Stoicism, Calvinism, and Determinism in Fulke Greville's "Alaham"

CADMAN, Daniel (2014). Stoicism, Calvinism, and Determinism in Fulke Greville's "Alaham". In: MARDOCK, James and MCPHERSON, Kathryn, (eds.) Stages of Engagement : Drama and Religion in Post-Reformation England. Pittsburgh, Duquesne University Press, 41-62.

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Often marginalised in critical discussions in favour of the earlier Mustapha, Fulke Greville’s closet drama, Alaham, is a play that appropriates features from two distinct dramatic forms. Tropes from the morality tradition, such as allegorical figures and good and evil spirits, are situated alongside the inclusion of such features from Senecan drama as the choruses and the prologue delivered by a ghost or umbra, as well as the adherence to the formal features of the classical drama. This essay will examine the effect of the appropriation of features from both the Christian and classical traditions and consider how this mingling of sources relates to Greville’s predominantly Calvinist outlook, particularly in the play’s representation of determinism. The influence of Calvinism upon the literary works of Greville is very much apparent; they are characterised by the premise that humans lead an existence in which they are irrevocably alienated from God and are forced to negotiate a labyrinthine postlapsarian world in the midst of a process of ‘declination’. Greville’s earlier work, in particular the Letter to an Honourable Lady, advances stoicism as a consolatory philosophy and has been viewed as participating in the neo-stoic endeavour to adapt the pagan philosophy for a contemporary Christian readership. This essay will argue that Alaham advances a much more pessimistic outlook in which the relationship between stoicism and contemporary Calvinism is problematised and that the clash of genres is paralleled by the tense coexistence of stoic and Calvinist elements in the play. In the prologue to Alaham, the action is determined by the ghost of a former king of Ormus who reveals the fate of the characters before the play begins meaning that even the good characters, particularly the pious Celica, are tainted from the outset and their virtue will ultimately amount to nothing. This essay will thus examine the bearing Greville’s experiments with genre have upon the representation of determinism in this play and argue that the text tends to highlight the incompatibility, rather than the affinities, of stoicism and Calvinism.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Humanities Research Centre
Page Range: 41-62
Depositing User: Daniel Cadman
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2015 11:03
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 19:15

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