This is part of a bi-weekly series here at TSS: Early Modern and Open Access regularly showcases peer-reviewed articles (or other resources) of interest to early modernists that are freely available in open access formats.
First paragraph (in lieu of an abstract):
In An Apology for Actors, the playwright and keen classicist Thomas Heywood argues that classical exempla have the power to influence a Jacobean audience, to encourage them to reform their own conduct in line with what they have seen. Specifically, he argues that the male members of a playwright’s audience can be encouraged towards ideal masculine behaviour by watching the exploits of Achilles, Hector and Troilus, participants in that most iconic of classical myths, the story of the Trojan War. Three Elizabethan and Jacobean treatments of the Trojan story, one by Heywood himself (The Iron Age Part I, c.1611-1613), and the others by Robert Greene (Euphues His Censure to Philautus, 1587) and William Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida, 1601-1602) reflect the connection that Heywood perceives between myth and the contemporary performance of manliness, though they all problematise his implication that the heroes of antiquity are always exemplary. These works use the Troy legend to foreground relationships between men, and simultaneously to reflect their mythical characters’ deep uncertainty about what it is to be an ‘ideal’ man. In this emphasis on and anxiety about male behaviour, Greene’s prose tale and Shakespeare’s and Heywood’s plays reflect a concern that was not just literary, but societal, for early modern culture simultaneously privileged and interrogated masculinity and manhood. Alexandra Shepard has found in the conduct books of the period ‘a dirge of concern about men’s failure to live up to patriarchal ideals’, and suggests that ‘While maleness as cultural category was automatically celebrated in terms of superiority, men as a group of people were far less confidently endorsed’ (Shepard 2003: 10). Other critics have also demonstrated early modern masculinity to be somehow unstable, or a source of anxiety (see for example Breitenberg 1996, and Foyster 1999), and Gary Spear sees this uncertainty about masculine identity as being particularly prominent in Troilus and Cressida (Spear 1993: 412).