The Sovereign of the Seas
Thomas Heywood’s 3D engagement with the classics
in Thomas Heywood and the classical tradition
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During the 1630s, his last creative decade before his death in 1641, Thomas Heywood published classical plays, a masque, compendia, and devised seven civic pageants. He also helped devise the iconological programme of the largest ship ever built until then, the Sovereign of the Seas, providing a written account in A True Description of his Majesties Royall Ship. The ship, which was launched in 1637 and remained in service until the late 1690s, has not survived. Visual evidence of what it looked like can be reconstituted from paintings, engravings, drawings and models, alongside Heywood’s own account, which also provides a historiographic and mythological rationale for a naval project that encountered opposition. Reading over Heywood’s shoulder as he writes, while looking at the iconography, this chapter investigates how his mastery of classical material in a variety of forms (which include Vincenzo Cartari’s and Cesare Ripa’s mythographies) materialises in a mytho-historiographic building programme.

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