100 books like Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women

By Diane Purkiss (editor),

Here are 100 books that Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women fans have personally recommended if you like Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

I was immediately excited to read this book, which is the best biographical study of Mary Wroth, author of the Love’s Victory.

It informed my work on editing the play by giving a meticulously-researched insight into Wroth’s life as an aristocratic woman: her struggles in love (with her first cousin William Herbert), and her determination to write. Importantly, it corrected earlier assumptions about Wroth’s relationship with her husband Robert Wroth.

It has been thought that she was satirizing him in the foolish character of Rustic in her play, but Hannay’s book taught me to identify him with the sympathetic character of the Forester.

It also clarified Wroth’s relationships with her family and the politics of the royal court in which they were involved.

By Margaret P. Hannay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite her fascinating life and her importance as a writer, until now Lady Mary Wroth has never been the subject of a full-length biography. Margaret Hannay's reliance on primary sources results in some corrections, as well as additions, to our knowledge of Wroth's life, including Hannay's discovery of the career of her son William, the marriages of her daughter Katherine, her grandchildren, her last years, the date of her death, and the subsequent history of her manuscripts. This biography situates Lady Mary Wroth in her family and court context, emphasizing the growth of the writer's mind in the sections on…


Book cover of Renaissance Drama by Women: Texts and Documents

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

This book gives an excellent introduction to women’s involvement in theatre in the age of Shakespeare by making 6 of their texts easily available for the first time.

It publishes Queen Elizabeth I’s translation of a section by Seneca; The Tragedy of Antony (1595), a translation of a French play about Antony and Cleopatra by Mary Sidney Herbert, (aunt to Lady Mary Wroth).

It also publishes three original plays by women: Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam (1613), The Concealed Fancies (1645), by the sisters Elizabeth Brackley and Jane Cavendish, and a valuable edition of Love’s Victory (but in a short section on p. 122 misprints the order of pages in the manuscript).

Cupid’s Banishment (1619) by Robert White is an entertainment, written to be performed by schoolgirls

By S.P. Cerasano (editor), Marion Wynne-Davies (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Renaissance Drama by Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Renaissance Drama By Women is a unique volume of plays and documents. For the first time, it demonstrates the wide range of theatrical activity in which women were involved during the Renaissance period. It includes full-length plays, a translated fragment by Queen Elizabeth I, a masque, and a substantial number of historical documents. With full and up-to-date accompanying critical material, this collection of texts is an exciting and invaluable resource for use in both the classroom and research.
Special features introduced by the editors include:
* introductory material to each play
* modernized spellings
* extensive notes and annotations
*…


Book cover of Imperfect Alchemist

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

I found this historical novel about the life of Mary Sidney Hebert, the Countess of Pembroke really enjoyable because it offers me the fantasy of filling in the gaps in the historical record about one of the early women writers.

I find it impressive because it draws on years of research on Mary Sidney Herbert by the author who is a renowned literary critic. Miller tells Mary Sidney Herbert’s story ingeniously by paralleling it with the life of a fictional character, Rose, who serves as her waiting woman.

Although I know the historical facts, the twists and turns in the narrative successfully cast new light on how I read Mary Sidney Herbert’s poetry and her play Antonius, though, for me, the co-authorship that the novel imagines remains entirely fictional.

By Naomi Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imperfect Alchemist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable life lost to history is brought into sharp focus

England, 1575. Young Mary Sidney is bearing a devastating loss while her father plans her alliance to Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. But Mary is determined to make her mark on the world as a writer and scientist.

As Mary Sidney Herbert steps into her new life with the earl at his home, Wilton House, an unusual friendship is forged between her and servant Rose Commin, a country girl with a surprising artistic gift, that will change their lives for ever.

Defying the conventions of their time, mistress and…


Book cover of The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

This modern edition gives readers a sample plays by the remarkable Margaret Cavendish, who privately published 2 volumes of plays in 1662 and 1668 though many were probably written earlier.

I find her plays fascinating for the ways they deal explicitly with women’s experiences in love, in war and in marriage.

In this selection Love’s Adventures Parts I and II features a cross-dressing heroine in pursuit of her intended husband; Bell In Campo Parts I and II, dramatizes the experience of a superheroine leading an army, while The Bridals and The Convent of Pleasure satirize love and marriage.

I love The Convent of Pleasure’s depictions of same-sex retreat and desire. Cavendish’s witty prefaces on the difficulties of writing plays for a woman are included as appendices to Shaver’s edition.

By Margaret Cavendish, Anne Shaver (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673), until recently remembered more as a flamboyant eccentric than as a serious writer, was in fact the most prolific, thought-provoking, and original woman writer of the Restoration. Cavendish is the author of many poems, short stories, biographies, memoirs, letters, philosophical and scientific works (including The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World, the first work of science fiction by a woman), and nineteen plays. "The Convent of Pleasure" and Other Plays collects four of Cavendish's dramatic works that are among the most revealing of her attitudes toward marriage and her desire for…


Book cover of The Heracles of Euripides

Jacqueline Fellows Author Of The Sherangivan

From my list on fantasy about demonic possession.

Why am I passionate about this?

My training is in Classics (especially Greek drama), which has given me an appreciation for clever writers who tweak conventional themes to surprise readers, foil expectations, and explore new ideas—or new sides of old ideas. Greek epic and tragedy also exhibit fairly rigid expectations about personal responsibility: even if a god made you do it, it’s still your responsibility. Agamemnon has to pay for sacrificing his daughter; Heracles has to perform his labors. Madness and possession are vivid ways to explore where one’s autonomy leaves off and another power takes over. They’re excellent tools for poking at humans to see how a thinking, feeling individual deals with unintended disaster.

Jacqueline's book list on fantasy about demonic possession

Jacqueline Fellows Why did Jacqueline love this book?

Greek tragedy is similar to fantasy except for matters of form (e.g. the chorus). Euripides was a startlingly modern playwright, especially when it comes to psychology.

Heracles can be portrayed as a monstrous monster-slayer (I’m looking at you, Sophocles), but in Euripides he’s noble, brave, and domestic. He performs his labors because he’s the kind of guy to use his powers for good.

Hera, being a jealous jerk, drives him mad; Madness herself is unenthusiastic about the whole affair, recognizing that Heracles has made the world a better place.

But insane Heracles knows that he’s murdering innocent people. Is that who he really is? Is it all Hera’s fault?

Or is Heracles a good, normal person who’s lost a bit of his decency after so much fighting?

By Euripides, Michael R. Halleran (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heracles of Euripides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Euripides' Heracles is an extraordinary play, innovative in its treatment of the myth, bold in its dramatic structure, and filled with effective human pathos. The play tells a tale of horror: Heracles, the greatest hero of the Greeks, is maddened by the gods to murder his wife and children. But this suffering and divine malevolence are leavened by the friendship between Heracles and Theseus, which allows the hero to survive this final and most painful labor. The Heracles raises profound questions about the gods and mortal values in a capricious and harsh world.


Book cover of Mr. Burns and Other Plays

M. Amelia Eikli Author Of What Survives

From my list on stories we tell at the end of the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been curious about how stories shape how we see the world. As a child, I noticed there were countless conflicting stories explaining how things worked. But which stories were the real ones? Which were true? At university, I studied the stories we tell ourselves about how the world will end. And as we live in times that can feel quite apocalyptic, I’m particularly fascinated by the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what the future holds. If society dissolved around us, what stories would we tell ourselves to keep going? Are we telling those stories now?  

M.'s book list on stories we tell at the end of the world

M. Amelia Eikli Why did M. love this book?

This play, which I’ve read as a script but not seen performed, is a genuine treat. It hits the sweet spot for me: it is a delicious cross-section of ‘post-apocalyptic’ and ‘stories about stories.'

I also loved it for just how weird it was. It’s such a bizarre–yet realistic–depiction of how stories change over time, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever read that has made me want to write a play. It’s probably the oddest text I ever recommend to people.  

By Anne Washburn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mr. Burns and Other Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"One of the most spectacularly original plays in recent memory."—Entertainment Weekly

"Fascinating and hilarious . . . With each of its three acts, Mr. Burns grows grander."—Village Voice

"When was the last time you met a new play that was so smart it made your head spin? . . . Mr. Burns has arrived to leave you dizzy with the scope and dazzle of its ideas . . . with depths of feeling to match its breadth of imagination."—The New York Times

An ode to live theater and the resilience of The Simpsons, Anne Washburn's apocalyptic comedy Mr. Burns—"even better…


Book cover of Medea and Other Plays

Fiona McHardy Author Of Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Literature

From my list on women and revenge in Greek tragedy.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for Greek literature began as a child when I was captivated by Greek myths and epic tales. As a student, I became fascinated with tragic revenge plots involving women, especially mothers who kill their children, and since then, I have published extensively on gender and violence in ancient Greek literature and life. I speak modern Greek and love thinking about these topics in traditional Greek folk poetry and literature as well, especially works like Alexandros Papadiamantis’ The Murderess and Pantelis Prevelakis’ The Sun of Death.

Fiona's book list on women and revenge in Greek tragedy

Fiona McHardy Why did Fiona love this book?

This translation of four of Euripides’ plays features his three best female avengers.

Electra is the loyal daughter who conspires with her brother Orestes, to avenge the killing of their father by slaughtering their mother, Clytemnestra. Hecabe is the fierce maternal figure who exacts revenge for her dead son Polydorus on the man who killed him for his riches. Medea is the murderous mother who avenges herself on her faithless husband, Jason, by killing her own children to destroy his family line.

The power of these plays is in the way their plots build as the women move from grief to anger, culminating in their fatal acts of revenge and leaving the audience to ponder on the nature of justice.

By Euripides, Philip Vellacott (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Medea and Other Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medea/Hecabe/Electra/Heracles

Four devastating Greek tragedies showing the powerful brought down by betrayal, jealousy, guilt and hatred

The first playwright to depict suffering without reference to the gods, Euripides made his characters speak in human terms and face the consequences of their actions. In Medea, a woman rejected by her lover takes hideous revenge by murdering the children they both love, and Hecabe depicts the former queen of Troy, driven mad by the prospect of her daughter's sacrifice to Achilles. Electra portrays a young woman planning to avenge the brutal death of her father at the hands of her mother, while…


Book cover of The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite

Martin Puchner Author Of Culture: The Story of Us, From Cave Art to K-Pop

From my list on discovering forgotten masterpieces of world culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been driven by curiosity about other cultures. I grew up in Germany but became restless and studied in Italy before moving to the United States. Some of the texts I recommend here I discovered while working on the Norton Anthology of World Literature. When I began this work, I realized just how narrow my own education had been and spent the next several years reading world literature and world culture. Ever since, I’ve been on a mission to expand how culture is taught. This is why I became an academic: to excite students about world culture.

Martin's book list on discovering forgotten masterpieces of world culture

Martin Puchner Why did Martin love this book?

Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Prize laureate from Nigeria, was steeped in both Yoruba traditions and Greek tragedy as well as Shakespeare.

This combination of influences shaped his adaptation of The Bacchae, by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides.

He brings this play into the modern world of slavery, using White and Black actors. At the same time, he captures the original’s blend of ritual and performance.

This explosive mixture is the most compelling study I know in what theater can do: mobilize bodies in front of an audience. It also shows how theater can bridge vast historical and cultural differences.

By Wole Soyinka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bacchae of Euripides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wole Soyinka has translated-in both language and spirit-a great classic of ancient Greek theater. He does so with a poet's ear for the cadences and rhythms of chorus and solo verse as well as a commanding dramatic use of the central social and religious myth. In his hands The Bacchae becomes a communal feast, a tumultuous celebration of life, and a robust ritual of the human and social psyche. "The Bacchae is the rites of an extravagant banquet, a monstrous feast," Soyinka writes. "Man reaffirms his indebtedness to earth, dedicates himself to the demands of continuity, and invokes the energies…


Book cover of The Art of Ancient Greek Theater

J. Michael Walton Author Of Euripides Our Contemporary

From my list on Greek theatre for practitioners and audiences.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Drama at the University of Hull, translator of some twenty plays from Greek or Latin into English, a professional director, and a member of Equity for more than fifty years. I hope and believe that my own experience as a practitioner has blended with an educational background in Greek and Latin from St Andrews combined in my extensive list of publications on theatre history as author and editor to be found listed on my website.

J.'s book list on Greek theatre for practitioners and audiences

J. Michael Walton Why did J. love this book?

This may seem a rather strange nomination as it is the catalogue for a remarkable exhibition, curated by Mary Hart at the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2010.

The main justification is that this was probably the greatest collection of illustrations of dramatic performances in the classical world ever displayed together, in pots, paintings, and artefacts. Though hardly a reliable guide to how Greek comedies and tragedies were originally staged, the various artworks are given contexts and explanations in accompanying commentaries.

Above all, what the book validates is the belief that the earliest Greek theatre emerged as a visual art form, never initially to be preserved in print. Today, we do have some 46 more or less complete playtexts, including a couple from New Comedy, which there is no space to champion here, but which also features strongly throughout the catalogue.

By Mary Louise Hart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Ancient Greek Theater as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an exploration of Greek theatre as seen through its many depictions in classical art. "The Art of Ancient Greek Theater" addresses the vibrant imprint that ancient Greek tragedy and comedy left on the visual arts of classical Greece. Theatrical performance as we know it originated in mid-sixth century BCE with choral dances held in honour of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and patron of the theatre. The great tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes and Menander are preserved as some of the world's most revered literature and have formed the basis for…


Book cover of Poetics

David Baboulene Author Of The Primary Colours of Story

From my list on how stories work and how to write your story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was lucky enough not only to get published in my thirties, I also got a film deal for those first two books. I was flown to Hollywood and it was all very grand. However, what they did to my stories in translating them into film scripts horrified me. And ruined them. And the films never got made. I started to look deeper into what ‘experts’ did, and it was awful. I became obsessed with how stories work, developed my own ‘knowledge gap’ theory, proved it through my Ph.D. research, and became a story consultant in the industry. Story theory has completely taken over my life and I love it!

David's book list on how stories work and how to write your story

David Baboulene Why did David love this book?

Aristotle was the world’s first story expert.

As a story consultant myself, it was incredible to have a man from 2,300 years ago talk to me about story theory! And more than that… everything he says is spot on. 

The real meaning of much of what Aristotle said has been debated for millennia. However, when I used his principles as story dynamics in real stories, they became very clear to me; so, in my own work, I have distilled Aristotle’s principles into a modern three-part interpretation, and I give examples of them working in classical and popular modern stories.

Aristotle’s principles are not only applicable today, but they are still better than almost any other new thinking of the last 100 years. Aristotle is amazing. I love him! 

By Aristotle, Joe Sachs (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Poetics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most powerful, perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history

In his near-contemporary account of classical Greek tragedy, Aristotle examines the dramatic elements of plot, character, language and spectacle that combine to produce pity and fear in the audience, and asks why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. Taking examples from the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the Poetics introduced into literary criticism such central concepts as mimesis ('imitation'), hamartia ('error') and katharsis ('purification'). Aristotle explains how the most effective tragedies rely on complication and resolution, recognition and reversals. The Poetics has…


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