Thursday, February 25, 2010

Góngora, Marlowe, and Hero and Leander

At the core of Erich Segal's "Hero and Leander: Góngora and Marlowe" (Comparative Literature, Vol. 15, No. 4; Autumn, 1963) is how iconoclastic Marlowe and his lesser known Spanish contemporary Luis de Góngora are in their treatments of the classical Hero and Leander myth. "There is in both poems," argues the Harvard classicist Segal, "a complete absence of romantic emotion," supplanted by mock-heroic comedy and "ironic condescension." Segal documents how in Góngora's Hero y Leandro, we find comic reduction, a tone of artificiality, a Hispanified realism to the story, and a "remarkable" lack of sensuality. In addition, the prevailing theme is the non-heroic "love is all foolishness." With Marlowe's Hero and Leander, Segal documents the poet's likewise "emotional detachment" and an equally non-heroic theme of how love is "all lust." Contrasted with Góngora's comic reduction, writes Segal, Marlowe opts for far-fetched hyperbole to caricature his characters, "who soon become like huge balloons in a Mardi Gras parade. Both are equally valid techniques of comic devaluation; it is Marlowe's Brobdignag to Góngora's Lilliputia." I was most amused by Segal reminding us of Marlowe's fondness for hyperbole, and how in Hero and Leander Marlowe "out-Marlowes Marlowe in comic excess." We should find it striking, concludes Segal, how Marlowe and Góngora, two Renaissance contemporaries, both opted to take comic swipes at the romantic love tradition.

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content. Branagh, Emmerich, Rylance, Jude Law, Johnny Depp


Isabel Gortazar said...

Now, that is an extremely interesting comparison, which might need to be extended to Venus and Adonis.

In this Anglo-Spanish context, perhaps it would be worth mentioning here that Cervantes and Shakespeare were both poking fun at the Knights-Errant, in Don Quixote and The Two Gentlemen of Verona respectively, even if they were not the first ones to do so.

Anonymous said...

I knew nothing of Gongora. Thanks for this post.