Compendious poetry
Homer and Ausonius in Thomas Heywood’s Various History Concerninge Women
in Thomas Heywood and the classical tradition
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This chapter explores the innovative vernacular classicism of Heywood’s 1624 Gynaikeion. This miscellany of paradigmatic women from history and myth models itself on late antique historical compendia. It also mines diverse other ancient historians for material and intersperses its historical prose with short poetic inventions and translations. They include renditions of Ausonius, a late Roman virtuoso of concise poetics. Heywood pays attention to an unusual range of works by this popular poet, including his epitomes of Homer’s epics. He translates many of these, but is also prompted to include in Gynaikeion testimonies from ancient history that offer his readers a distinctive and haunting perspective on the legendary poet. Heywood’s reception of Homer in Gynaikeion, dismissed by older critics for its indirectness, affords an insight into the author’s very considerable, quirky scholarship, and into the fascinating moral aesthetic of this radically understudied work, which is dependent on juxtaposition, mixed messages and discursive remainders.

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