Revenge and Romance

Katharine Wilson

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199205882
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Revenge and Romance

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



George Pettie's ‘Tereus and Progne’ and Robert Greene's Pandosto belong at opposite ends of the generic spectrum. Pandosto (1588) is a pastoral with a plot line reminiscent of a fairy tale: a princess cast out to sea as a baby is brought up by shepherds but is finally restored to her kingdom and marries her prince. ‘Tereus and Progne’, contained in the anthology A Petite Palace of Pettie his Pleasure (1576), is a less consoling narrative, nominally based on one of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The plot is bleak: when King Tereus rapes and mutilates his sister-in-law Philomela, she and her sister Progne revenge themselves by tricking the King into eating his own son. Pettie and Greene's books, and their many reprints, testify to the extraordinary explosion of popular printed fictions which characterized the last decades of the sixteenth century. Pettie and Greene also identified themselves with a rapidly expanding section of the reading public — women. Equally, both authors knew they could not afford to alienate their core male readership. Consequently, their texts are teeming with contradictions, and we can only speculate on how they affected their readers.

Keywords: Tereus and Progne; pastoral; printed fiction; readers

Article.  8328 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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