Seduced by Metonymy: Figuration and Authority in The Cenci

  • Stuart Peterfreund
Part of the Studies in Romanticism book series (SR)


As Barbara Groseclose observes, in one history of the Cenci family saga that Shelley consulted, Lodovico Muratori’s Annali d’ltalia (1749) vol. X, ‘Incest was not, in fact, an aspect of the original story/ Her conjecture as to why Shelley altered Muratori’s original is that, ‘Dramaturgically, the decision was a necessity’ (Groseclose, 1985, pp.222, 225, 226). Shelley did indeed perceive a need to enhance the play’s dramaturgical values. As he says in the ‘Preface’ to The Cenci (1819), ‘The person who would treat such a subject must increase the ideal, and diminish the actual horror of the events, so that the pleasure which arises from the poetry which exists in these tempestuous sufferings and crimes may mitigate the pain of the contemplation of the moral deformity from which they spring’ (Shelley, 1977, pp. 239–40).1


Original Story Moral Universe Unitive Knowledge Metaphorical Expression Italian Word 
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  1. 10.
    Shelley might also have taken his notion of tropaic decline from William Warburton’s The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated (Warburton, 1738–41, pp. 150–1). Shelley’s reading of Warburton is documented in Shelley (1964, I, pp.69, 77; II, p.487).Google Scholar
  2. 15.
    Clark, who anglicises the Latin as ‘In whom all things move, without affecting each other’, mistakenly attributes Holbach’s Système de la nature (1775) as the source (Shelley, 1954, p. 134n.).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

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  • Stuart Peterfreund

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