Versifying the Senecan Chorus: Notes on Jasper Heywood’s Emulative Approach to Troas


  • Silvia Bigliazzi Università di Verona



Jasper Heywood’s 1559 translation of Seneca’s Troas is the first Senecan tragedy to be printed in England and is well-known for its free and inventive approach. Alterations include the addition of a whole speech and above all the radical transformation of the choral odes. It has been suggested that the addition of a new Chorus and the gradual effacement of the female collective at the level of drama respond to a poetic project establishing Heywood as a tragic poet in the speculum tradition. This article delves deeper into this question. Considering versification as a formal apparatus characterising the dramatic and perspectival functions of this new Chorus, it explores Heywood’s response to the original metres of Seneca. It then discusses their apparent inconsistency in view of a poetic design grounded in Heywood’s peculiar interpretation of this tragedy. A brief discussion of the textual transmission of Seneca’s play elucidates how Heywood may have come to reconfigure the tragic female Chorus as ­­an anonymous framing voice sharing in authorial knowledge.

Keywords: Troas; Seneca; Jasper Heywood; rhyme royal