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Shakespeare and the Greek Romance

Shakespeare and the Greek Romance: A Study of Origins

Carol Gesner
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Shakespeare and the Greek Romance
    Book Description:

    This is the first study to relate the Greek romances to Elizabethan drama. It focuses upon the Greek romance materials in Shakespeare's plays to clarify the background of his art and to illuminate the relationship between the two literatures. The Greek romance tradition is described historically and traced through the works of Boccaccio and Cervantes, as well as other continental and English writers. Then, full attention is given to those plays of Shakespeare which utilize the Greek materials.

    The notes are full and, with the aid of the extensive index, can serve as a manual of the Greek romance materials in Renaissance literature. A bibliographic appendix lists the known editions, translations, and adaptations of Greek romances from about 1470 to about 1642. The manuscript history is reviewed briefly. Thorough, careful, the book will be indispensable for concerned scholars and libraries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6284-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Chapter One The Greek Romances
    (pp. 1-13)

    The Greek romances of the early Christian era have been called the twilight of Greek literature, the descent from Olympus, and have been relegated to the literary scrap heaps as childish in substance and wanting in truth. This adverse criticism results from their marvelously improbable action and the puppetlike quality of their protagonists, as well as from their amorality, their elaborate language, and self-conscious, somewhat Euphuistic style. Even a superficial knowledge of the permanent values of the true Olympians—Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus—testifies to the truth of this harsh judgment. But the Greek romances form a tremendous storehouse for many...

  5. Chapter Two The Continental Tradition
    (pp. 14-46)

    The twelfth-century imitations of the Greek romances kept the spirit of the genre alive through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Indeed, their example had never been altogether extinguished, for some of it is obviously embedded in the chivalric cycles. The best known of the Greek romances in the Middle Ages,Apollonius of Tyre, was actually reworked in the twelfth-century epic of Jourdain de Blaie and related to the Charlemagne cycle.¹ The constant and chaste love of the Hellenistic couples is similar to the somewhat more spiritual love of the courtly tradition, although the motif of adulterous love in...

  6. Chapter Three Shakespeare & the Derived Tradition
    (pp. 47-79)

    Like Boccaccio and Cervantes, Shakespeare also knew and utilized the materials of Greek romance. It is, however, especially difficult to assess how much he knew at firsthand and how much came to him through secondary or even more remote sources, for the strong continuing Greek romance tradition in Medieval and Renaissance letters was English as well as Continental. By 1572 the influence of these romances seems to have reached the London stage: a play (no longer extant) entitledTheagines and Charicleawas performed for the Christmas celebration at the Court of Elizabeth I. This has been identified as the same...

  7. Chapter Four Shakespeare’s Greek Romances [1]
    (pp. 80-115)

    On reading Shakespeare’s dramatic romances that marked the last years of his career—Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter’s Tale; andThe Tempest—one is immediately conscious of an artistic and philosophic unity binding them together. All four make use of traditional romantic conventions, and all four conclude on the same note of forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope, Shakespeare’s peace with the world after theSturm und DrangofHamlet, the hopeless tragic irony ofOthelloandKing Lear, the onrushing doom ofJulius CaesarandMacbeth. Even in the fury of Leontes’s unreasoned jealousy, the ugly cynicism of Iachimo’s...

  8. Chapter Five Shakespeare’s Greek Romances [2]
    (pp. 116-144)

    LikeCymbelineandPericles,The Winter’s Taleappears to be a conscious adaptation of Greek romance to the stage. On first reading, the exposure of Perdita and the pastoral fourth act suggest Longus as the major Hellenistic influence. Reflection, however, leads inevitably to recognition of Heliodorus as the central romance inspiration, perceptibly shadowed by the ever-elusive Chariton. A second or third reading makes clear to the initiated that almost all the stock Greek romance plot motifs inPericlesandCymbelinefall, as with the turn of the kaleidoscope, into new positions inThe Winter’s Tale. Indeed, although there is some...

    (pp. 145-162)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 163-200)
  11. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 201-206)
  12. Index
    (pp. 207-216)