot.
“Dana Gioia's Hercules Furens is a poetic and critical tour de force. By giving us a translation as graceful, vivid, and natural as the original must have been, he paradoxically brings out its essential strangeness to our sensibility. His poetry makes it a sort of dark existentialist Bunraku theater, an allegory of the horrors of Nero's Rome and perhaps a warning to us today. His coinage of the term ‘lyric tragedy,’ connecting the play with the birth of opera fifteen hundred years later, aptly notes that strangeness.”
—Frederick Turner, Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas,
author of the epic poems Genesis and The New World
“Gioia is . . . probably the most exquisite poet writing in English today.”
—William Oxley, author of A Map of Time and many others
Dana Gioia is an award-winning poet and critic. He has published five celebrated volumes of poetry, including 99 Poems: New & Selected, and three critical collections. He is former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and former Poet Laureate of California.
Dimensions: 6" x 9"
Retail Price: $20.00 (Hardcover) $15.00 (Paperback)