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The Golden Age Rescored?: Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Thomas Heywood’s The Ages

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Abstract

In 1908, Felix Emmanuel Schelling stated that Thomas Heywood ‘sat’ with a ‘copy of the Metamorphoses on his left hand and translated it into five plays, omitting little and extenuating nothing’. However, Heywood’s so-called Ages (1610-1612) – The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Brazen Age, The Iron Age (parts 1 and 2) – make no obvious non-verbal or verbal reference to Ovid’s poem. This essay considers how the Ages’ fundamental engagement with the Metamorphoses is related to structure rather than mythic content itself and argues that the plays are Ovidian adaptations before-the-letter. If Ben Jonson conceived of The Golden Age Restor’d (1615),these five plays are Heywood’s golden age rescored.