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Type: Journal article
Title: Ekphrastic cCatharsis: Marlowe's mural of Troy's fall in The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage
Author: Potter, L.
Citation: Word and Image, 2018; 34(4):310-321
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 0266-6286
Statement of
Lucy Potter
Abstract: This article examines Act 2, Scene 1, of Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage (printed 1594) through the lens of the mural ekphrasis in Book 1 of Virgil’s Aeneid. It argues that this scene is Marlowe’s attempt to stage the mural ekphrasis and thereby appropriate to himself an aesthetic enterprise that Virgil authorizes: the construction of a new version of an old story, the fall of Troy, as an ekphrasis. It demonstrates that Aeneas’s Troy narrative in Dido is a “speaking picture” that Aeneas constructs in his mind’s eye and responds to emotionally with a kind of catharsis yet to be recognized in the critical history of the term, which is called ekphrastic catharsis. Further, it argues that Marlowe imitates Virgil’s labor of artistic fashioning in dramatizing the Troy narrative, and hands to his Aeneas, as does his classical precursor, the emotional construction of an artwork that brings Aeneas into poetic being as another Achilles. Special attention is paid to Marlowe’s use of the “cinematic silhouettes” and “sonic tapestries” of classical ekphrasis, devices he puts to work in the narrative’s many references to hands, and in the emotion literally written into the narrative’s text. Tracing the intricate linguistic patterns of Aeneas’s Troy story enables one to see it as a pictorial tableau comprising eight panels, that is, as Marlowe’s mural of Troy’s fall. This new artwork reveals a post-Virgilian Priam and Hector as signifiers of Marlowe’s ekphrastic ambition, and a “Virgilian-ness” that resides in, and is condoned by, its differences from the mural ekphrasis. After assessing Marlowe’s engagement with the ut pictura poesis doctrine, it is concluded that his mural of Troy’s fall is a bridge linking “ancient” and “modern” traditions of ekphrasis.
Keywords: ekphrasis; catharsis; Virgil; Christopher Marlowe; ut pictura poesis; Troy
Description: Published online: 29 Nov 2018.
Rights: © 2018 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/02666286.2018.1489713
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