“Ecclesiae et Rei Publicae”. Greek Drama and the Education of the Ruling Class in Elizabethan England
Keywords:Euripides' Troades, Aristophanes' Equites, Early Modern English Reception of Greek Texts, Early Modern English Paratexts
In sixteenth-century England only two Greek plays in Greek were published: Euripides’ Troades (1575) and Aristophanes’ Equites (1593). This book raises questions on the scarceness of editions of Greek dramas and their late appearance in the English Renaissance, compared to continental editorial practices. It also seeks to reconstruct the intellectual and political context in which these two dramas were published. To this end, it examines the paratexts, especially the prefatory letters addressed either to patrons or to the readers, contained in contemporary Greek grammars and catechisms. Troades and Equites were probably published for educational purposes and their lack of paratexts invites further investigation as to the status of knowledge of Greek and how these editions were to be used in teaching. Against this backdrop, Troades and Equites appear as part and parcel of a humanistic programme connected with the education of the ruling class. The book shows that the Elizabethan age witnessed a growing interest in Greek as part of an overall project of consolidation of the Church of England and the monarchy, inspired by Protestant nationalism. In this context, reading and staging Greek dramas was regarded as a means to acquire rhetorical, ethical, philosophical, and political knowledge. These paratexts help us to understand the role of Greek and Greek literature in the making of modern England.
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