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Monday, September 26, 2016

But O O O O that Shakespearean Troy

by ilT + Selkis

One of the great cultural achievements of the Renaissance was the rediscovery of Homer's "original" poems in Greek (thanks to Byzantine scholars who fled from the Turkish Conqueror) in Western Europe. This Homeric material, soon translated into Latin, was then reused in a number of manners. Torquato Tasso, for example, stuffed his Gerusalemme Conquistata with a lot of new episodes -- not included in the Liberata -- directly borrowed from the Iliad, as well as the Aeneid. Riccardo (Richard), the Conquistata version of the Liberata hero Rinaldo, is patterned after Achilles in both his rage and his bisexuality; that were, incidentally, two features of Tasso, too.

William Shakespeare choose a completely different approach in his unconventional drama Troilus and Cressida, written probably in 1600 or 1601 but fully appreciated only after World War II. He drew on the Homeric texts but especially on Medieval lore to create a story that, while perfectly a Renaissance one in its courtesy, humor, and armors, recalls Homer because of its fierceness, the omnipotence of Fate and, in depth, a feeling of desperation. The drama also contains what is possibly one of the best puns in literature, which summarizes the whole plot and, more than that, might convey the Late Renaissance worldview in general: Ariachne's broken woof.