A Play Based On The Events Of The Trojan War Essay

A Play Based On The Events Of The Trojan War Essay

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It is not surprising that Shakespeare wrote a play based on the events of the Trojan War. The myth had incredible staying power in and of itself during the early modern period, not only in a literary way, but also culturally, as the monarchy of England and the heritage of the city of London were intrinsically linked to the Troy legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Historia Regum Brittanniae (c. 1136), begins his history of Britain with Aeneas, one of the most enduring figures of the Greek myth in Latin literature. Edmund Spenser calls London “Troy-novant”, and the city of London clung tight to its mythical heritage as being founded by Brute (or Brutus), the grandson of Aeneas. It is easy to see, in Pandarus’ epilogue, that he is at once addressing his own syphilitic body and circumstances as a character of the Trojan War, and the audience’s own Southwark surroundings, populated by “some galled goose of Winchester”. (5.11.54) The play’s scattered anachronisms seem to affirm a universality, or “the ahistorical nature” of human behaviour and Pandarus’ speech particularly makes the connection between Troy and London obvious; “historiographers no longer need to work to establish a mythic past for London, because the mythic past falls easily from the stage into the eager laps” of those Southwark dwellers who Pandarus addresses. Troy and London are, at the cultural level of the stage, inseparable. From Homer’s canonical Greek epics, the myth and characters did not trickle down so much as were steadily perpetuated in antique Roman literature, and then revived in later medieval texts. There was an increase of public interest in the Troy legend at the tail end of Elizabeth’s reign, evidenced by Caxton’s Recuyell of the histories of Troye ...


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...ave used it (the “least exploited version of the saga”) as a source for his own version of the Troy legend, to be acted on the stage. It would be a useful remedy for the problem of telling a story that was over-told, in a crowded literary tradition. Though the textual leap is hardly Homer to Chapman to Shakespeare, Chapman proves a useful source to compare Shakespeare’s treatment of Homeric themes. In fact, as Chapman’s Latin would have been far better than his Greek (a common trait, even amongst university educated classicists of the time), he relied heavily on Latin translations of Homer for his own version of the legend, resulting in his Homer having “surely, a Renaissance Latin accent.” Chapman’s debts to Spondanus, Dictys, and Dares should not be ignored, but by acknowledging their influences we can value Chapman’s Iliades as something of a cumulative source.

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