Study Guide

Hero and Leander Context

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The tragic love story of Hero and Leander has been an inspiration for artists and their audiences for literally thousands of years. So yeah, there's definitely something to it. Quick recap of all of its tellings:

  • Ovid gave the myth the royal treatment in his Heroides.
  • A Byzantine poet named Musaeus did a bang-up job in his version of the myth
  • Several other big dogs of classical poetry, like Statius and Virgil, took a swing at the myth, too.
  • Christopher Marlowe, rock star playwright of the English Renaissance, was the next major poet to take a crack at the myth. In most folks' opinions, he totally rocked it out. Not only is his "Hero and Leander" an awesome and entertaining poem, Marlowe also managed to reinvent the use of the heroic couplet while doing so. (More on that here.) Unfortunately, Marlowe died in a bar fight and never got to finish this masterpiece; it was later completed by George Chapman.
  • Hero and Leander get shout outs in the works of a bunch of other famous writers as well. Shakespeare, Keats, Kipling, Byron, Schiller, Jonson, Raleigh, Vega and many more all say hey to the tragic lovers.
  • The tale has even inspired composers like Georg Friedrich Handel, whose opera, Ero e Leandro (1707), is based on the myth.

Whew. Quite a list, right? And these days, the tale lives on in the tragic love stories that fill our screens and flesh out the pages of our paperbacks. Every tissue-requiring romance owes a little something to the tale of Hero and Leander.

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