Theorising the will in early modern English literature

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2015
Thesis identifier
  • T14179
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 200994935
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis examines how the faculty of the will was conceptualised in early modern English literature. The attempt to understand its function and purpose was a crucial concern for a vast range of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers, largely because of the important role the notion of the will played in the development of classical philosophy and the reformation of Christian theology. Providing a coherent definition of the will, its powers and associated functions in the human subject did, nonetheless, pose a significant problem for many early modern writers. Although scholars have documented the impact that notions of will had in the theology of the period, an analysis of the way in which the will was represented in the drama of Elizabethan and Jacobean England is missing from current academic criticism. This thesis seeks to remedy this gap in scholarship by clarifying the conceptual difficulties involved in theorising the powers of the will in the philosophy of the age, and by demonstrating how these difficulties are represented and played with in the period's drama. This thesis contributes original knowledge to the field of early modern studies by illustrating: the role that notions of will take in shaping the didactic framework of the morality tradition in late sixteenth-century drama; how the will was used to establish and explore notions of malevolence and acts of moral transgression in early modern plays; the part theories of the will played in shaping how notions of death and human fate were signified in early modern texts. Ultimately, this thesis suggests that the literary representation of the faculty of the will should be understood to be a vital and essential part of early modern intellectual culture.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2015
Former identifier
  • 1239371