Romanticism’s Tyrannical Revolutions: Alfieri, Byron and the Shelleys

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This essay centers on Byron’s assimilation and deployment, as political thinker and playwright, of the ideas and dramatic techniques of the immensely influential, but now neglected, Vittorio Alfieri. The focus here is on Marino Faliero and The Two Foscari. However, the essay also concentrates on P. B. Shelley and Mary Shelley, who absorbed and adapted Alfieri’s political philosophy and dramatic practices in The Cenci, Prometheus Unbound, and Valperga. It recovers Alfieri from long-standing but superficial generalizations that have obscured and simplified the Italian for decades in discussions of British Romanticism. It introduces readers to some key Alfierian texts—a number not readily available in English—as well as some of the leading Italian commentators on these, pinpointing what particularly attracted Byron and the Shelleys to Alfieri—his conceptualization and representation of tyranny and revolution. More broadly, the essay puts its weight behind the recent “international turn” in the study of British Romanticism by pointing to the much wider international networks that can be discovered even in just these three individual British engagements with one continental writer—networks through which we directly encounter British Romanticism’s deep embeddedness in what Diego Saglia has called the “pan-European, transnational” Romanticism(s) of the post-Napoleonic era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-144
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Romantic Review
Issue number2
Early online date14 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021


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