The non- Ovidian Elizabethan epyllion
Thomas Watson, Christopher Marlowe, Richard Barnfield
in Interweaving myths in Shakespeare and his contemporaries
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Richard Barnfield's epyllic poetics is important, because it hints at literary and classical effects that we do not associate with English narrative poetry of the Elizabethan 1590s. Hellens Rape displays an allusive fluency in Greek material, and a well-developed reflection on the resources of the literary prequel and of the little epic as a genre. This chapter argues that this constellation of interests was there in the poetic culture of the early 1590s. It offers a new perspective on Christopher Marlowe's Hero and Leander and the development of the poetic tradition known as Elizabethan or 'Ovidian' epyllia. To understand this one needs to reappraise the impact of the Greek epyllion on this period's poetic activities, not least through the innovative and popular classicism of Thomas Watson. This is the exploration the author proposes in the chapter, taking Richard Barnfield's mid-1590s perspective on English poetics as our guide.

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