'Bugbears in Apollo's Cell': Metamorphoses of Character in Drayton's Idea and Daniel's Delia

By Kambaskovic-Sawers, Danijela | Parergon, January 2008 | Go to article overview

'Bugbears in Apollo's Cell': Metamorphoses of Character in Drayton's Idea and Daniel's Delia


Kambaskovic-Sawers, Danijela, Parergon


I

Literary subtext plays an important part in the generation of meaning. It is a device supremely adaptable to the reader: if it goes unnoticed, the text can still be enjoyed at face value; once recognized, it allows the text to achieve its full effect. Studies of Ovidian echoes in major Renaissance sonnet sequences are a fertile field. Nevertheless, Michael Drayton's and Samuel Daniel's play with Ovid in Idea and Delia, often unconventional and interesting, lacks thorough critical attention. (2) In this essay, I hope to offer a fresh perspective into character building in sonnet sequences by showcasing Daniel's and Drayton's creative use of Ovid and relating it to the poets' cultural context--the work of contemporary mythographers, themes of contemporary narrative genres and, in Drayton's case, astrology--a pursuit relevant to this discussion on account of its semantic use of figures of Roman mythology.

Studying Idea and Delia, I noticed that the way Drayton and Daniel remodel figures of Ovidian myth to characterize their speakers seems bent on engaging the reader in a mental debate. On one hand, there is nothing unusual about Ovid's Metamorphoses being used as a hunting ground for subtext; it not only offers stimulating stories to remodel, but also, on account of its popularity and recognizability, maximizes the chances of interactivity. On the other hand, the poets twist the well-known figures to provoke agreement, disagreement, identification, outrage, or delight, positively drawing attention to the discrepancies between the original stories and their creative remodeling. A few questions present themselves. Can the way the character of a speaker is built promote a reader's sense of involvement? Specifically, can subtext have a role to play in maintaining the interest of sonnet sequence readers? If so, how is this achieved? This essay will argue that Drayton's and Daniel's play with Ovid in Idea and Delia, brilliantly original and often humorous, offers a space in which these questions may be addressed.

Why is interest in the character important? Like most Petrarchan sequences, Idea and Delia tell stories of amorous pursuit, yet have little concrete story to tell; with the possible exception of Spenser's Amoretti, this fundamental duality characterizes the genre. True, there are, of course, many reasons to read individual sonnets. But a reader's willingness to read a sonnet sequence from beginning to end, in the way Petrarchan sequences were meant to be read, depends at least in part on the level of interest a speaker generates. 'Speaker' or 'persona', the terms which the critical convention uses to refer to the main character in a sonnet sequence, have been introduced to acknowledge the character's fictionality and discourage biographical interpretations. Yet the same terms also act as code for 'narrator' and 'character', denying that sonnet sequence could also be seen as integral works. (3) The lyrical nature of the individual sonnets, easily anthologized and studied out of context, has routinely overshadowed the question of sonnet sequence integrity. As a result, the way sonneteers develop fictional uses of the first-person voice has received less focused critical attention than it deserves. When analyzing 'interest' I am concerned with dualities incorporated into the characters of the sonnet speakers in a way which holds our attention. I propose a reshaped Empsonian model: while Empson saw ambiguity as necessary for the creation of beauty, (4) I think it necessary for the creation of complex first-person speakers capable of captivating their readers' attention.

Drayton opens his Heroicall Epistles by referring to Ovid as a poet whose imitator he partly professes to be. Some critics (those who believe that reader-interest has no place in a compendium of lyrical poems) may take this to mean that Drayton sees himself as a 'non-Virgilian', and therefore a 'non-epic' poet; (5) but in the same breath, Drayton also states that he named his work 'Heroicall' because this is a word 'properly understood of Demi-gods, as of Hercules and Aeneas . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'Bugbears in Apollo's Cell': Metamorphoses of Character in Drayton's Idea and Daniel's Delia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.