The Ghost Tradition: Helen Of Troy In The Elizabethan Era

Open access

Abstract

Reputedly the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, Helen of Troy (or Sparta) is less well known for her elusive, ghost-like dimension. Homer wrote that the greatest war of Western classical antiquity started because of Helen's adultery followed by her elopement to Troy. Other ancient writers and historians, among theme Aeschylus, Stesichorus, Hesiod, Pausanias, Aristophanes, Euripides and Gorgias of Leontini, challenged the Homeric version, in various ways and attempted to exonerate Helen either by focusing on her phantom/ ghost/ as the generic object of man's desire and scorn or by casting doubt on the mechanisms of the blaming process. This paper argues that the Elizabethans Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare adopted and adapted the anti-Homer version of the depiction of Helen, what I here call “the ancient Helen ghost tradition”; nevertheless, in so doing they further reinforced the character's demonic features and paradoxically achieved a return to the adulterous Homeric Helen.

Aeschylus. 1988. Agamemnon in Orestia. Trans. David Greene and Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Biesecker, Susan L. 1992. ‘Rhetoric, Possibility, and Women's Status in Ancient Athens: Gorgias and Isocrates’ Encomiums of Helen’, RSQ 22, pp. 99-108.

Cole, Rosalie. 1974. Shakespeare's Living Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Calasso, Roberto. 1993. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. New York: Knopf.

Craik, T.W. 1969, “Faustus’ Damnation Reconsidered”, Renaissance Drama. NS 2. Evanston, pp. 189-196.

Crewe, Jonathan. 1990. Trials of Authorship: Anterior Forms and Poetic Reconstruction from Wyatt to Shakespeare. Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press.

Doniger, Wendy. 1999. Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Euripides. 1982. The Trojan Women. Trans. Arthur S. Way. Cambridge: Loeb Library, Harvard University Press.

Forsyth, Nick. 1987. “Heavenly Helen”. Etudes de Lettres, 4th ser., 10, pp. 11-21.

Greg, Walter. 1946. “The Damnation of Faustus”. MLR, 41, pp. 106-107.

Herodotus. 1987. History. Trans. David Greene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hughes, Bettany. 2006. Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore. London: Pimlico.

James, Heather. 1997. Shakespeare's Troy: Drama, Politics and the Translation of Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marlowe, Cristopher. 1989. Dr. Faustus. A programme/text with commentary by Simon Trussler. RSC/Methuen: London.

Marlowe, Cristopher. 2005. Dr Faustus with the English Faust Book. Ed. Wooton, D. Hackett. Publishing Co: Indianapolis.

Maguire, Laurie. 2009. Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Murray, Penelope and T. S. Dorsch. 2000. Classical Literary Criticism. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Ovid. 1982. The Erotic Poems. Trans. and ed. P. Green. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Quispel, Gilles. 1975. “Faust, Symbol of Western Man”. Gnostic Studies, II (Istanbul), pp. 288-307.

Shakespeare, William. 1980 (1951). “The Rape of Lucrece”. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. Peter Alexander. Collins: London and Glasgow, pp. 1284-1308.

Shakespeare, William. 1980 (1951). “Troilus and Cressida”. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. Peter Alexander. Collins: London and Glasgow, pp. 787-827.

Wells, Marion A. 2002. “To Find a Face Where All Distress is Stell'd”: Enargeia, Ekphrasis, and Mourning in The Rape of Lucrece and the Aeneid”. Comparative Literature, Vol. 54. No. 2. Duke University Press, pp. 97-126.

Gender Studies

The Journal of West University, Timisoara, Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies

Journal Information

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 481 481 53
PDF Downloads 157 157 14