Internet Shakespeare Editions


Old tales in a new light

Honour and Opulence. Goltzius.
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Such myths as those of Hercules and Deianeira or Mars and Venus translate readily to a more abstract, allegorical level. In the image on this page, in the related painting by Botticelli elsewhere, and in this etching,"Of Honour and Opulence" by the Renaissance artist H. Goltzius, the artists invite both admiration and judgement: Honour must not be overcome by Opulence (luxury) -- but opulence is nonetheless presented as remarkably attractive. Thus classical precedent allowed artists to celebrate the beauty of the human body while illustrating a suitably moral position.

The power of myth in the Renaissance was that it made available a web of complex, intersecting, and even contradictory responses to human situations.

The next step was the debunking of myth (as Shakespeare does in Troilus and Cressida), and the pursuit of more objective perceptions of reality.