A “fressh and lusty qwene”: Remodelling Helen of Troy in the Middle Ages

Katherine Heavey

Abstract


In this paper, I explore some of the representations of Helen of Troy that were most
popular from the first century AD to the fifteenth century. Specifically, I aim to
trace the influence that classical, late antique and early medieval sources had on
thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth century representations of Helen by authors
including Guido de Columnis, Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate. The early accounts
of Ovid, virgil and Dares the Phrygian provide representations of Helen, and these
models were adopted enthusiastically by later authors. However, even when they
translate closely, medieval authors do not use their classical and late antique
models uncritically. Rather, I aim to show that each author dealt with in this paper
refines the model(s) he inherits, adding, eliding and altering, and in so doing renders
Helen anew, in keeping with medieval expectations and literary taste, and authorial
preference.


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