Cambridge The Transvestite Achilles by P. J. Heslin

By P. J. Heslin

As we stick to Achilles' metamorphosis from wild boy to demure lady to lover to hero, Statius brilliantly illustrates a sequence of contrasting codes of habit: female and male, epic and elegiac. this primary full-length research of the poem addresses not just the narrative itself, but additionally units the parable of Achilles on Scyros inside of a wide interpretive framework. The exploration levels from the reception of the Achilleid in Baroque opera to the anthropological parallels that experience emerged to give an explanation for Achilles' transvestism.

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24, where the corrected text is: naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret. ” This is also the precise authority for Gay’s introduction of a doltish Ajax to the Scyros episode. 77 Achilles, Act 3, Scene 12 (Fuller, 1983: 274). 26 the transve st i te ach ille s Achilles into a man. Is Achilles’ masculinity due to his irrepressible nature or is his manliness another costume? As soon as we may have begun to doubt the seriousness of the moral, it is firmly reiterated in song: Single. Chorus. Single.

Gay, standing between and somewhat outside these two traditions, confronts the question explicitly. 76 It is not known whether Gay had chosen these epigraphs prior to his death, but they are extremely apposite. 77 This seems a straightforward moral, echoing the Horatian epigraph in its insistence on the strength of the force of nature. ” This addendum undercuts the moral by implying that it was a different sort of disguise, the armor that he liked so much, that transformed 73 One thinks in particular of Pamela, which appeared less than a decade after Gay’s Achilles, and the attempted rape of the heroine by the cross-dressed Mr B, which ends as a similar debacle for the would-be rapist.

10 the transve st i te ach ille s The infatuation of Polycastes highlights Achilles’ feminine beauty, even as he angrily tries to ward off this unwelcome attention. 27 Pyrrha, with this likeness you can obtain great pleasure for yourself, playing the man and the woman at your whim. The feminization of Achilles is presented most starkly in a sequence of scenes in which the sleeping hero is surveyed as a passive sexual object by a stream of people, both male and female. In Act 1, Scene 17, Achilles wanders alone in the royal gardens, where he waits for Deidamia, praising the beauty of the flowers and surroundings.

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