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.
This chapter argues that Andromache and her suppliant rhetoric stand at the heart of a wider Trojan presence in a play that Francis Meres described as a tragedy in 1598. King John is 'tragical- historical- mythological', a genre overlooked by Polonius. The chapter explains the Trojan matter of the play, which powerfully structures and textures the scenes of the siege of Angiers and, more specifically, the tragic fates of Constance and Arthur. Trojan motifs weave their way through Arthurian and other monarchical romances without much explicit acknowledgement. In King John, such processes include the Hercules/ Richard analogies and are evident in the ways Shakespeare revisits the historical material he found in sources such as Holinshed's Chronicles, and scenographic considerations. As in Heywood's play, the verbal and physical sense of towering verticality is a key to the dramatic tension of a number of scenes in King John.
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.
This book sets the scene for the reinterpretations and explorations of the ways William Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked mythological material on their looms. In Ovid, each text leaves a trace in the others, introducing an enriching leaven that expands the text. Reading Holinshed's efforts to place Samothes or Brutus on England's family tree, one feels sorry for those chroniclers who had to reconcile a variety of founding tales and defend mutable causes. Founding myths need a renowned ancestor; warlike feats; identification with a territory, continuity, purity of blood; and someone to tell the story: fame must be recorded by pen if it is to survive marble monuments. The book discusses the Trojan matter of King John, which powerfully structures and textures the scenes of the siege of Angiers and, more specifically, the tragic fates of Constance and Arthur. It also considers some metamorphoses of Shakespeare and Ovid. The book reiterates imaginative association, influence, historically diachronic descent study, as evidenced in that kind of critical work that finds in a keyword an attractive pretext for projecting an author's particular interest or, a critic's. Yves Peyré's work opens perspectives on post-Shakespeare reworkings and Shakespearian myths that were also explored during the ESRA conference and inspired a separate collection of essays, Mythologising Shakespeare: A European Perspective.
Janice Valls- Russell, Agnès Lafont, and Charlotte Coffin
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts covered in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shares Yves Peyré's concentration on historically informed close reading in order to identify and understand the multiple layers that modify mythological texts from generation to generation. It also offers fresh perspectives on classical mythology as it informed the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries over a period that ranges from the 1580s to the 1630s, from Christopher Marlowe to Thomas Heywood. Focusing on interweaving processes in early modern appropriations of myth, the book draws on a variety of approaches to ask how the uses of mythological stories enabled writers to play with representations of history, gender and desire. Building on recent research in different areas of early modern studies, the book seeks to heighten awareness of multi-directional interactions in the perception and reappropriation of classical mythology in Elizabethan and Jacobean culture.