Elizabethan Minor Epics

Elizabethan Minor Epics

Elizabethan Minor Epics

Elizabethan Minor Epics

Excerpt

With the derisive phrase 'amorous scholemaister' Stephen Gosson in 1579 dismissed the claim of the praeceptor amoris, but, in point of fact, Gosson's phrase aptly describes the role of Ovid in the sixteenth century when familiarity with his writings, stemming from the schoolroom, was in due course to elicit the warmest of responses--literary imitation.

The most important of Ovid's works were staples of the curriculum, valued for their content, their style, and their language. The Metamorphoses, that vast repository of myth, the Fasti, with its store of information about the 'rytes and ceremonies which were observed after the Religion of the Heathen,' and the Tristia, their varied elegiacs useful for versification, were all widely used in the grammar schools. The Heroides, appealing because of their psychological range, had been recommended by Erasmus as an aid to letter writing. Even the Ars Amatoria (translated in 1513 as The flores of Ovide de arte amandi with theyr englysshe afore them) might take its place among the 'how to' books and, in conjunction with the de Remedio, serve as a hortatory example of vice reproved. In any case, works of such questionable import as the Amatoria and the Amores became familiar through the various flores poetarum.

The sixteenth-century system of education was such that students became exceedingly familiar with selected authors. Memorization both of the Latin original and of English equivalents was standard practice; this was followed by close analysis, by imitation, and lastly by variation. 'Congruent epithetons,' 'choice Phrases, acute Sentences, wittie Apophthegmes,' and 'livelie Similitudes' were duly recorded in the students'

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