‘The formless ruin of oblivion’
Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and literary defacement
in Love, history and emotion in Chaucer and Shakespeare
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This chapter argues that William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida participates in a set of traditions with a long history of fierce internal hostility. It outlines some alignments of that prior history and focuses on Shakespeare's contribution to a tradition of literary defacement. The defacements, of both Hecuba and Sinon, evoke in the late medieval British Troy tradition, that of Robert Henryson, who brutally closes down Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Shakespeare draws primarily on the sceptical, late medieval ephemera tradition and in particular its vernacular English and Scots examples. The chapter distinguishes the competing traditions of the Trojan War available to Shakespeare: Homer's Iliad; Virgil's Aeneid; Ovid's Heroides, letter 7 and its tradition; and the Galfridian tradition, derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. The sceptical ephemera tradition is resolutely anti-Homeric, anti-Virgilian and anti-Galfridian.

Love, history and emotion in Chaucer and Shakespeare

Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida


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