George Chapman (1559-1634) and his Important Works

Chapman is a poet and dramatist, whose life spans over three ages- Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline Age. As a poet, he is famous for his translation of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It was written in the Elizabethan Age. It is a free translation, expressing more of Chapman himself as an Elizabethan scholar with the philosophical interest of the intellectuals of this age. He does not translate these from the Homeric point of view. In the epics, he saw the epics as a heroic exemplification of moral greatness following Stoic ethical categories much later than Homer.

According to him, the greatness had strong passions, but also strong pride raising him above the corrupting influence of society; on the other hand, their passion and pride must be tamed by philosophical courage and discipline. Otherwise, there is an apprehension of total extinction.

As a dramatist, he has tried to highlight this attitude through the conflict in these dramas. Most of the tragedies were written in the Jacobean Age, some in Caroline Age.

Works of Chapman:

1. The Tragedy of Bussy D’Ambois is the best-known tragedy of Chapman. It dramatises the rise and fall of Bussy D’Ambois at the court of Henri III of France. The play’s complex rhetoric reflects the philosophic, particularly Neoplatonic bent of the author’s mind and sometimes in its imaginative flow.

2. The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron (written perhaps in the Jacobean Age).
3. The Revenge of Bussy D’Ambois.
4. Caesar and Pompey.

Most of his plays were for the most part merely poems in dialogue, and fell far below the height of dramatic standard of the Elizabethan Age, even of the Jacobean Age. Barring the first, all are almost unread. Bussy is an excellent portrayal of the heroic man dominating his spiritually corrupt atmosphere but cannot control his passions and finally succumbs to his desires. Clermont, his brother, in The Revenge of Bussy D’Ambois is a less successful example of the man of tamed passion and stoical calm.

He wrote as many as eight comedies, including May Day (1611). May Day is a complex comedy, dexterously interweaving a wealth of romance and native pastoral motifs with stock characters from Plautus and Terence comedy.

He is said to have finished the unfinished poem of Marlowe-Hero and Leander.