What is My Nation? Language, Verse, and Politics in Tudor Translations of Virgil's Aeneid

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 What is My Nation? Language, Verse, and Politics in Tudor Translations of Virgil's Aeneid

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Translations of Virgil's Aeneid carried particularly high stakes. For if national identity is arguably always at stake in translation, this was especially the case for the text that furnished a source as well as model for founding myths of national origin in western Europe, including the legend of Brute, putative eponymous founder of Britain. What is at stake is the question voiced at the centre of Henry V, the Shakespearean play that most nearly approaches a national epic for the end of the Tudor era: ‘What is my nation?’. Addressed by the figure of an Irishman to the figure of a Welshman in the presence of the figure of a Scot in a scene of centrifugal, multivocal Englishes that ironize the centripetal rhetoric of Henry's immediately preceding speech to those he addresses as ‘noblest English’, the question embraces each and all of the four nations gathered round the English king under the flag of St George. It is this question, then, that is at stake in the different and diverging Tudor translations of the Virgilian epic.

Keywords: translation; Tudor England; Virgil; Aeneid; national origin

Article.  7546 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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