Several of the women Thomas Heywood writes about in Gynaikeion were familiar exemplars in the arts, but less frequently embodied on stage as characters in their own right. This chapter looks at what happens when Heywood lifts two victims of rape, Callisto and Lucrece, out of the realm of example to bring them on stage in The Golden Age and The Rape of Lucrece respectively. It explores what happens in the process of enacting familiar tales of seduction, and the possible impact on the expectations of spectators, to whom the ultimate outcome is known. Rather than try to resolve contradictions between the multiple versions he draws on, Heywood plays with the dynamics this allows him in a multigeneric, empathetic approach. Through the challenge of staging a rape, Heywood also explores the ethics and challenges of staging the mythographic process.
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.
The world of Lucian in Thomas Heywood’s stage poetry
This chapter considers Thomas Heywood’s relationship to the Greek satirist and prose writer Lucian of Samosata. It looks at Heywood’s translation of nine of Lucian’s dialogues in Pleasant Dialogues and Dramma’s. Lucian’s Dialogues offered Renaissance dramatists an arresting vision of what it meant for the classical gods to be on stage, influencing Heywood in a play like The Silver Age. The philosophical and religious implications of Lucian’s irreverence towards the gods, which earned him popularity with the humanists, also fascinated Heywood, who introduced Lucian’s hell in The Hierarchie of Blessed Angells. This chapter argues that Lucian provided Heywood with an imaginative structure that allowed him to create dramatic worlds where classical myths collide with early modern theologies in the moment of their realisation on stage. The resulting drama offered a clash of registers, and this productive dissonance enabled Heywood to develop hellish scenes that he shaped for his own dramatic purposes.
Theorising practice in Thomas Heywood’s Ages plays
Chloe Kathleen Preedy
In his pro-theatrical treatise An Apology for Actors (1612), Thomas Heywood adapts the classical trope of the Four Ages to lament early modern drama’s fallen state. The same myth structures Heywood’s five Ages plays, which dramatise events from the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages while simultaneously registering the commercial English theatre’s intervening presence. Focusing on the Ages plays, this chapter analyses how Heywood employs temporal, spatial and elemental cues that consciously emphasise his drama’s ongoing implication in both the imaginative processes of historical narrative and the social, economic and environmental exchanges of contemporary London, prompting playgoers towards a new understanding of theatre as a physically embedded medium of exchange. In the process, I suggest, Heywood engages with and reassesses the theories of dramatic composition that early modern authors inherited from their classical predecessors, developing a new theory of drama for the Iron Age present.
Thomas Heywood was unusual in the diversity and sheer quantity of his output, and fascinatingly individual in his classicism. This volume offers a ground-breaking investigation of his engagement with the classics across a writing career that spanned more than 40 years. It is the first in-depth study of his classicism, and it features a variety of perspectives. The introduction and twelve essays trace how the classics shaped Heywood’s writing in a wide variety of genres – translation, drama, epyllic and epic verse, compendia, epigrams, panegyrics and pamphlets – and informed both his many pageants and the warship he helped design for Charles I. Close readings demonstrate the depth and breadth of his classicism, establishing the rich influence of continental editions and translations of Latin and Greek texts, early modern mythographies, chronicles and the medieval tradition of Troy as revived by the Tudors. The essays probe Heywood’s habit of juxtaposing different and often disjunctive layers of a capaciously conceived ‘classical tradition’ in thought-provoking ways, attend to his use of the multiplicitous logic of myth to interrogate gender and heroism, and consider the way he turns to antiquity not only to celebrate but also to defamiliarise the theatrical or political present. Different contributions focus on A Woman Killed with Kindness, Oenone and Paris, Loves School, The Rape of Lucrece, Troia Britanica, the Ages plays, Gynaikeion, Pleasant Dialogues and Dramma’s, Apology for Actors and Sovereign of the Seas. Classical reception thus provides an illuminating, productively cross-generic angle for approaching Heywood’s prolific output and idiosyncratic aesthetic.
Current adaptation theory could be applied to Thomas Heywood’s translation of Ovid’s Ars amatoria, sometimes known as Loves Schoole (c. 1599–1620). However, the interrelated concepts of imitatio and aemulatio anticipated these newer ways of reading, and are more accurate modes for study. Thomas M. Greene, George Pigman III, and Lynn Enterline have established the indispensability of the terms for understanding early modern encounters with the classical past. They served as signifiers of a multiplex educational and rhetorical system that authors imbibed from Erasmian humanist schooling and that dominated their writing lives. Educated in this way, Heywood inhabited Ovid’s poem as he translated, as Petrarch and others had counselled. By incorporating Loves Schoole into his subsequent work, Heywood relieved Ovid of some aspects of his misogynist reputation, reconfiguring him into the kind of man he desired Ovid to be.
In the minor tradition of lament for a fellow poet which springs from the influential yet neglected Lament for Bion, the theme of literary immortality is closely bound up with the self-conscious, and self-reflexively foregrounded, practice of poetic imitation. Beginning with the Lament for Bion itself, we trace an intricate pattern of allusion to Bion’s Lament for Adonis and Theocritus’ fifteenth idyll, which infuses the grief-laden poem with an underlying optimism by evoking the resurrection of Adonis, celebrated annually in the Adonia festival, and implying that Bion will enjoy a similar immortality. The Lament presents its own imitative poetics as the channel of this ongoing life. Later poets working in this tradition not only imitate the Lament for Bion and follow the conventions it sets, but also understand the significance of its intertextual methods, and use similar means to the same end. This is shown through close readings of three examples: Statius’ Silvae 2.7 (celebrating the birthday of the dead Lucan); Spenser’s ‘Astrophel’ (on the death of Sir Philip Sidney); and Shelley’s ‘Adonais’ (on the death of John Keats). The subtextual presence of the Adonia in ‘Astrophel’ forges a link to the Garden of Adonis in The Faerie Queene, perhaps reflecting that episode’s relation to Mary Sidney’s mourning for her brother. In ‘Adonais’, meanwhile, Adonis’ resurrection is a fundamental subtext throughout, functioning as a symbol of nature’s seasonal renewal and of poetic immortality conferred through imitation, and necessitating reconsideration of Shelley’s supposed ‘Platonic turn’ at the end of the poem.
The chapter examines the teen film, one of the most significant genres dominating the global film industry since the 1990s. After a brief overview of the socio-economic background of the genre’s recent popularity, the chapter focuses on the common features of the group, from character types, typical settings, the role of the soundtrack and the characteristically decontextualised use of textual fragments, through a tendency to present heterosexual romance as ideal, to the genre’s reflection on authority figures, both in the school environment and within the family. Beside the best-known examples of the genre, which all employ the romantic comedy’s narrative structure, the chapter discusses one tragic teen drama and two independent queer productions as well, highlighting their darker social messages, which set them apart from the more light-hearted iterations of the formula. The chapter also argues against the common criticism that teen films are dumbed-down versions of literary masterpieces, pointing out the ways in which these adaptations are consciously shaped to cater for the interests of their target audience.
Shakespeare’s Roman plays, republicanism and identity in Samson Agonistes
This chapter analyses Milton’s ‘Samson Agonistes’ as a conversation with Shakespeare’s Roman plays, tracing a pattern of allusion to the Shakespearean suicides Antony, Cleopatra and Brutus to deepen our understanding of Samson’s final act. This writerly conversation is a political one: the chapter builds on the argument of Milton and the Politics of Public Speech, comprehending the seventeenth-century public sphere in Arendtian terms, as a revival of the Greek polis or Roman republic, centred on public speech as political action. For Milton, poetry is a form of oratory, and drama, the art-form of democratic Athens, both represents and embodies public speech. Pointing out that groups disenfranchised in the classical state became metaphors for political disempowerment in early modern polemic (whether terms of abuse to delegitimise opponents or protesting political oppression), the chapter uncovers a strong republican undertow in ideas of effeminacy in Shakespeare and Milton, and brings a newly political perspective to their treatments of gender and sexuality. Yet Samson’s defining act, while fulfilling the republican ideal of selfless public service, and recalling the Senecan view of suicide as the ultimate assertion of individual liberty, goes beyond the masculinist terms of classical republicanism. For Milton draws on Shakespeare’s figuration of Antony’s and Cleopatra’s joint suicide as a ‘transcendent marriage’ to depict the regenerate Samson as androgyne in his union with God. The chapter at once reveals the availability to early modern readers of distinctively republican subcurrents in Shakespeare and illuminates the ways Milton justifies Samson’s suicide in a Christian framework.
The conclusion looks back on the six main chapters of the volume and reflects on their findings, pointing out a number of features in the cinematic products that can only be explained by a genre-based analysis. The chapter also confirms the broad applicability of the method exemplified here for the interpretation of other literary adaptations, and it opens up the discussion to consider the endemic presence of generic categories in contemporary popular visual culture and elsewhere. It also comments on the constantly changing forms of the Shakespeare phenomenon and the potential roles of Shakespeare in cultural production and consumption today.