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Decadent Histories: Four Plays by Amelia Hertz

Amelia Hertz CoverTranslated and Edited by Jadwiga Kosicka

Born in 1878, Polish-Jewish playwright Amelia Hertz wrote in the early twentieth century innovative plays based on bizarre and macabre episodes from history and legend. She created a tightly controlled theatre of cruelty-set in decadent periods of ancient history–that confront extreme situations and pose “no exit” ethical and existential dilemmas. Hertz died in the notorious Pawiak Gestapo prison in Warsaw in 1942, a victim of the Nazis.

Ysolde of the White Hands, Fleur-de-Lys, The Destruction of Tyre, and A Great King, which make up this volume of Decadent Histories, deal with fin-de-siècle subjects rife with perverse sexuality and violence: the Tristan myth in revisionist guise from a female perspective; the serial child-murderer Gilles de Rais and his young daughter who develops a taste for murder herself; the Prophet Ezekiel as he visits the ruins of Tyre; and the decline of Byzantium under Justinian and his general Belisarius during a time of conspiracies.

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