Shelley's CENCI
Scorpions Ringed with Fire
Stuart Curran


Shelley's tragedy, The Cenci, has been regarded as an avant-garde attack on orthodox Christian principles, a celebrated cause for Victorian intellectuals, a vehicle for innovative minds of the theater, a historical oddity, a neglected masterpiece. Derived from the dark legends of one of Rome's great families, the Cenci records a history of sadism, incest, and murder.

Shelley's one actable play has received little attention in modern times. Professor Curran studies it first as a poem-its patterns, themes, imagery-then as a play. After showing its relationship to England's Regency theater, he analyzes the fascinating course of its stage history, and finds Shelley foreshadowing such modern emphases as psychodrama, the existential vision, the Theatre of Cruelty.

First published in 1970.