From Many Gods to OneDivine Action in Renaissance Epic

From Many Gods to OneDivine Action in Renaissance Epic

Tobias Gregory

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226307558

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Epic poets of the Renaissance looked to emulate the poems of Greco-Roman antiquity, but doing so presented a dilemma: what to do about the gods? Divine intervention plays a major part in the epics of Homer and Virgil—indeed, quarrels within the family of Olympian gods are essential to the narrative structure of those poems—yet poets of the Renaissance recognized that the cantankerous Olympians could not be imitated too closely. The divine action of their classical models had to be transformed to accord with contemporary tastes and Christian belief. This book offers a comparative study of poetic approaches to the problem of epic divine action. Through readings of Petrarch, Vida, Ariosto, Tasso, and Milton the author describes the narrative and ideological consequences of the epic's turn from pagan to Christian. Drawing on scholarship in several disciplines—religious studies, classics, history, and philosophy, as well as literature—the book sheds light on two subjects of enduring importance in Renaissance studies: the precarious balance between classical literary models and Christian religious norms; and the role of religion in drawing lines between allies and others.