From Many Gods to One: Divine Action in Renaissance Epic by Tobias Gregory

By Tobias Gregory

Epic poets of the Renaissance seemed to emulate the poems of Greco-Roman antiquity, yet doing so awarded a obstacle: what to do in regards to the gods? Divine intervention performs an immense half within the epics of Homer and Virgil—indeed, quarrels in the kinfolk of Olympian gods are necessary to the narrative constitution of these poems—yet poets of the Renaissance famous that the cantankerous Olympians couldn't be imitated too heavily. The divine motion in their classical versions needed to be remodeled to accord with modern tastes and Christian belief.

From Many Gods to One bargains the 1st comparative examine of poetic methods to the matter of epic divine motion. via readings of Petrarch, Vida, Ariosto, Tasso, and Milton, Tobias Gregorydescribes the narrative and ideological results of the epic’s flip from pagan to Christian. Drawing on scholarship in different disciplines—religious reports, classics, historical past, and philosophy, in addition to literature—From Many Gods to One sheds new gentle on matters of putting up with value in Renaissance experiences: the precarious stability among classical literary types and Christian spiritual norms and the function of faith in drawing traces among allies and others.

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We can describe the duration of conflict in polytheistic epic in terms of the temporarily balanced wills of the various Olympian gods who intervene on opposite sides of a mortal struggle; we can also describe the entire unfolding of events in terms of the will of Zeus. Such a description will allow that Zeus is of different minds at different moments, and that his will is shaped by various factors, including his personal inclinations, desire for pan-Olympian harmony, the causally ambiguous forces of moira or fatum, and the individual special interests of his supporting cast.

Both armies agree to the terms, and the truce is solemnized with sacrifice. In the duel Menelaus clearly gets the better of Paris, but Aphrodite protects her favorite from harm, hiding the Trojan prince in a mist and spiriting him away to the safety of his bedchamber. Greeks and Trojans alike seek Paris on the battlefield, and when he is not to be found the Greeks claim victory and demand their prize. Here the book division falls, and in book 4 the scene shifts from the Troad to the halls of Olympus, where the gods sit assembled, drinking nectar from cups of gold and observing the action.

24 The winners’ tradition, Quint argues, is the stronger, defining line of Western literary epic, with the Aeneid as its paradigmatic example; the latter counter-tradition is exemplified by Lucan’s Pharsalia. By representing the achievements of his legendary hero as the original basis of Roman imperium and the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Virgil forged what was to be an enduring link between epic and empire; subsequent poets would follow in linking epic past to present political authority. The Lucanian counter-model would live on in poems such as Paradise Lost and Les Tragiques, which have no imperium to celebrate but look forward to the greater victory to come, when God’s wrath will definitively annihilate the enemies of the faithful.

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