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Hero and Leander

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By: (1564-1593)

Hero and Leander is a tragic love story that explores the themes of love, desire, and fate. Written by Christopher Marlowe, the poem tells the story of two lovers, Hero, a priestess of Venus, and Leander, a young man from Abydos. The two fall in love at first sight and begin a passionate and forbidden affair, meeting secretly at night and exchanging tokens of their love.

However, their love is not meant to be, as they are torn apart by the treacherous waters of the Hellespont. Despite their attempts to be together, fate conspires against them, leading to a heartbreaking conclusion that leaves the reader feeling both sorrow and longing.

Marlowe's poetic language is rich and evocative, capturing the intensity of Hero and Leander's emotions as well as the beauty of their surroundings. The imagery he uses, especially in describing the sea and the lovers' tragic fate, is both powerful and haunting.

Overall, Hero and Leander is a classic tale of doomed love that will resonate with readers who appreciate tragic romances. Marlowe's skillful writing and vivid descriptions make this poem a timeless and poignant exploration of the complexities of love and desire.

Book Description:

“Who ever lov’d, that lov’d not at first sight?”

The wonder-decade of the English drama was suddenly interrupted in 1592, when serious plague broke out in London, forcing the closure of the theatres. Leading playwrights took to penning languorously erotic poetry to make ends meet: so we have Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece - and Marlowe’s blazing masterpiece, Hero and Leander.

Marlowe’s poem became more notorious than either of Shakespeare’s, due not only to its homophile provocations but also to the scandal attaching to every aspect of Marlowe’s brief life, violently ended in a mysterious brawl, leaving the poem in an unfinished state.

The edition read here includes the wonderful continuation by George Chapman, a versatile playwright: tragedian as well as author of Jonsonian metropolitan comedies: in short, an all-round literary craftsman, whose Homer translation was famously admired by Keats. Chapman excels in extended allegory, but also in pithiest epigram –

“Love is a golden bubble, full of dreams,

That waking breaks, and fills us with extremes.”

All these playwrights come from the generation of grammar-school alumni raised on the secular curriculum of Latin poetry: above all, Ovid – the source of the story of Hero and Leander, and their “love-death” in the Hellespont.

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