Hero and Leander: The Making of an Author

Laetitia Sansonetti


In this paper, I would like to examine Marlowe’s reputation as a literary author among his contemporaries by studying the written text as the locus where authorial identity is shaped. Hero and Leander (1593, published 1598) is a good case in point, for in this narrative poem Marlowe’s persona reviews key authorial issues such as what it means to be a professional poet, whether to follow the Ovidian or the Virgilian career model, and how to relate to a Greek source. My point is that Marlowe’s literary career emerges in the immediate aftermath of his death as a construct resulting from a form of collaboration between his author-figure within the poem and some of his contemporaries who were intent on salvaging his reputation as a poet. The reception of Hero and Leander among Marlowe’s contemporaries shows that they were sensitive to the kind of reverent parody of classical models Marlowe used to state his own form of paradoxical authority and that they submitted Marlowe’s authorial figure to the same mixture of reverence and parody. Focusing more specifically on George Chapman’s continuation of Hero and Leander (1598), I would like to analyse how Chapman introduces Marlowe as a kindred spirit, that is to say an erudite scholar, a fellow literary genius whose poem can be “finished” by being reverently rewritten.


Marlowe, Christopher; Chapman, George; Petowe, Henry; Ovid; authority; authorship; literary genres; reception of the classics; translation

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