Chapman's ironic Homer.
Chapman's Scoptic Homer
In Thomas Randolph's The muses looking-glasse, published posthumously in 1643, Alazon and Eiron--two characters who personify the excessive and defective "extreames of Truth"--have a chat about Homer (1643, 50). Alazon claims for both himself and his interlocutor a Homeric genealogy, boastfully dubbing himself "the Hector of the age" and calling Eiron "Achilles," a label which Eiron rejects with characteristic mock-humility: "No, I am not Achilles: I confesse / I am no coward" (50, 51). In the conversation that follows, Alazon and Eiron each lay claim to the Homeric origins of the contrary rhetorical vices they embody. As they discuss their favorite authors, Eiron mentions his partiality for historians such as Tacitus and Machiavelli and then proclaims, "There is no Poetry but Homers Iliads,'' an assertion difficult to accept at face value since, as we are forewarned at the beginning of the scene, Eiron is rather apt to "dissembl[e] his qualities" (54; 50). As might be expected from a character wont to "arrogat[e] that to himselfe which is not his" the braggart Alazon protests that he, and not Eiron, is the true heir of Homer's Iliad, crying out, "Alas! 'twas writ i'th' nonage of my muses1' (50; 54). Yet Alazon's claim that the Iliad is the cradle of boastful, rather than ironic, speech, is complicated by his own predilection for false boasts, as well as by the fact that--as Aristode points out in his treatment of alazoneia and eironeia in the Nicomachean Ethics--boastful speech and the mock-humble dissimulations of the ironist are sometimes awfully hard to tell apart (1982a, 103; 241-45). Since Randolph's Alazon and Eiron are both distinguished by the untrustworthiness of their claims--one deviates from the virtuous mean of truth by making false boasts, while the other "offend [s] in denying a truth"--the scene ends without any resolution to the question of whether Homeric epic gives birth to boastful speech, ironic speech, both, or neither (1643,50).
The competing claims to a Homeric heritage made by Randolph's personifications of alazony and irony read like an epitome of George Chapman's translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, the first complete English translation of Homer, which was produced in a half-dozen installments between 1598 and 1616. Throughout the prefaces and commentaries to his Iliad and Odyssey, Chapman devotes particular attention to Homer's use of two rhetorical tropes, ironice and scoptice, the latter term meaning scoffing, derisory, or sardonic. Chapman's commentaries constitute a large-scale effort to establish both the kinship and the difference between ironic and scoptic speech and to justify the literary and ethical fitness of each trope. The vast majority of Chapman's marginal glosses on speeches made by Homer's characters focus on admonitory, caustic, sardonic, or otherwise scoffing speech: he notes, for example, the "sharpe invective" of Hera, the "railing" of Thersites, Helen's "chid[ing]" of Venus and her "bitter reproofe" of Paris, the "rough speech" that Sthenelus delivers to Agamemnon and the "rebuke" that he receives in return from Diomedes, and the "sharpe jest" made by Pallas to Zeus. (1) In his marginal notes, Chapman marks so many examples of "insultation" that his commentary reads like a primer for the would-be satirist who wishes to master the rhetorical figure that his contemporary George Puttenham alternately terms "Insultatio," "the Disdainful!," and "the Repochfull or scorner" (1936, 209-10). It is rare for Chapman to pass silently over the Iliad's numerous episodes of verbal combat. In the margins of the three-way flyting match of Book 1 1, for instance, Chapman highlights a riveting volley of abusive epithets by noting how "Diomed insults on Hector" and "Paris insults on Diomed" in an exchange so vehement that it has prompted some recent scholars to argue that it demonstrates Paris'--and Homer's--kinship with the iambic traditions of poetic blame and invective that grew out of the reli gious rituals of archaic Greece (Nicoll 1998a, 225; Suter 1993, 8). In his Poetics, Aristotle identifies the pseudo-Homeric Margites as the origin of iambic invective, while Plutarch's Moralia praises Homer for making his characters "reproach "[psogous] each other "without touching upon bodily characteristics" (Aristotle 1995, 38-39; Plutarch 1969, 184-85). Although the ironic and sardonic dimensions of Homeric epic have gone largely undetected or unadmired by the majority of readers during the six centuries since Homer's works have been rediscovered in the West, Chapman's interpretations are very much in favor amongst current Homeric scholars. Particularly since the 1979 publication of Gregory Nagy 's Best of the Achaeans, which argues for the rhetorical and cultural permeability of epic and satire in archaic Greece, scholars have sought to identify the Homeric origins of iambic blame poetry in various characters and episodes of the Iliad and Odyssey. Nagy compares Irus' use of skoptos [ridicule; mockery] and bomolokhia [ribaldry; literally, he who ambushes at the altar] to that of Archilochus, while William Thalmann calls the Odyssey's Irus and Melanthius "figure [s] of blame" (Nagy 1979, 253-57; 231; 245;Thalmann 1998, 100; 83).
Chapman's attention to sarcasm, irony, and other forms of verbal chastisement and abuse in Homeric epic reflects his larger interest in renegotiating the morally legitimate and illegitimate uses of satirical discourse during the first decade of the seventeenth century. Particularly in the wake of the Bishops' Ban, which limited but also transformed the satirical modes available to late Elizabethan and Jacobean writers, Chapman is one of a number of figures who look to the rhetorical involutions of irony in order to disguise his satirical intent. In his 1615 Essays and Characters, Ironical! and Invective,John Stephens explains that irony provides an effective yet safe means of expressing scorn and disdain, allowing the essayist to cloak his "extreme derision" under a "shadow of reproofe" (1615, 29). Not all writers of the period are equally enthusiastic about the use of irony to veil satirical scorn: writing from the Inns of Court, a chief arena for the production of especially obscure and bitter satire during the 1590s and 1600s, John Hoksyns complains that katachresis, or contempt, has grown into fashion along with "the figure Irania" while Joseph Hall voices his preference for writers who "pack-staffe plaine utter what thing they meant" over those whose verse is "ridle-like, obscuring their intent" (Hoskyns 1973, 125; Booth 1974, 1). Chapman likewise conceives of irony as a species of satire, a mode capable of harnessing scorn in the service of moral correction while simultaneously creating a protective shield of obfuscation. Such a conception of irony is in keeping with that of Aristotle, whose Art of Rhetoric explains that irony is the product of "contempt" [kataphronetikon] (1982b, 184-85) . Versed in classical concepts of irony as defined by Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, and Quintilian, as well as in discussions of Homeric irony found in Greek and Byzantine rhetorical works, Chapman understands irony as concealed blame, a mode of reprehension that complements but also diverges from the blunter, and thus more easily identifiable, rebukes offered up by the scoptic speaker.
Chapman's enthusiasm for ferreting out the ironic and scoptic passages of Homeric epic reveals in particular the influence of Eusthatius, the twelfth-century Archbishop of Thessalonika and author of a voluminous commentary on Homer that Chapman might have read in the 1540-42 Bladius edition, published at Rome, or (more probably) in the lengthy excerpts cited and paraphrased by Jean de Sponde in his 1583 edition of Homer. In keeping with the rhetorical idiom of Greek literary critics such as Demetrius, Hermogenes, Longinus, and the author of the pseudo-Plutarchan Life of Homer, Eusthatius uses a complex and highly refined vocabulary to describe the varieties of Homer's scoffing wit. Hermogenes and Eustathius in particular are careful to distinguish amongst the various species of irony, reproach, and scornful speech in Homeric epic, using terms such as drimutes, bitter or pungent speech that contains a "hidden sting" or that is used to launch an argumentative attack; trakutes [asperity or bitter speech]; sphodrotes [acrimonious or vehement speech]; barutes, [blameful, reproachful, or scornful speech, often paired with glukutes, or sweet speech, to denote ironic praise or sarcasm]; and gorgotes [hasty or agitated speech, often applied to words uttered in anger] (Lindberg 1977, 165; 168-69, 180; 183-84; 215-16; 244-45; 258-60). Speeches characterized by Eustathius as drimutes often contain quips or witticisms that prove effective in delivering blame, as is the case with Nestor's speech at Il. 2. 340-53, which Eustathius praises as drimuteros--more inventive or subtle in its blame--than the speech by Odysseus which precedes it. Both of these forms of speech often contain elements of irony, though Eustathius also uses the terms asteismos, eironeia, sarcazein, and skoptein to identify additional subcategories of ironic and sardonic speech, each distinct from the others by virtue of its rhetorical structure as well as its suitability for particular audiences or contexts (1977, 183-84; 215-16; 257-60).
Although he does not preserve the specificity of this rhetorical idiom, Chapman adopts two of Eustathius' key rhetorical terms--ironice and scoptice--for his own Homeric commentaries. Chapman cites Eustathius several times--in part, no doubt, to testify to his knowledge of Greek and thus refute the accusations that he translated Homer "out of the Latine onely" (Nicoll 1998a, 17). But Chapman's reliance upon Eusthatius, as well as his reliance upon the pseudo-Plutarchan De Vita et Poesi Horneris (which he cites from Xylander's Latin edition of Plutarch) also sheds light on his vehement and persistent defense of the epic decorum of Homer's scoptic and ironic speech (Knox 1989, 153). Like Sponde, who comments on a reprimanding speech made by Agamemnon in Iliad 8 that "acerbic and injurious words work better than charm and flattery," Chapman likewise senses the moral potency of vituperation, invective, and similar weapons in Homer's rhetorical arsenal (1583, glossing It. 8.228). Twice in his commentary on the Iliad, Chapman pauses to defend the eristic words exchanged between Homeric warriors as a fittingly heroic kind of agon. In the first of these glosses, Chapman defends the lengthy conversation between Diomedes and Glaucus (Il. 6.145-231) against the criticisms of earlier sixteenth-century readers such as Marco Girolamo Vida, who "taxe [the passage] as untimely, being (as they take it) in the heate of fight" (Nicoll 1998a, 141). Chapman, by contrast, is not troubled by the scene's lack of verisimilitude: he praises the exchange as "full of decorum," a "gallant shew and speech" that suits its context and also displays Homer's ability "to vary and quicken his Poem with these episods" (Nicoll 1998a, 141-42). But Chapman's praise for the exchange is puzzling, if only because so many different characters in the Iliad criticize such flyting as detrimental to martial heroism. In Book 2, for instance, Nestor reproaches his fellow A chaeans for "talk[ing] / Like children all, that know not warre" instead of"command[ing] / In active field," yet Chapman appears to regard the verbal skirmishes condemned by Nestor or (in Book 20) by Aeneas as a means of arousing the aidos, or shame and reverence, that is the essential ingredient of the poem's heroic ethos (Nicoll 1998a, 55). Accordingly, Chapman defends the inclusion of four lines spoken by Achilles to Patroclus at the beginning of Iliad 16, lines rejected in the Alexandrian recensions of Zenodotus and Aristarchus because, as Chapman explains, they were deemed "unworthy the mouth of an Heroe" (Nicoll 1998a, 346). According to Chapman's gloss, Achilles' speech provides evidence of his "frolicke and delightsome humour, being merry with his friend in private" after having chastised Patroclus for shedding "unseemely teares" a few lines earlier. Far from being inconsistent with his character, the final, obelized lines of that speech--in which Achilles voices the hope that he and Patroclus will be the only two survivors at the conclusion of the Trojan war--are not spoken "out of his heart" according to Chapman, but instead evince a jocularity that is "as poorely conceipted of the expungers as the rest of the places in Homer that have groned or laughed under their castigations" (346). (2)
Even for Chapman, however, some instances of Homeric vituperation and irony are more heroic and decorous than others. In a marginal note to Odyssey 22, Chapman's interest in the Greek word philokertomos, or amans cor alcui scindere maledicentia" according to his Latin paraphrase of the term, reflects his recognition that not every invective to be found in the pages of Homeric epic is equally praiseworthy. The term appears in a passage describing Philoetius as he kills Ctesippus during the slaughter of the suitors whileinveighing against his victim as philokertomos, a man whose love of "bitter taunts" and of "wound[ing] / The heart of any with a jest" is aptly reciprocated with a fatal dart (Nicoll 1998b, 383). The sardonic wit of Ctesippus, a figure who revels in "putting downe" his adversaries by "spitting forth / Puft words at all sorts," eerily approximates the gusto for insultation that characterizes Odysseus in the scene containing his most famous--and most problematic--display of rhetorical virtuosity (383). In Odyssey 9, after Odysseus has squarely triumphed over Polyphemus by generating a series of puns out of the words metis and outis, Homer's hero nonetheless cannot resist "insulting" his blinded adversary as his ship pulls away from shore, thus provoking the Cyclops to lob a huge boulder at his crew. In his marginal note, Chapman remarks upon "Ulysses' continued insolence" as he persists in taunting his defeated adversary, explaining that Odysseus bellows out his true name several times not simply "to repeate what he said to the Cyclop" but rather "to let his hearers know his Epithetes, and estimation in the world," a boastfulness that is, perhaps, the inescapable partner of Odysseus' irony and obliquity (166).
If such behavior is disturbing to Chapman, or even worthy of note, it is because elsewhere in the Odyssey, Odysseus demonstrates an admirable ability to resist verbal provocation. When Melanthius "reviles" him in Book 17, for instance, Odysseus remains silent, bearing all in a "brest / That in the strife of all extremes did rest" (Nicoll 1998b, 300). While Chapman certainly admires the righteous scoffing of characters such as Calchas, whose outburst against Agamemnon in Iliad 1 is described in Chapman's translation as a "Prophetiquerage," he likewise admires those characters able to restrain their vituperative or sardonic impulses. Chapman accordingly praises those moments when Homer's characters temporarily soften or abandon scoffing or blameful speech. Commenting on a speech in Iliad 14 in which Odysseus calls Agamemnon "princeps populorum" [prince of the people], Chapman challenges Sponde's assumption that the epithet is intended "to be given in scorne and that all of Ulysses' speech is scoptiche, or scoffing," instead proposing that while Odysseus does speak "altogether seriously and bitterly to this title at the end," the epithet is in fact "spoken epios, molliter or hematic, of purpose to make Agamemnon beare the better the justice of his other austeritie" (1998a, 294). Chapman's gloss on this passage again reveals the influence of Eustathius, who notes at least five times in his commentary on the Iliad how various characters display the rhetorical technique of mixing the barus [bitter] and the glukes [sweet] in a single speech so as to ensure that praise--whether sincere or feigned--follows and mollifies verbal abuse (Lindberg 1997, 215-16). (3) Sixteenth-century treatises on rhetoric call this bittersweet mixture of praise and blame Charientismus, often classifying it as a species of irony. Richard Sherry, for instance, defines Charientismus as atrope that allows for "thinges that be hardely spoken, [to] be mollifyed with pleasante wordes" (1961, 25b-26b). Although Chapman does not use the term, he does comment several times upon speeches whose efficacy depends upon cloaking, softening, or delaying blame. In a marginal note to Iliad 9.32-35, Chapman praises Diomedes' prudence and self-discipline in postponing his reply to Agamemnon's earlier rebuke of him, noting how he "takes fit time to answer his wrong done to Agamemnon in the fourth booke" as Diomedes himself reveals, explaining to the Achaean general that he "was silent, knowing the time, loth any rites to breake / That appertained thy publicke rule" (1998a, 182). Like irony, silence often functions in Homeric epic as a means of veiling threats or insults. Yet unlike the "low" rhetorical modes of raillery and vituperation, silence and omission are suitable to the "high" style of heroic poetry. Like Longinus and pseudo-Plutarch, Chapman appreciates that silence, brevity, praetermission, and ellipsis may produce an eloquent grandeur that befits Homeric epic. Longinus praises the sublimity of Ajax's silence towards Odysseus at Od. 11.543-67 when the former character refuses to address the latter in Hades, while pseudo-Plutarch observes Homer's tendency to use rhetorical tropes "characterized by the absence of words or expressions" [kata tina poian plasin schematizetai] (Longinus 1995, 185; pseudo-Plutarch 1996, 106-07). Chapman's admiration for Diomedes' restraint also reveals his recognition that silence offers a sound and effective means of expressing scorn inasmuch as it permits the expression of disdain without implicating the utterer in the passions or vices he is chastising.
Throughout his Homeric commentaries, Chapman thus regards restraint, delay, and obliquity as key virtues of scoptic speech. One exemplary instance of this technique is noted by Chapman in the string of speeches that Hector delivers to Paris in Iliad 6, in which he "right cunningly" chides his brother for his defeat at the hands of Menelaus. As Chapman explains, Hector conceals his primary motive for the speech--his disgust at his brother's "effeminacie"--and instead "dissembles the cowardise he finds in Paris, turning it as if he chid him for his anger at Troyans for hating him being conquerd by Menelaus" (Nicoll 1998a, 146). Hector's skill at deflecting, or "turning," his blame mirrors a rhetorical technique used by the Homeric narrator and noted frequently in the Greek commentary tradition. Demetrius singles out Homer's skill at combining grace or wit [charites] with terror [deinos], while Eustathius praises Homer's ability to cloak his disdain for various characters by ventriloquizing that disdain through the reproofs and insults exchanged between the characters themselves. Glossing one of Hectors many vituperative speeches to his brother, Eustathius explains that while Homer's goal is the "derision" [skopsai] of Paris, the poet does not express his contempt directly: unwilling "sillographein" [to write silloi, or invective verses, against] Paris, Homer instead appoints that task to Hector, who is able to censure his brother "freely and boldly" [parresiazesthai] (1960, 1:378).
In the revisions made to Thersites' speeches between his 1598 and 1611 editions of his Iliad, Chapman betrays a conflicted attitude towards Homer's most notorious railer, whose very name (from the Greek thersos, or thersos, meaning boldness or boastfulness) reveals his kinship with the parrhesia of the iambic blame-poet (Thalmann 1998, 83; Nagy 1979, 261; 309). In his Scaven Bookes of the Iliads, printed in 1598, Chapman emphasizes Thersites' lack of rhetorical and emotive control: his voice makes a "tuneles jarring," and he is accused of being a "foole" who makes "barbarous tauntes," chiding Achilles and Odysseus "eagerlie" with a mischievous, undisciplined, and ultimately innocuous gusto for vituperation (Nicoll 1998a, 531-33). In Chapman's 1611 translation, Thersites grows more eloquent but also more menacing: described with terms such as "railing," "vehement," and "bitter checke," he is transformed from a toothless into a biting satirist akin to John Mars-ton's Kinsayder or Edmund Spenser's Malfont--unable to contain his spleen but able to mold it into the effective shape of artful and pungent invective (52). As Chapman's Thersites evolves into the kind of railing satirist proscribed by the Bishops' Ban, his characterization of Achilles moves in the opposite direction, growing less prone to scoff and to exchange wrangling words. As John Channing Briggs has pointed out, Chapman's 1598 translation grants Achilles "more license to revile Agamemnon" than does Homer's Greek text, especially at II. 1.154-60, where Chapman heightens both the length and the intensity of his rebuke of Agamemnon (Briggs 1981, 69; 71-72). By the 1608 edition of the Iliad, however, Achilles' speeches in Book 1 are milder, stripped of "vindictive phrases" such as the comparison between Agamemnon and the "brute mind of a Fox" that Chapman had concocted for his 1598 Achilles (Nicoll 1998a, 513).
Chapman's discomfort with what his 1598 Agamemnon terms "contumelious wordes" is likewise reflected in his modifications to another passage in Iliad 1, the speech in which Pallas Athena seizes Achilles' sword in midair and tells him to "ceasse contention" with his adversary and instead use "words" to attack Agamemnon, "and such as may / Be bitter to his pride, but just" (Nicoll 1998a, 517; 29). In the 1598 version of the speech, Athena tells Achilles to curb his "violent furie" and "rule that part that strives, / Reprooving him with "words more safe," but it is only in the revised version of the passage that Athena's advice makes clear that Achilles should choose his words carefully, since while rhetorical combat might be preferable to physical violence, some bitter and reproving speeches are nonetheless more prudent and fitting than others (515). By 1611, Chapman's translation of the passage reveals a poet who has grown hesitant about whether verbal strife is in fact more ennobling--or indeed more prudent--than physical force. The 1598 Achilles explains his internal conflict in the opening book of the Iliad in terms of a "strife" between his "rationall and angrie parts," the former faculty urging him to "restrainc his forward mind and calme his anger's heat" while the latter urges him to "draw his wreakefull sword" against Agamemnon (514). By 1611, the stark opposition within Achilles' "devided selfe" diminishes into a somewhat murkier distinction between the "two waies" of his "discursive part," such that his internal debate about whether to kill Agamemnon or to "sit his anger out" is no longer reducible to a simple psychomachia between reason and passion and between the corresponding weapons of verbal and physical force (29).
Chapman's alterations to Achilles' speeches in Iliad 1 reflect his larger concern to identify when, and to what extent, vituperative speech arises out of irrepressible, undisciplined passion and when it is the product of a heroic "perturbation" sanctioned by right reason. The Elizabethan rhetorician Abraham Frannce, whose Arcadian Rhetorike repeatedly draws from Homer for examples of scoffing, ironic, or otherwise eristic tropes, attributes the "sharpe voice" that Achilles assumes towards Agamemnon in the opening book of the Iliad to his "bitter, angrie, cholerike, and furious" character (1950, 107-08). Yet Chapman comes to possess a more nuanced understanding of Achilles' wrath and its expression through what Homer often calls antibioisi epeessi--opposing or wrangling words. (4) Derived from anti- [against; counter] and bie [strength; force], antibios literally means counter-force, suggesting that eristic speech is a form of violence but also that it is a means of countering, or even preventing, physical force. As Chapman recognizes, eristic speech may be used for good as well as for ill: like aidos, or shame, as defined by Apollo in the final book of the Iliad, it is a "qualitie / Of so much weight that both it helpes and hurts excessively" (Nicoll 1998a, 478). When motivated by righteous indignation, the sharp words of Homer's characters exercise heroic virtue, but when motivated by baser passions such as envy or spite, they erode it.
Chapman's Ironic Homer
In a marginal note glossing the boastful vaunt delivered by Epeus, one of the competitors at Patroclus' funeral games in Iliad 23, Chapman alerts the readers of his translation to Homer's acerbic wit: "Note the sharpnes of wit in our Homer, if where you looke not for it, you can find it" (Nicoll 1998a, 470). According to Chapman, the reader can only hope to recognize the pungency of Epeus' speech if he "looke[sj not for it," an observation that demands a kind of readerly sprezzatura whose methods of attainment are puzzling if not downright impossible. His remarks on Epeus' speech consti- tute one of many marginal comments in which Chapman proves remarkably attentive to the tonal range and subtlety of the Homeric narrator as well as of certain of his characters. In a speech that is at once arrogant and full of ironic mock humility, Homer's Epeus rises to volunteer for a fist-fighting match proposed by Achilles, a contest in which the winner is to be awarded a mule and the loser a cup. Predicting his own victory even before another contestant takes up his challenge, Epeus claims the mule as his and mockingly concedes the cup to his imaginary adversary. The whole speech is a fine illustration of Aristotle's argument that eironeia and alazoneia, though apparent opposites, can at times coincide such that "mock humility does really seem to be boastfulness" (1.982a, 245). The dominant tone of Epeus' speech is one of jocular self-deprecation: at line 584 in Chapman's translation, he demurs, "I am no souldier," and yet he manages to triumph over Euryalus, an adversary described as a "man god-like" (Nicoll 1998a, 471). Epeus' speech uses just the sort of rhetoric that pseudo- Plutarch's Life of Homer has in mind when it praises Homer as a poet especially skilled in creating the irony that results when a speaker "underrates himself to create just the opposite impression" or when that speaker "pretends to praise someone else but is in fact censuring him" (1996, 135).
Most contemporary Homeric scholars would express little surprise at Chapman's assertions that Homer is a master ironist. Over the past three decades, scholars including Charles Segal, Pietro Pucci, Donald Lateiner, and Gregory Nagy (among others) have all noted the irony that courses through both of Homer's epics. And yet Chapman's interest in the ironic and scoptic dimensions of Homeric epic has received little critical attention from scholars devoted to his works. Moreover, among those few critics who have remarked upon it, Chapman's ironic interpretation of Homer proves puzzling. Millar MacLure admits that he is "unable to determine" where Chapman got the idea that Homer was such a "superb ironist," while George DeF. Lord's Homeric Renaissance, the classic study of Chapman's translation of the Odyssey, never once mentions the translator's interest in ironic epithets and speeches (MacLure 1969, 189).
In his commentaries, Chapman repeatedly claims that he is the sole reader or translator of Homer to have discovered the ironic and satirical strains in the Iliad and Odyssey. According to his familiar refrain, prior translators and editors of Homer have consistently overlooked, misinterpreted, or wrongly condemned the scoptic and ironic dimensions of Homeric epic, a claim that helps Chapman fashion himself into the only reader capable of interpreting Homer correctly. Such attempts at critical self-legitimation often lurk behind readerly claims of irony; as Joseph Dane has observed, critics and readers who claim to have discovered hitherto undetected ironies in a text often do so "in a self-serving manner and often in bad faith" in order to reappropriate "poetic authority" for themselves (1991, 11). As a poet often regarded as an eiron in his own right, and as a writer who persistently complains that he is misunderstood by the majority of his readers, Chapman's claim that he possesses the interpretive key to Homeric epic strengthens the kinship between Chapman and Homer and also allows Chapman to cast himself as his own ideal, judicial reader.
Despite his frequent assertions that he is the only reader of Homer sufficiently attuned to his satirical and ironic tones, Chapman is by no means the only sixteenth-century reader of the Iliad and the Odyssey to notice these qualities in Homeric epic. In his lectures on Homer, written in 1594 and published in 1612, the German scholar Martinus Crusius notes Agamemnon's irony in calling Achilles "agathos" [good] at Iliad 1.131, the same term of praise interpreted ironically by Chapman when, later in the Iliad, it is applied to Menelaus (1612, 91). In the preface to his unfinished translation of the Iliad, Arthur Hall contrasts Thomas Phaer's "Heroicall Virgil" to his own "Satiricall Homer," suggesting that Chapman's predecessor also detected in Homer the grim and sardonic humor that so greatly differentiates his poems from those of Virgil (Homer 1581, 25). Also among Chapman's English contemporaries, Abraham Fraunce shares his keen appreciation for the ironic and scoptic speeches of the Iliad's battle scenes. In his Arcadian Rhetorike, Fraunce cites a large number of Homeric passages as examples of ironic, witty, or derisory speech. Defining irony as a rhetorical trope that "by naming one contrarie intendeth another," Fraunce praises the "speciall grace" of irony as consisting in the kind of "jesting and merie conceipted speaches" made by Patroclus to Cebriones when the latter soldier falls off his chariot to his death in Iliad 16 (1950, 10). Like Chapman, who glosses the passage with the marginal note, "Patroclus jests at the fall of Cebriones," Fraunce regards Patroclus' speech as an example of "indignation" and "derision," even citing the speech once again in a later chapter devoted to scorn and rebuke (Nicoll 1998a, 342; Fraunce 1950, 68-69). Chapman introduces an additional undercurrent of irony into the scene by having the narrator observe that Patroclus "jested ... so neare / His owne grave death" while mocking the dying Cebriones, unaware that he, too, is shortly to die in battle (342). In Homer's Greek text, the narrator utters no such thing, although the irony of the scene is implicit in the fact that Patroclus defeats Cebriones only to be killed by Hector a hundred lines later.
The character whom Chapman interprets as drawn with Homer's most ironic brushstrokes is Menelaus, who appears throughout Chapman's commentaries as the target of scornful and mocking speech issued from other Homeric characters as well as from the Homeric narrator. The first sugges- tion that Chapman regards Homer's treatment of Menelaus as ironic appears in his commentary to Iliad 2, glossing the lines "And uncalled came Menelaus, good at the war-cry" [automatos de'oi elthe boen agathos Menelaos] (Nicoll 1998a, 70-71). Chapman takes issue with previous scholars who have translated the epithet boen agathos as 'Voce bonus" [good-voiced] or as "bello strenuus" neither of which captures the "mind of our Homer" according to Chapman, since boe does not mean voice but rather "vociferatio or clamor." Yet after establishing the literal meaning of the epithet, Chapman unravels that meaning by proposing that the description of Menelaus' voice, translated by him at Il. 2.355 as "at-a-martiall-crie," is in fact intended as a piece of irony. To read the epithet seriously, as denoting Menelaus' loud or powerful voice, demands reading Homer in a manner "straind beyond sufferance" according to Chapman, "unlesse it be ironically taken," since elsewhere in the Iliad, Homer describes Menelaus' voice as "mala ligeos, valde stridule or arguto cum stridore, ligeos being commonly and most properlie taken in the worse part, and signifieth shrillie, or noisefullie, squeaking" (71). Chapman concludes that the epithet is intended to describe Menelaus as "small, and shrill-voiced (not sweet or eloquent, as some most against the haire would have him)," an interpretation that preserves the coherence of Menelaus' character by deviating from the more literal renderings of the phrase offered by previous translators (71).
Chapman elaborates upon this interpretation of Menelaus' voice in his gloss on Book 3's more familiar contrast between the oratorical skills of Menelaus and of Odysseus, a passage that for many Renaissance readers of Homer exemplifies the poet's capacity to depict a wide range of rhetorical styles. In Chapman's translation of the passage, Menelaus' voice is described as "passing lowd, small, fast, yet did not reach / To much, being naturally borne Laconical!, nor would his humor lie for any thing" (Nicoll 1998a, 80). By contrast to Odysseus, out of whose "ample breast" pours a "great voice ... / And words that flew about our ears like drifts of winter snow," Menelaus is a terse, simple, and honest speaker whose chief rhetorical skill resides in the parrhesia, or forthrightness, that Odysseus forgoes in favor of demotes speech--the vehement, formidable, or oblique oratorical style with which he is associated by ancient literary critics including Aristotle, Demetrius, and Philostratos (80). (5) Justifying his translation of the phrase "Menelaos epitrochaden agoreue," which Latin translators have rendered as "succinic concionahatur Menelaus" Chapman protests in his commentary that "epitrochaden" does not mean succinctly, but rather "velociter, properly, modo eorum qui currunt" [quickly, in the style of those who run], such that Homer intends to depict Menelaus as a figure who "spake fast, or thicke" (89). (6) Chapman also objects to his predecessors' renderings of "alla mala ligeos," a phrase wrongly assumed to denote Menelaus' supposed clarity of speech and thus commonly translated as "sed valde acute." Chapman argues for a reading that better captures Homer's dim opinion of Menelaus, instead proposing to translate the phrase as "valde stridule, shrilly, smally, or alowd, ligeos (as I have noted before) being properly taken in the worse part and, accordingly expounded, maketh even with his simple character at all parts--his utterance being noisefull, small or squeaking, an excellent pipe for a foole" (89).
In his interpretation of these two passages describing Menelaus' voice, one of Chapman's paramount concerns is to translate Homer's poem in a manner that preserves and even enhances the coherence of the original text. According to Chapman's logic, Menelaus' voice, howsoever variously described, is always the same. If he speaks in a glib, squawking, or foolish manner in Iliad 3, then he must speak in a similar manner throughout the poem, no matter which epithets the poet uses. In order to bring Homer into agreement with himself, Chapman interprets various passages in both the Iliad and the Odyssey as ironic or mocking in tone. Far from producing ambiguity, the irony that Chapman detects in Homer's delineation of Menelaus' character is aimed at stabilizing meaning and harmonizing Homer's poetry with itself. Accordingly, Chapman boasts in his commentary to Iliad 1 that "where all others find discords and dissonances [in Homer] I prove him entirely harmonious and proportionate," a coherence that Chapman establishes, above all, by interpreting Homer ironically (Nicoll 1998a, 42). While it is a Renaissance commonplace that various episodes of Homeric epic demonstrate the "opposition of contraries as a principle derived from nature," Chapman is perhaps unique in conceiving of Homer's irony as a manifestation of this concordia discors--a means for the seemingly contradictory elements of a text to be resolved into a harmonious whole (Austin 1973, 229). James Gutsell, one of the few critics to note Chapman's interest in Homer's irony, points out that Chapman understands the irony enveloping Menelaus as a means of developing the "opposition" that must inhere in convincing and ''truly mixed" characters, characters whose "contrarieties are simultaneous and all necessary to a portrait of a full man" (1967, 16). Represented alternately and sometimes simultaneously as fool and sage, shrill-voiced and booming, coward and hero, Menelaus' character is composed out of a set of oppositions so firmly united by the knot of irony that it cannot be untied.
In keeping with his design to prove Menelaus' voice and his character stable and harmonious both within themselves and with respect to each other, Chapman mocks previous efforts to translate "Oud'haphamartoepes" a phrase that describes Menelaus' speech in Iliad 3, as "Neque in verbis peccans" fluent or faultless in his speech, a rendering which wrongly implies that "a foole were perfectly spoken; when the word here hath another sence and our Homer a farre other meaning" (Nicoll 1998a, 90). Chapman probably has in mind a meaning for haphamartoepes which is closer to its root verb haphamartano--to miss one's mark or commit hamartia; ergo, to sin. He thus proposes translating the phrase as "neque mendax erat--he would not lie by any meanes, for that affectedly he stands upon hereafter" (90). Unlike Odysseus, famously skilled at verbal evasion, Menelaus is--or at least thinks he is--a plain speaker who prides himself on his bluntness. Homer's assessment of Menelaus' speech as "never missing the mark" does not reflect his rhetorical skill but rather the affectation of honest simplicity that comes to characterize Menelaus. Regardless of the literal meaning of the epithets describing Menelaus' speech, a correct translation of the passage must take as its starting point the nature of his character, which is precisely the lesson that Chapman extracts from his gloss: "You see, then, to how extreme a difference and contrarietie the word and sence lie subject, and that without first finding the true figures of persons in this kind presented it is impossible for the best linguist living to expresse an Author trulie" (90).
Despite his acknowledgement that the intended meaning of Homer's narrator is often at odds with the literal meaning of his words, Chapman's translation of the Iliad is also motivated by the Jonsonian conviction that language most shows a man--that speech is a reliable measure of character. As Chapman sees it, the "voice or manner of utterance" of various Homeric speakers provides a "key that discovereth his wisdome or folly" (Nicoll 1998a, 89). Such an insight helps to explain why Chapman takes such care to translate accurately the tone of Homer's speakers as well as the Homeric narrator's various second-hand descriptions of the sounds and tones of voices. It also explains Chapman's concern to capture the ever-shifting tone of the poet's narrative voice--a voice that is variously ironic, sweet, vehement, or mocking, depending upon the object of its attention. In his explication of Il. 2.355, Chapman rests his interpretation on the premise that Homer is "speaking scoptically" in the verses describing Menelaus, and he argues that the passage reveals how the poet "breakes open the fountaine of his ridiculous humour" in a manner that (as Chapman boasts) has "never by anie interpreter [been] understood, or touched at" until his own commentary brought to light the "ingenious conceited person" of Homer's narrative persona (71).
Chapman by no means finds Homer to be consistently sharp-witted or ironic throughout the Iliad--elsewhere in his commentary, he chides prior translators for assuming too much uniformity in a narrative voice that registers in Chapman's ears as a harmoniously discordant mixture of gravity and levity. But he relishes identifying passages where previous translators or commentators have failed to detect the derision or irony in Homer's depiction of Menelaus. At Il. 2.356-58, Menelaus is described as coming "uncalled [automatos]" to Agamemnon, for even though "he saw his brother busily / Employd at that time," as Chapman translates the lines, he "would not stand on invitation / But of himselfe came" (Nicoll 1998a, 56-57). In his commentary on the passage, Chapman writes that while some readers "commend" Menelaus for his "unbidden coming ... to supper or Counsell," Homer's image of the annoying younger brother tagging along uninvited to Agamemnon's feast is spoken "Scoptice, or by way or irrision," a mocking portrait of Menelaus that hints at the self-absorbed folly established later in the Iliad as the hallmark of his character. According to Chapman, the lines reveal how "Homer opened the veine of his simplicitie, not so much in [Menelaus] going unbidden to supper and Counsell as the reason for it ironically rendered--that be knew his brother was busie, &c" (71-72). Like the pesky fly to which Menelaus is famously compared in Iliad 17-another passage that Chapman interprets as evidence of Homer's irrision--the passage inserts a bathetic note into the heroic gravity of Agamemnon's military affairs, making it all the more vexing to Chapman that other translators have "raced" the word automatos [unbidden], even though the "very sence of our Poet is not safe" without the inclusion of that word (72).
One defining feature of the irony Chapman detects in Homer's treatment of Menelaus is the disparity between the Spartan king's perception of himself--courageous, manly, and wise--and the narrator's contrary depiction of him as cowardly and foolish. By clarifying as ironic the derisory praise that intermittently interrupts Homer's predominantly anti-heroic handling of Menelaus, Chapman's interpretation helps to make sense of a character who might otherwise appear to be a "motley and confused man," heroic and ridiculous, and aggressive and cowering, by turns (Nicoll 1998a, 90). Commenting on Homer's use of the epithet "Areiphilos" [Ares-loving, or war-loving] to describe Menelaus at Il. 3.252, Chapman chastises those scholars who have "untrulie" translated the phrase as "bellicosus," an error inasmuch as the Latin term does not differentiate between martial skill and mere enthusiasm for war, only the latter of which is truly characteristic of Menelaus. If Menelaus is "cui Mars est cams" [he who loves Mars], according to Chapman's emended Latin rendering of the phrase, it does not necessarily follow that Mars returns the favor: Menelaus "might love the warre, and yet be no good warriour, as many love manly exercises at which they will never be good" (90). In granting Menelaus this epithet, Homer's narrator intends to describe a "vainglorious affectation in [Menelaus] rather than a solid affection," for while the man may well think himself to be bellicosus, Menelaus is Ares-loving only inasmuch as he fancies himself a formidable warrior (90).
Much of the irony that Chapman detects in Homer's treatment of Menelaus is directed towards the disparity between his perceived military prowess and his actual lack thereof. As the Trojan Pisander runs at Menelaus during the heat of battle in Iliad 13, Chapman marks as "Scoptice" the narrator's derisory apostrophe to Menelaus as he anticipates the shame of Pisander's defeat at the hands of such an unimpressive adversary: "O Menelaus, that he might by thee in dangerous warre / Be done to death" (Nicoll 1 998a, 267; my italics). Menelaus does in fact manage to kill Pisander a few lines later--even a vainglorious fool has his valorous moments--yet in Chapman's reading, Menelaus' victory in battle merely offers the Homeric narrator another opportunity to ridicule his creation. Standing over Pisander's corpse, Menelaus delivers what Chapman calls his "most ridiculous insultation," an inadvertently parodic and unheroic rendition of the boastful vaunts and "insultations" made by Homeric heroes in battle and often noted in Chapman's margins. (7) Unlike the reproaches and acerbic jests uttered by other warriors over the dead and dying bodies of their enemies, Menelaus' speech is "ridiculous" precisely because it lacks the sharp wit of the rhetorical model he is attempting to emulate. Instead, Menelaus delivers an earnest and grave speech indicting the Trojans for their insatiable love of war:
Satietie of state, Satietie of sleepe and love, satietie of ease, Of musicke, dancing, can find place, yet harsh warre still must please Past all these pleasures, even past these. They will be cloyd with these Before their warre joyes: never warre gives Troy satieties. (Nicoll 1998a, 268)
Out of context, there is nothing intrinsically "ridiculous" about the speech; indeed, quite a few Renaissance writers cite the passage as a stirring testimony to Homer's distaste for war, a speech akin to Achilles' poignant complaint about the futility of eris, or strife, delivered at the beginning of Iliad 18. Yet Chapman nonetheless sees Menelaus'"lame reproofe" as further evidence of the "continuance" of his "ridiculous character," both because he fails to duplicate the testosterone-laden flyting matches typical of the Iliad's battle scenes and also because there is something singularly inappropriate about Menelaus--the vainglorious, Ares-loving cuckold whose wayward wife was the prime catalyst for the Trojan war--complaining about the Trojans' unslakeable appetite for war (277).
The ridiculousness of the speech is compounded for Chapman by Menelaus' threat to the Trojans that Zeus will destroy them for "ravishing my goods and wife, in flowre of all her yeares" (Nicoll 1998a, 268). Calling Helen his "kouridien alochon"--a phrase that Sponde translates as "virginem uxorem" [virginal wife], Menelaus is "ingeniously" shown to be a fool by Homerwhen he voices his belief that "he married a virgin" (268). Answering the objections of previous translators that Helen was not, in fact, a virgin when she married Menelaus--according to a number of post-Homeric myths, Helen was raped by Theseus before marrying Menelaus--Chapman scoffs at those readers who are "so simple to thinke that the Poet thinketh alwaies as he maketh others speake," especially since it is "no verie strange or rare credulitie in men to beleeve they marrie maids when they do not" (277). Yet instead of recognizing the passage as a jibe at Menelaus' "good husbandly imagination of his wive's maidenhead," according to Chapman, other editors and commentators twist "ropes of sand" as they debate whether Homer was familiar with the story of Theseus' ravishment of Helen, or whether the poet should be "taxed with ignorance" for calling Helen a virgin when she was not (277). In contradistinction to the excessively erudite and complicated glosses provided by other scholars, Chapman's solution is deliciously simple. Menelaus believes that he married a virgin; Homer--and his more judicious readers--laugh at the unwitting cuckold in their superior knowledge that he did not.
Such claims of irony allow Chapman to clarify passages that prior scholars have deemed obscure or corrupt. According to Chapman's comemntary, the "intelligencing knowledge" that other sixteenth-century scholars bring to Homeric epic only obfuscates the text further in its excessive reliance on arcane learning rather than on the common sense needed to recognize the "true simplicitie" of Menelaus' character. Yet despite Chapman's protests that Homer could not have made "plainer this good King's simplicity," he also suggests that Homer's ironic treatment of Menelaus is a deliberate ruse to trap unwary readers (Nicoll 1998a, 278). In a gloss on the passage concerning Menelaus' appraisal of his wife's sexual innocence, Chapman describes the poet's occasional "slaughters ... and wise words" as "mists our Homer casteth before the eyes of his Readers, that hindereth their prospects to his more constant and predominant softnesse and simplicitie" (278). When he turns to explain Homer's perplexing use of of the epithet agathos [good] in reference to Menelaus, Chapman praises how "ingeniously Homer giveth him [Menelaus] still some colour of reason for his senselesnesse, which colour yet is enough to deceive our Commentors," but he quickly becomes exasperated with his self-appointed task to "make clear a thing plaine" for those readers unable to detect the irony of the epithet. Declaring that "I am weary with beating this thin thicket for a woodcocke," Chapman's metaphor suggests that the Iliad is--at least by contrast to his own, "strange" Poems--a "perviall" or transparent text whose meanings can be detected with ease even by a "Simplician" (278). Chapman's claim that Homer's irony is obvious--or, rather, obvious to those few readers capable of discerning it--helps to explain his gloss on Epeus' speech in Iliad 23, a passage whose irony is evident only to those readers who "looke not" for it.
Unlike allegory, whose deeper meanings are partially submerged under a veil or transenna, irony hides in plain sight. Either wholly visible or wholly invisible, irony demands none of the digging or "deep searching" that Chapman deems necessary for readers to grasp the meaning of his own lyric poems of the 1590s, poems such as Ovids Banquet of Sence and The Shadow of Night. Yet Chapman imagines his own, ideal readers--the "serching spirits" whose "radiant, and light-bearing intellect" allows them to "passe through Corynnas Garden without the helpe of a Lanterne"--in terms similar to those in which he imagines Homer's ideal reader (1941, 49). In his preface to The Shadow of Night, Chapman complains about those readers who wish that he would "prostitutely shew them" the "secrets" of his poetry, when "she [i.e., Chapman's poetic skill] will scarcely be lookt upon by others but with invocation, fasting, watching" (19). As with Epeus' speech, it is not enough that the reader detect the poet's underlying irony but that he does so without effort. In his Homeric commentaries, Chapman fashions himself into precisely this kind of reader--a reader able to discern meanings that are utterly obvious to him while at the same time hopelessly opaque to others.
Remarking upon how prior translators such as Lorenzo Valla and Eobanus Hessus have misconstrued a line in Iliad 14, Chapman defends Homer against the charge that he ought to make himself clear to "every vulgar reader's understanding" and instead praises the Greek poet as a "great master of all elocution [who] hath written so darkly that almost three thousand sunnes have not discovered him, no more in five hundred places than here--and all perviall enough (you may well say) which such a one as I comprehend them" (Nicoll 1998a, 295). In his mock-humble boast that even the most obscure passages of the Iliad are "perviall"--easily seen through--by him, Chapman bolsters his interpretive authority not by claiming for himself a special exegetical gift for unfolding the mysteries revealed in Homer but rather by claiming that there are no such mysteries to unfold--in other words, that reading Homer is obvious and easy, if only to those rare souls who share his wit and intellect. Chapman makes little effort to conceal the self-congratulatory implications of such a claim, writing that "where a man is understood," it is by virtue of "a proportion betwixt the writer's wit and the writee's" (295). Bound together by their superior intellect and outlook, Homer and Chapman gaze down at a mob of puzzled readers from the lofty perch of the ironist, a perspective that Wayne Booth has aptly termed "the snotty sublime" (1974, 211).
Chapman's self-proclaimed status as a "knowing and judiciall interpreter" of Homer rests largely upon his methods as a translator (Nicoll1998a, 17). In order to capture the scoffing and derisory spirit of particular speeches and episodes, Chapman explains that he deviates from the "literal interpretation" favored by earlier translators and justifies the resulting "circumlocution" of his own translation in an idiom normally associated with allegory, rather than irony. By translating according to the spirit and not the letter, Chapman claims to uncover the "mysteries / Reveal'd in Homer," mysteries that lesser "Clerkes" and "Grammarians" cannot solve because they insist upon adhering to word-for-word translations that fail to "search" Homer's "deepe and treasurous hart" (9-10). His suspicion that a speech's tone may be a more reliable index of its true meaning than its actual words prompts Chapman to inveigh against the "superfluitie" of translators whose "innovations" to Homer's text render its meaning "utterly false," though for Chapman, such an "overplus" of meaning is usually the product of literal, rather than "paraphrasticall," translation. By contrast, Chapman claims that his own, circumlocutory methods offer a more effective means of preserving Homer's intended meaning. This is the principle that motivates Chapman's interpretation, of Helens speech to Aphrodite in Iliad 3, in which "Helen ... bids her renounce heaven and come live with Paris till he make her his wife or servant" (17). Chapman finds the speech to be "scoptically or scornefully" spoken, even though "Valla, Eobanus [Hessus], and all other interpreters (but these ad verbum) have utterly mist" (17). (8) Since ironic and scoptic attitudes are discernible only in the tone, and not in the actual words, of a speech, a translator who aims at superficial accuracy runs the risk of letting irony slip away.
Yet for all his boasts to reveal Homer's mysteries, Chapman shows little interest in the kind of sustained allegorical interpretation favored by many Renaissance readers and translators of Homer. Few of his marginal notes posit the sort of underlying philosophical or theological frameworks that other sixteenth-century readers such as Jean Dorat or Conrad Gesner regard as all-pervasive in Homer's poems. Moreover, unlike the vast majority of Homer's allegorical readers, Chapman's oft-stated aim is to unearth and preserve the poet's original intent, a goal often, if not always, at cross-purposes with the hermeneutic methods and aims of the allegorist. The motives driving Chapman's methods are not, however, as noble or as objective as they might appear. Attacking Chapman for his "ironical" interpretation of Menelaus as a "character of ridicule and simplicity" in his own commentary to Iliad 3, Alexander Pope paints Chapman's ironic interpretation of Homer as a means of bolstering his critical authority by casting himself as the sole figure capable of dispersing the mists obscuring the true Homer: "This is one of the mysteries which that translator boasts to have found in Homer," Pope scoffs, arguing that Chapman's reading is "in no way consistent with the art of the Poet, to draw [Menelaus] ... in such a manner as no regard should be conceiv'd for him; we must endeavor to rescue him from this misinterpretation" (1996, 166). This is not to suggest that Pope detects no irony in the Iliad: in the "Poetical Index" at the end of his own translation, Pope divides the poem's speeches into six categories, including "In the Vituperative Kind," in the "irony or sarcasm," and "speeches to horses," and his lengthy list of ironic speeches includes many passages also deemed ironic by Chapman (1169-70).
But Pope's wish to recuperate the dignity of Menelaus' character from his predecessor's "ironical" interpretation suggests that Chapman is far more comfortable with the persistently anti-heroic strains of Homeric epic than is his Augustan counterpart. Throughout his commentaries, Chapman seizes upon similes, epithets, and speeches which, if interpreted in the correct (that is, Chapman's) light, have the cumulative effect of turning the Iliad and Odyssey into satirical, deflationary, mock-epic works. Such a stance is particularly apparent in Chapman's gloss on Il. 17.488-89, where the narrator describes how Athena, rousing the Achaean troops, fills Menelaus' knees "liberally / With swiftnesse, breathing in his breast the courage of a flie" (Nicoll 1998a, 363). In his commentary, Chapman mocks previous translators for assuming the comparison between Menelaus and a fly to be in earnest: "all his interpreters ridiculously laugh at [this simile] in Homer, as if he heartily intended to praise Menelaus by it, not understanding his Ironie here, agreeing with all the other sillinesse noted in his character" (370). Unable to fathom why Homer would wish to compare one of his heroes to a fly, Eobanus Hessus "leaves it utterly out," while Sponde, "disliking Homer with the rest in this Simile," conceals his perplexity with a scholarly flourish by quoting a passage from Lucian's "merry Encomium of a Flie" but nonetheless neglects to point out that Lucian's mock encomium is itself indebted to Homer. By contrast, Chapman recognizes Lucian and his praiseworthy fly as Homeric in its spirit and origins, a work "answered in the Ironie to be understood in Homer (he laughing at all men so ridiculous)." Even Eustathius, normally attentive to the satirical and ironic dimensions of Homer, fails to make sense of the line, instead proposing to emend the word tharsos [courage; boldness] to thrasos, the latter term also signifying audacity or courage in either a positive or a negative sense. Eustathius' proposed solution merely raises a host of new questions for Chapman "of which I see not the end," and so he stands his ground against the mob of "great Clerks" who "are perplext and abuse Homer" rather than admit their confusion (370).
Pope's mockery of Chapman's boast to have discovered the "mysteries" of Homer in the poet's irony captures the self-congratulatory, arrogant tone evident throughout Chapman's commentaries. In an effort to emulate Homer's own irony, Chapman adopts an intermittently ironic tone in his prefaces and glosses, often lavishing upon his readers an insincere praise that thinly veils his contempt. In a verse preface to the reader first printed in his 1608 edition of the Iliad, Chapman lauds the scholarship of the "great Clarkes" who have preceded him but then annotates his margins with the word "Ironice," the very same term that alerts readers to the ironic passages in his translation of the Iliad (Nicoll 1998a, 9). By attuning readers to his own tonal shifts, Chapman reveals his expectation that certain of those readers will fail to detect Homer's--or his own--irony without his assistance.
Such a technique is rooted in Homer's deployment of irony, for not every character in the Iliad and the Odyssey is equally attuned to the tonal registers of ironic and scoptic speech. Not surprisingly, Menelaus is the most frequent and the most oblivious target of veiled insults delivered either by the narrator or by his fellow characters. As a character noted for speaking oud'haphamartoepes--clearly simply, or without digression or rhetorical embellishment--Menelaus is unable either to utter or to detect in the utterances of others the ambiguous or insincere praise that defines ironic speech in Homeric epic. After he rails against Antilochus in Iliad 23 in what Chapman calls a "ridiculous speech for conclusion of his character," Menelaus becomes the unwitting victim of Antilochus' sharp wit, though Chapman courteously marks the "ironicall reply" of Nestor's son in his margins so that his readers might recognize what Menelaus does not (468). Scolded by Menelaus for cheating in the chariot race and knocking him into the dust, Antilochus responds to the accusation with eloquent but disingenuous praise as he begs Menelaus' forgiveness:
You more in age And more in excellence, know well the outraies that engage All yong men's actions; sharper wits but duller wisdomes still From us flow than from you. (Nicoll 1998a, 468)
Apparently concerned that the reader might misconstrue Antilochus' "ironicall reply" as a sincere apology, Chapman marks two additional places in the ensuing fifteen lines where he detects irony. The first occurs when Antilochus concedes his prize to Menelaus: with mock-deference, Nestor's son tells his elder that "I rather wish to be enjoyn'd your favor's top to clime / Than to be falling all my time from height of such a grace" (Nicoll 1998a, 469). The second occurs when the narrator describes Menelaus' joy upon receiving Antilochus' prize--and his praise--by comparing the stirrings of his heart to ears of corn waving in the breeze:
it rejoyc't him so That, as corne-eares shine with the dew, yet having time to grow When fields set all their bristles up, in such a ruffle wert thou, O Menelaus. ... (Nicoll 1998a, 469)
Just as he remains blissfully unaware of Antilochus' insincerity, Menelaus is the equally unwitting victim of what Chapman calls this "meerly Ironicall" simile, one of several similes noted in his glosses as an example of blame disguised as praise. At Iliad 17.588 and following, Chapman draws attention to another simile containing a similarly veiled insult: "casting round his eye" in battle, Menelaus is likened to an Eagle who spies a "light-foote Hare" in the "leavie forme of humble shrubs" below her, "which straight she stoupes, trusses, and strikes dead" (365). While comparison to an eagle might appear to reflect well on Menelaus, Chapman argues that "[t]he sport Homer makes with Menelaus is here likewise confirmed and amplified in another Simile, resembling him intentionally to a harefinder," an image intended to capture not his "magnanimitie and valour" but rather the ridiculous way in which he "looks about, leering like a hare-finder" as he assists Ajax and the other Achaean troops in battle (370-71). It is for similar reasons, Chapman adds, that Homer calls Menelaus "malachos aichmetes, mollis bellator" [soft spearman; soft warrior], an epithet no doubt intended to cast aspersions on the cuckold's sexual prowess as well as on his martial skill.
Double Vision: Irony and the Sacred
Twice in his commentary on the Odyssey, Chapman identifies Menelaus as the unwitting target of the narrator's irony, a vulnerability that also highlights Menelaus' inability to grasp and interpret divine truths. As Menelaus recounts his encounter with Proteus during his homeward voyage from Troy in Odyssey 4, Chapman marks as "ironice" the passage in which Menelaus describes the "huge exploit" he is obliged to undertake by Proteus' daughter Idothea before she instructs him in how to entrap her shape-shifting father. Forced to disguise themselves by donning the skins of "sea-calves," Menelaus and his crew are so "afflicted" by the "nastie whale-smell" that Eidothea "preserves" them by anointing their nostrils with "Ambrosia" in order to dispel the "sowre" odor (Nicoll 1998b, 74). It is easy to see how Chapman might have found humor in Menelaus' account of his adventure--the image of the Spartan king huddled under a stinking whale-skin is not exactly a labor worthy of Hercules, and the whole account reads like a bathetic version of Odysseus' subsequent deception of Polyphemus, in which he and his men escape from the cave by concealing themselves under the (presumably less putrid) bellies of the Cyclops' sheep. The irony detected by Chapman only becomes fully evident towards the end of the scene, however, when Menelaus manages to seize Proteus and extract a prophecy from the reluctant god. Told by Proteus that he will "never see thy friends, nor tred / Thy Countrie's earth" unless he returns to Egypt and makes a sacrifice to Zeus, Menelaus complains that it is a rather long way back to Egypt and insteadurges the sea-god to tell him which of his fellow Greeks have survived the journey home from Troy (75). Proteus scolds the "curious" Menelaus for trying to exceed the "proper limits" of human knowledge:
Cease To aske so farre; it fits thee not to be So cunning in thine owne calamitie. Nor seeke to learne what, learnd, thou shouldst forget. Men's knowledges have proper limits set,l And should not prease into the mind of God. (Nicoll 1998b, 75)
In the brief exchange that follows, Menelaus learns virtually nothing from Proteus, and the whole episode reflects rather poorly on him, all the more so since he prefaces the tale of his malodorous exploit by promising to "impart" to Telemachus all the "oracles ... /Disclosde to me" by Proteus, telling the son who has come to Sparta in search of his father that he will relate "[t]he truth directly" as he received it from the mouth of the "old and still-true-spoken God" (71). But Menelaus fails to see that, while Proteus tells the truth, he tells it slant. Unlike Odysseus' later encounter with the prophet Tiresias, Menelaus does not recognize that the prophecy he receives is partial, ambiguous, and subject to his own, foolish misinterpretation.
Chapman interprets the task assigned to Menelaus by Eidothea and Proteus--to cloak himself in a smelly whale-skin and retrace his steps back to Egypt--as fit humiliation for a character regarded as a fool and simpleton by the Homeric narrator. Chapman's classification of the episode as ironic also casts Menelaus' misinterpretation of Proteus' prophecy as an allegory of misreading, a parable about the traps laid by Homeric irony and the difficulty involved in seizing control of the text's shape-shifting meanings. In a hand-signed dedication copy of his 1624 Crowne of all Homers Workes, presented by Chapman to Henry Reynolds, the author of Mythomystes, the translator advises Reynolds that "if at first sighte he [Homer] seme darcke or too fierie," the reader must "hold him fast (like Proteus) till he appears in his proper similitude and he will then shewe himself," albeit only to the perspicacious reader (MacLure 1969, 204). Although Menelaus does manage to grasp hold of Proteus so that the god assumes his proper shape, a feat Chapman likens to the method required to grasp Homer's own "darcke" and Protean text, Menelaus then misconstrues Proteus' prophecy in a manner similar to those readers who fail to detect the ironies arising out of the "variant" and Protean nature of Homeric epic. Like the "perviall" reader unable to penetrate multiple and shifting layers of meaning, Menelaus is blinded by his adherence to the erroneous belief that the truths revealed by prophecy are clear and univocal, rather than variegated and riddling.
Menelaus' inability to interpret divine prophecy makes him the unwitting victim of Homer's irony once again in Odyssey 15, when, in the middle of a feast honoring Telemachus' departure from Sparta, a portent appears in the form of an eagle soaring through the air while carrying a goose in its claws. With the same feigned humility he uses to address the Spartan king during the funeral games of Patroclus, Nestor's son Antilochus asks Menelaus to venture an interpretation of the omen: "Jove-kept King, /Yeild your grave thoughts, if this ostentfull thing / (This Eagle and this Goose) touch us or you?" (Nicoll 1998b, 264). Although Menelaus "put[s] to study" to solve the enigmatic portent, he finds himself stumped; unable to "give fit answer," he is rescued by Helen, who takes it upon herself to "play the Prophet's part" and provide "[t]h'ostent's solution," interpreting it as a sign that Odysseus, symbolized by the eagle, is shortly to return home to avenge the wrongs of "those house-fed woo'rs" represented by the well-fed, "houshold" goose (264). Yet Chapman's marginal note facing the passage detects another, ironic, significance to the prophecy in Antilochus' demand that Menelaus offer his interpretation of the omen. Glossing the lines, "Nestor's sonne to Menelaus--his Ironicall question continuing still Homer's Character of Menelaus," Chapman draws attention to Antilochus' wry implication that the portent might pertain to or "touch" not Odysseus but Menelaus himself, the "Jove-kept king" caricatured in the figure of an over-fed, trussed up goose, helpless in the sharp talons of Antilochus' wit (264). Unable either to interpret the omen or to recognize Antilochus' thinly veiled insult, Menelaus is once again cast by Chapman as the consummate misreader, blind to the multiple senses of an ambiguous portent and to Antilochus'"Ironicall question," both of which elude his simple-minded nature.
In this episode, as in several others, Chapman recognizes that Homeric epic generates irony out of the conflict between disparate perspectives--the gulf between the poet's perspective and that of his characters, between wisdom and folly, or between divine and mortal points of view. Gutsell has argued that the principal irony staged by Chapman's own dramatic works is an "irony of self-deception and of consequential self-defeat," and such a reading is confirmed by Chapman's interpretation of Menelaus, which identifies the Spartan king as the frequent victim of textual ironies that envelop and yet remain invisible to him (1967, iv). Chapman's reading of Menelaus acknowledges the grim humor that emerges out of the schism between divine and mortal worlds, an interpretation "which anticipates the arguments of recent Homeric scholars such as Kenneth Seeskin and Leon Golden, who regard the "unbridgeable alienation of the gods from human beings" as one of the chief sources of comedy and dramatic irony in the Odyssey (Seeskin 1977; Golden 1990, 57).
Elizabethan and Jacobean rhetorical treatises such as Henry Peacham's Garden of Eloquence define irony as a rhetorical device that chastises vice "with the sharpe edge of contrarie comparison" in order to compel its audience to recognize the "great difference between what he is, and what he ought to be" (1936, 36; 24-25). Peacham's definition of irony as a trope that exposes and corrects faults by means of "opposing contraries"--and hence that sets into relief the disparity between what we are and what we should be--captures the "double vision" that is one of the chief features of irony for many Elizabethan and Jacobean writers (Booth 1974, 128). Chapman's Homeric commentaries reveal an especially refined understanding of how irony sets into opposition clashing perspectives in order to produce a redoubled and divided perspective. This is the very perspective afforded to Chapman by the spirit of Homer in Euthymiae Raptus, a poem that accompanied the 1609 translation of the Iliad and was presented by its translator to Henry, Prince of Wales. When Homer's spirit appears to Chapman at the beginning of the poem, the Greek poet teaches his acolyte to see humankind as simultaneously "divine, / And horrid ... as he should shine, / And as he doth" (1941, 174). In his Homeric translations, Chapman persistently identifies the Homeric simile as a key instrument for creating the double vision associated with this brand of irony. As an oxymoronic structure--a syntactic unit built out of the juxtaposition between high and low or between jarringly different arenas of human experience--the Homeric simile unites contraries in a maimer that sets into relief the disparate perspectives from which the poems' events are experienced. Richard Buxton is one of several recent Homeric scholars who has observed the frequency with which the setting or substance of Homer's similes contradicts, rather than complements, the main narrative of the poems such that the Homeric simile "stands in a relationship of complicatedly ironical inversion of that main narrative" (2004, 149). This ironic and topsy-turvy potential of the Homeric simile appeals immensely to Chapman, who singles out for the highest praise one particular simile, from Iliad 12, in which the narrator compares two enemies locked in an even fight to the movements of a spinster weaving a web, balancing in her hand the "weights and wooll, till both in just paise stand" (Nicoll 1998a, 251). In his margins, Chapman celebrates the simile as a means of "comparing mightiest things with meanest, and the meanest illustrating the mightiest," and he explains how the image permits apparent contraries to "both mee[t] in one end" and thus produces the concordia discors for which "our Homer is beyond comparison and admiration" (251).
Chapman's interpretation of this simile contributes to an ongoing literary-critical dispute concerning the decorum--or rather the indecorum--of the Homeric simile that originated in antiquity. In On Style, Demetrius observes that similes, metaphors and other tropes of comparison should "compare the smaller [mikra] to the greater [meizonon], not the reverse," singling out Homer's comparison between "heaven resounding" and a "resounding trumpet" at Il. 13.388 as one such example of an inappropriate simile which produces "triviality [mikroprepeian] rather than grandeur [megethos]" (Demetrius 1995, 403). Yet the author of the On the Sublime cites the very same lines from the Iliad--"Blared round about like a trumpet the firmament vast"--as an example of the terror and grandeur that mark Homer as a master of poetic sublimity (Longinus 1995, 189). In his eagerness to prove that Homeric similes do not "breach the canons of propriety [to prepon]" so long as the reader interprets them correctly, Chapman clearly sides with the author of On the Sublime, even finding evidence of Homer's sublimity in the topsy-turvy upheavals that other early modern readers often deem breaches of decorum (Longinus 1995, 189). Moreover, Chapman's elevation of the scoptical and ridiculous elements of Homeric epic to their own peculiar form of sublimity might reflect the influence of Demetrius, who declares Homer to have been "the first to invent the grim joke" [proios te eurekenai dokei phoberas charitas], since his "jesting adds to the fear" [paizon phoberoteros esti], the terror [deinos], and the forcefulness [emphasis] of speeches such as Polyphemus ironic promise that "No-man I will eat last" (Demetrius 1995, 429, quoting Od. 9.369-70; compare Demetrius 1995,499-501).
In the margins of his translation of Odyssey 8, Chapman cites, almost verbatim, a passage from Plato's Phaedrus in his gloss on Demodocus' account of Hephaestus' entrapment of Ares and Aphrodite, an episode whose low, comic dimensions have prompted many ancient and Renaissance commentators to attempt to redeem the scene by interpreting it as a cosmic allegory about the union of love and strife. As Hephaestus loosens the net binding the adulterous couple and they flee, laughing, Chapman remarks, "This is to ta mikra megalos, &c. Parva magne dicere; grave sentence out of lightest vapor" (Nicoll 1.998b, 141). In his speech on love in the Symposium, Agathon glosses his account of the amorous follies of the Olympian gods in a similar manner, concluding his summary of the entrapment of Ares and Aphrodite by stating that "I have done my best to mingle amusement [paidias] with a decent gravity [spoudes]" (Plato 1967,160-61). Agathon's remarks echo those of Aristotle, who identifies Homer as both a tragic and a comic poet and as a writer capable of mixing the "serious" [spoudaia] and the "laughable" [to geloion] (1995, 40-41). Yet in citing the Phaedrus rather than the Symposium, Chapman invokes the Platonic motif of mingling jest and earnest from a rather odd context, since in the Phaedrus, the phrase in question appears in the midst of Socrates' condemnation of the sophists Gorgias and Tisias, who "make small things seem great and great things small by the power of their words" [smikra megala kai ta megala smikra phainesthai poiousin dia romen logou] (Plato 1990, 538-39). As Chapman interprets the passage--and as Plato's Socrates may have covertly and playfully wished it to be interpreted--the rhetorical technique of making the great seem little and the little seem great belongs not only to the Sophists but also to Socrates himself, an eiron who specializes in that brand of irony called spoudaiogeloion--literally, serious laughter, or "speaking the truth under a jest" (Grant 1924, 20). In the Gorgias, for instance, Socrates is repeatedly asked whether he is serious [spoudazei] or joking [paizei], a question to which he never provides an entirely satisfactory response (Plato 1967, 378-79). While Plato's dialogues condemn, at least on the surface, the gioco-serious attitude of sophists such as Gorgias, Socrates' mastery or spoudaiogeloion aligns him with Gorgias, the rhetor whom Aristotle praises for the dignified irony that consists in opposing or "confound [ing] [enantion] his opponents' earnest with jest [spouden ... geloti] and their jest with earnest [gelota spoude]" (1982b, 466-67).
Arguing in favor of an ironic interpretation of Ovids Banquet of Sence, Darryl Gless has argued that Chapman's ironic treatment of his Ovidian hero in that poem is inseparable from his belief that "poetry speaks its divine truths enigmatically" (1979, 21-22). In his translation of Homer, too, Chapman regards the scoffing and ironic tones that dominate both the Iliad and the Odyssey as a mark of Homer's divine inspiration, an inspiration that affords the poet superior access to hidden truths and a godly perspective on human affairs. Adapting an image from Angelo Poliziano's Ambra, a poem upon which he relies heavily throughout his Homeric translations, one of Chapman's dedicatory epistles to the Odyssey imagines Homer gazing down scornfully at his readers and critics from above: "He sits and laughs, to see the jaded Rabble, / Toile to his hard heights" (Chapman 1941, 406; compare Poliziano 2004, 72-73). This attitude of mocking superiority not only fuels Chapman's similarly lofty disdain towards those readers who lack the "judiciall" perspective to discern the irony in his own poems but also demonstrates his recognition of the kinship between Homer's predilection for mockery and that of his Olympian gods, figures who assert their superiority over each other, as well as over the mortals beneath them, by means of ironic or scoffing speech.
Chapman also regards Homer's ironic wit as evidence of his own initiation into Homer's sacred mysteries. At times, he conceives of his own experience as a reader and translator of Homer in almost Eleusinian terms: a select group of readers--perhaps so select as to include only Chapman himself--are chosen, purified through ritual, and finally allowed to enter the innermost sanctum of Homeric epic, an adytum that both contains and symbolizes the secret, and secretly ironic, barbs of the Homeric narrator. At the beginning of his commentary on the Iliad, Chapman explains that he "dissent[s] from all other Translators and Interpreters" of Homer, especially in those places where the poet's "divine rapture" eludes the "capacitie" of those "Grammatical Crticks" unable to discern "the inward sense or soule of the Sacred Muse" visible only to a kindred "Poetical] spirit" such as Chapman himself (Nicoll 1998a, 42). In some verses addressed to the reader, first printed in the 1608 edition of his Iliad, Chapman likens the act of translating Homer to a purification ritual, one akin to the "holy Rites" administered by the Delphic priests of Apollo (1941, 390). Echoing Poliziano, whose Manto cautions that "no prophane persons invade the sacred precincts" [Ad haec nulli permmpant sacra projani] of Virgil's poetry, Chapman instructs his readers to "[w]ash here," at the cleansing font of his prefatory verses, "[l]est with foule hands you touch these Holy Rites" before completing the initiation necessary to enter the "Porch to [Homer's] numerous Phane" and to "[h]eare ancient Oracles speake" through his poetry (Nicoll 1998a, 7; Poliziano 2004, 28-29). Chapman's discernment of Homer's irony places him on a level with the narrator but also with the Homeric gods, gods whose capacity for ironic and scoptic speech grants these tropes a pious, sacred dimension. In both the Iliad and the Odyssey, Chapman marks as ironic or scoptic a number of passages in which the Homeric gods use such tropes to voice their superiority, their invulnerability, or their bemused indifference to the suffering of the mortals beneath them. By locating irony in Homer's dramatization of the radical disparity between gods and mortals--a disparity frequently acknowledged by contemporary Homeric scholars such as Howard Clarke and Kenneth Seeskin as capable of producing a grim kind of humor--Chapman's interpretation identifies scoptic and ironic speech as the privileged license of the Homeric gods shared only by a small cabal of poets and readers (Clarke 1969; Seeskin 1977). Homer's mortal characters are frequently punished by the gods for appropriating these divine privileges of sarcasm and verbal abuse. Athena afflicts the Odyssey's suitors with a case of uncontrollable laughter as fit punishment for their scoffing ways, while in Iliad 5, Apollo chastises Diomedes after the Greek soldier wounds Aphrodite and rebukes Sthenelus: "What? Not yeeld to Gods? Thy equals learne to know: / The race of Gods is farre above men creeping here below" (Nicoll 1998b, 359; 1998a, 121). According to Daniel Levine, Homeric laughter may be a sign of "presumed eminence," as is the case with Penelope's suitors, but it may also denote a "real ... physical or moral superiority," as is the case with the Homeric gods, whose superior strength and wisdom entitle them to indulge in laughter and mirth even when witnessing the tragedies that play out on the mortal arena below (1983, 97-98). The Olympian gods also enjoy greater license to censure and rebuke each other with the kind of "sharpe jest" that Athena andHera, angered by Paeon's instant cure of the wounded goddess of love, make at Aphrodite's expense. In a passage marked "Scoptice" by Chapman, the two goddesses "quit [Zeus'] late-made mirth" by teasing Aphrodite that her wound was inflicted not by Diomedes but by the "golden claspe" of a girdle worn by "those Grecian Dames," a joke that elicits a smile in Zeus before he resorts to a little teasing of his own, telling Aphrodite to steer clear of "those rough workes of warre" (Nicoll 1998a, 120-21).
Chapman also recognizes the laughter and smiles of the Homeric gods as the visible sign of their superior power and wisdom. During the theo-machy in Iliad 21, Athena "insults over Mars," according to Chapman's marginal note, when she defeats him in battle. As the god of war tumbles to earth, his dusty body landing on "seven Acres land," she "laugh[s]" and taunts him with a scoffing speech before Aphrodite helps him to his feet:'"O thou foole," Athena cries out,"yet hast thou not bene taught / To know mine eminence? Thy strength opposest thou to mine?" (Nicoll 1998a, 433). Accompanied by the kind of scoffing or ironic barbs also exchanged between Homer's mortal combatants, the cartoon-like violence of the Homeric gods underscores the profound difference between human and divine conflict. In the mortal arena of war, verbal abuse precedes and anticipates physical violence; in the divine arena, verbal attacks supplement and even replace physical combat, since while the Homeric gods are invulnerable to permanent bodily harm, they are not immune to the passions stirred by sarcastic or scornful speech. This is why Zeus so often exerts his supremacy by way of scoffing or threatening words. At the end of Book 8's "dreadfull speech," in which Zeus threatens to cast his fellow gods down to the depths of Barathrum, he smiles at Athena and tells her to "[b]e confident," since "I speake not this with serious thoughts, but will be kind to thee" (167). Yet when his command is ignored by Pallas and Hera, who intervene on the Greek side only to be met by the threat of his thunderbolt, Zeus chastises his wife and daughter in a speech marked "Scoptice" by Chapman. "'Why do you thus torment your selves?,'" Zeus asks them, counseling that '"You need not sit dismaid / With the long labours you have usd in your victorious fight, / Destroying Troyans,'" since, as Zeus then teases them, if they had "held [their] glorious course," not even the entire "host of Deities" could have "retir'd" his hand against the two goddesses,"'[b]ut thunder would have smit you both had you one Troyan slaine'" (177-78).
Zeus' reliance upon ironic debasement in order to exert his authority is often accoompanied by a smile, a gesture that the pseudo-Plutarchan Life of Homer associates with the trope of sarcasmos, a "form of irony" [eidos eironeias] expressed when "someone, with a feigned smile, reviles another by saying the contrary" (1996, 137; Knox 1989, 177). Often etymologized by sixteenth- century lexicographers as deriving from sarkos [flesh] or sarkizo [to rip or tear the flesh], sarcasm is an effective weapon in Homer's rhetorical arsenal, and it is a device often noted by Eustathius, who associates it with barus, the Hermogenean form that denotes bitter or scornful speech. Like the author of the pseudo-Plutarchan Life of Homer, Eustathius associates sarcasmos with the distinctively Homeric gesture of the Sardanian (or Sardonian) smile, a metaphor of obscure origins at times rendered as "Sardinian" by those who trace its roots to a Sardinian plant whose leaves are so bitter that they elicit a grimace when eaten. In a gloss on Od. 20.302, where Odysseus quietly resists the verbal and physical provocation of the suitor Ctesippus by "smiling in his heart a most grim and bitter smile" [meidese de thumo / sardanion mala toion], Eustathius explains that the Sardonian smile is distinguished by a stiffness or affectation in the lips, as is also the case when Hera laughs at Zeus at II. 15.103, her lips tensely pursed and her forehead furrowed with indignation (1960, 3:707; Nicoll 1998b, 357). (9) Both examples of smiling and laughter conceal the scorn and derision fueling them, a quality that leads some antique and Renaissance commentators to define Sardonian laughter as simulated or feigned. (10) As Donald Lateiner has pointed out in his study of non-verbal gestures in Homeric epic, while the Odyssey's suitors laugh loudly and with gusto, Odysseus "only smiles, and sometimes only inwardly" such that the "involuted" smiles he makes at Od. 18.395-96 and again at Od. 20.299-302 "heighte[n] [the] ironies" of the poem by concealing Odysseus' emotions as well as his plans for vengeance (1995, 12; 184 note 14).
While only sometimes understood as feigned or insincere, Sardonian laughter is regularly identified by Renaissance writers as a particularly scornful and derisive kind of laughter. Erasmus' adage Risus Sardonicus, Joubert's Traite du Ris, and later treatises on the passions gloss the tense-lipped laughter of various Homeric characters as signs of bitterness, mockery, arrogance, or derision (Erasmus 1969, 11:5, 289-97; Joubert 1980, 88-89; Goclenius 1597, 26). According to Jossius Nicander, whose De Risu et Fletu [On Laughter and Tears] was printed with Antonius Politianus' treatise on the same subject in 1603, Sardonian laughter results from the "opposition of contraries" [oppositoru(m) contrariu(m)qu(e)], a principle evident in Chapman's translation of the passage describing Hera's laugh at the beginning of Iliad 15 1603, 346-47). As she takes her place "displeasedly" in the Olympian council, Hera joins the other gods in "[b]ewraying privie splenes at Jove," sublimating her anger into a spiteful, partially submerged chuckle:
and then (to colour all) She laught, but meerly from her lips, for over her blacke browes Her still-bent forehead was not cleer'd; yet this her passion's throwes Brought forth in spight, being lately school'd. ... (Nicoll 1998a, 300)
Traces of anger still evident in her furrowed brows, Hera then delivers a scoffing speech that simultaneously praises and undermines Zeus' power. Calling her fellow Olympians "fooles" for thinking that they can put up an effective "resistance to his will," she describes how Zeus "sits farre off, nor cares, / Nor moves, but sayes he knowes his strength, to all degrees compares / His greatnesse past all other gods," so much so that "what ever ill he does," the rest of the Olympian gods must only "[s]ustaine with patience" (Nicoll 1998a, 300). In a speech glossed by Chapman as "of purpose to incense Mars Scoptice," Hera then provokes the war god by praising him for bearing so patiently the death of his son Ascalaphus, a wartime casualty of "Jove's high grace to Troy." In so doing, Hera manages to enrage Ares as well as to provoke the ire of Poseidon, who according to Chapman's marginal note at line 173 becomes "incenst with Jupiter" when Iris delivers a message from Zeus warning the sea-god not to "vaunt equalitie" with his elder brother, whose "powre is farre superior" to his own. In response, Poseidon protests that he was "borne to an equall share / Of state and freedome" as was Zeus and thus refuses to "be aw'd by him" despite the "violent threats" that Zeus issues by proxy (302-03). By exposing Zeus' attempt to arrogate to himself the authority of his two brothers, Poseidon confirms the submerged message of Hera's earlier speech. As Alexander Pope astutely points out in his commentary on the speech, even as Hera tells her fellow Olympian gods that Zeus' power is absolute, she also "fills them with a reluctance" to obey him, thus making the speech "a masterpiece in that sort, which seems to say one thing, and persuades another" (1996, 732).
Sixteenth-century readers of Homer often recognize the feigned smiles and the derisory laughter of his characters as the visible evidence of irony, especially the species of irony that Richard Sherry calls Mycterismus, or "counterfayted laughter" (1961, 26b; compare Peacham 1954, 38-39). In the Odyssey, for example, the frequent laughter of the suitors is aroused by what Levine has termed their "presumed eminence," an erroneous perception of invulnerability that creates a dramatic irony unleashed when they--quite literally--"die laughing" [gelo echthanon] at Od. 23.99 (1983, 98-99). In the Iliad, too, scoffing words and gestures often hint at the eventual downfall of the deliverer, as Abraham Fraunce points out in his interpretation of the "jesting and merie conceipted" speech that Patroclus makes to Cebriones as the latter tumbles off his chariot to his death in Iliad 16. Fraunce mentions the speech in two different chapters of his Arcadian Rhetorike, first citing it as an example of "Exclamation," specifically the kind of exclamatory speech expressing "indignation" or "derision," and mentioning the speech once again in his chapter on irony as an example of the rhetorical device in which "the manner of utterance quite differ[s] from the sense of the wordes" (1950,68-69; 10). A marginal gloss next to Chapman's rendering of the speech observes how "Patroclus jests at the fall of Cebriones," and the translation itself underscores the way in which Patroclus' words redound ironically back to himself: Patroclus meets the same fate as his adversary only a hundred lines later and, when mortally wounded by Hector, he finds himself on the receiving end of a barrage of verbal abuse glossed in Chapman's margins as "Hectors insultation over Patroclus" (Nicoll 1998a, 342). Yet Homer turns the ironic screw once again as Patroclus delivers his final speech, predicting in a "prophetique rage" that his slayer "shalt not long survive thy selfe" (345).
If Homer's mortal characters are justly punished for their mocking or derisive speech, it is in some measure because verbal combat threatens to usurp the ironic and scoptic habits of speech that are the exclusive prerogative of the gods. Preparing to kill Ctesippus in Odyssey 22, Philoetius warns his scoffing adversary to "leave revenge of vile words to the Gods, / Since their wits beare the sharper edge by ods" (Nicoll 1998b, 383). That the Homeric gods possess a "sharper" wit and a greater license to unleash that wit reflects their superior, divine perspective--their distance from, and often their indifference to, the world below Mount Olympus. By labeling as scoptice such instances of scornful or biting wit, Chapman may well intend to suggest that "scoptic" speech [from skopto: to mock, jeer, or scoff at] is the privilege of the skopos--the figure who watches from above and whose aerial perspective makes everything below seem insignificant and thus worthy of disdain. As the product of such a perspectival breach, the scoptic and ironic speech of the Homeric gods often accompanies a cruelly ludic stance towards those beneath, an attitude acutely evident in a passage from Iliad 15 describing how Apollo assists the Trojans by digging and then destroying a dike. Just as a "boy upon the sea-ebd shore / Makes with a litle sand a toy and cares for it no more," the simile begins, Apollo raises and then topples the retaining wall "childishly, so in his wanton vaine / Both with his hands and feete he puls and spumes it downe againe" (1998a, 307). In an image that anticipates Gloucester's assessment of the gods in King Lear, who "kill us for their sport" like boys swatting flies, Apollo's playful destruction of the wall masks a callous indifference towards creatures who appear to him no larger than motes from his scoptic heights (Shakespeare 2004: 1238). In keeping with his admiration for Homer's similes as a means of comparing the "meanest" with the "mightiest" and vice versa, Chapman praises the comparison for demonstrating "from how low things it may be taken, to expresse the highest" (Nicoll 1998a, 307). By uniting the apparent opposites of jest and earnest, bathos and sublimity, mortal folly and divine wisdom, the simile illustrates how the difference between these pairs of contraries is only a matter of perspective.
(1) Chapman's Homer: the Iliad (Nicoll 1998a), marginal notes to 1.521 (39); 2.193 and 2.215 (52); 3.417 (85); 3.458 (87); 4.430 and 4.439 (104); 5.403 (120). All subsequent references arc provided in the text; numbers refer to page rather than to book and line numbers.
(2) Compare Alexander Pope's comment on the same speech: "It seems (says Eustathius on this place) that the Iliad being an Heroick poem, is of too serious a nature to admit of raillery. Yet Homer has found the secret of joining two things that are in a manner incompatible. For this piece of raillery is so far from raising laughter, that it becomes a hero" (1996, 641-42).
(3) See Eustathius' comments on Il. 2.223, 9.11, 10.114, 13.735, and 16.21-31.
(4) For examples of Homer's use of the phrase, see Il. 1.304, where Achilles and Agamemnon are described as making an end of "contending with wrangling words" [antibioisi machessameno epeessin] and Il. 2.377-78, where Agamemnon relates that he and Achilles "fought over a girl with wrangling words" [machessameth' eineka koures / antibiois epeessin].
(5) Philostratos (2001, 112-13) describes Odysseus as "skilled in public speaking" but also a "dissembler" [eirona]; Demetrius (1995, 429 and 501) notes the forceful [deinotes] quality of Odysseus' speech.
(6) Liddell (1994) translates epitrochaden as "trippingly, fluently, glibly," and Chapman's similar definition reveals his recognition that the word is related to epitrecho, to run over, to graze the surface, or to treat lightly.
(7) Chapman frequently marks the "insultations" exchanged between soldiers in battle. At Il. 11.319-35, (Nicoll 1998a, 225), he notes how Diomed "insults on Hector" and Paris "insults on Diomed."At Il. 14.375-88 (291-92), his marginal notes read "Polydamas his insultation" and "Ajax insults in requitall of Polydamas," and a marginal note at Il. 16.762 (344) reads "Hector's insultation over Patroclus".
(8) Compare Chapman's commentary to Il. 17.335 (Nicoll 1998a, 369), where he answers the "objector that would have no more words than Homer used in his translator," arguing that he uses more words than Homer because it is "necessarie to expresse such a sence as I understand in Homer," unlike Lorenzo Valla, who "with his briefenesse utterly maimes" a simile that Chapman translates correctly
(9) Chapman (Nicoll 1998b, 357) translates Odysseus' gesture as "a laughter raising most Sardinian, /With scorne and wrath mixt," while his translation of Il. 15.99 has Hera laughing "meerely from her lips" (1998a, 300).
(10) See Schotto (1612, 527-28), "Sardonicus Risus, id est simulatus" glossing Odyssey 20.301. On the concept of Sardonian laughter during the Renaissance, see Menager (1995, 58).
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Jessica Wolfe is an associate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Humanism, Machinery, and Renaissance Literature (2004.)
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|Title Annotation:||George Chapman|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2008|
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