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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.
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.
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.
This introduction reviews the critical state of play in the study of Thomas Heywood and the classical tradition, acknowledging the collection’s debt to the innovative work of M. L. Stapleton on Heywood’s translations of Ovid, Richard Rowland’s dedicated studies of the author and the edition of Troia Britanica coordinated by Yves Peyré. It also explores Heywood’s idiosyncratic classicism across his long career. A discussion of A Woman Killed with Kindness and The Rape of Lucrece shows that Heywood’s non-classical plays can be productively read through a classical lens, and suggests the crucial interaction between his classical and non-classical oeuvre. Heywood’s very diverse genres, we argue – translation, drama, poetry, compendia, pageants, panegyrics and pamphlets – are porous, and his classical creativity is a thread that runs through them. Classical interests also forge telling connections across Heywood’s different creative periods and offer an illuminating perspective on his authorial self-fashioning. Beginning by playing with myth in an epyllion (like many contemporaries), he increasingly turned himself into a distinctive vernacular humanist for whom myth became a way of thinking: educating a wider audience, moralising about society, writing about past and present, and perhaps above all sharing the pleasure of stories.