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Hellenic Whispers

Modes of Greek Literary Influence in Seventeenth-Century French Drama

Series:

Susanna Phillippo

Hellenic Whispers builds a picture of how Greek literature was received and reworked by the authors of seventeenth-century French tragedy. Using case studies, the author establishes a new methodology for exploring the variety of responses and creative processes involved in these encounters with classical Greek material. The book explores the complex interactions surrounding these adaptations of Greek dramatic material, involving the input of scribes, editors, translators and earlier authors, and asks the important question of what these dramatists conceived of themselves as doing. Focusing on a time and place where cultural predilections and a lack of linguistic training made engagement with the original Greek texts problematic, the book explores the creative role of intermediary sources, the build-up of chain reactions between sources and the cumulative processes of recreation involved in the genesis of seventeenth-century dramatic texts. The volume also goes on to explore wider questions relevant to the classical tradition and issues of ‘source study’ and reception.

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Chapter 5 Trojan Women / Andromache

Extract

Our final series of plays contrasts with the other two cases in several important ways. Firstly, none of the three French plays concerned derives ultimately from a single principal classical source: each combines major elements from at least two, if not three or more, classical works.1 Secondly, elements of the relevant Greek texts appear principally to have been received in the first instance through works of Latin and/or French Renaissance literature which adapted the Greek material. Thus even where the seventeenth-century writ- ers had recourse to the Greek works themselves, such inf luence operated alongside with, and was coloured by, major and in some respects dominant intermediary works. These plays thus represent a more complex series, both in respect of the range of the ultimate source materials being assembled by the playwrights, and in respect of the lines of transmission. In addition to the processes of transmission and inspiration identified in previous chapters, the case of these plays involves the prior ef fect of major intermediary adaptations, Latin and French, operating at a far more fundamental level than was the case with, say, the sixteenth-century Italian versions of the Iphigenia plays. We need, then, to begin by considering the nature and role of these intermediary texts. Of course these were far more than simply ‘intermediaries’ for Greek inf luence (and even in that respect their role is far from simple). Both Latin and French texts were important creative projects in their own right, and had their own impact on the...

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