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Marlowe's Ovid: The "Elegies" in the Marlowe Canon
  • M. L. Stapleton, Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne

My study analyzes Marlowe’s translation of Ovid’s _Amores_, the _Elegies_, in the context of his seven known dramatic works and his epyllion, _Hero and Leander_. Recent books and articles by Patrick Cheney, Ian Frederick Moulton, and Georgia E. Brown indicate a transformation in critical thinking about Marlowe’s Elegies. Earlier studies focused on the accuracy of the translation and bibliographic issues, not on the text’s worth as poetry or its importance as a document of cultural history. I engage my predecessors by using Marlowe’s rendition of the Amores as a way to read his seven dramatic productions and his narrative poetry, with four principles in mind: its intertextual relationship to the rest of the author’s canon; its reflection of the influence of Erasmian humanist pedagogy, imitatio and aemulatio: its status as the standard English _Amores_ until the Glorious Revolution, part of the larger phenomenon of pan-European Renaissance Ovidianism; its participation in the genre of the sonnet sequence, a natural outcome given the importance of the original series of elegiac poems from antiquity to the initial conception of what I call “sonnetdom” by the troubadours, Dante, and Petrarch. I determine how translating the _Amores_ into the Elegies profited Marlowe as a writer, a kind of literary archaeology that explains why he may have commenced such an undertaking at all. Hence my title, which may seem somewhat disingenuous. Although the _Amores_ was certainly not the only Ovid that Marlowe considered his own, it was the Ovid that we can prove that he actually knew, since he indubitably made it his own by translating it into English as the _Elegies_. The similarities between the young male speaker in the _Amores_, the desultor Amoris and the characters in the Marlowe canon who resemble him suggest a possible line of transmission: outsider, fomenter of social disorder, embodiment of theatricality, playwright-surrogate for Marlowe, manic nature, relish in misdeeds, eroticism, amorality, autoincrimination, authorial distancing and sabotage, the similarity of first soliloquies to _Elegies_ 1.1, occasional misogyny, and ars adeo arte latet sua: art concealing art.

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Citation Information
M. L. Stapleton. Marlowe's Ovid: The "Elegies" in the Marlowe Canon. Burlington, VT(2014)
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