Brandon Baum on Christopher Marlowe's "Hero and Leander"

Published by admin_main on Wed 29 Sep, 2010

2. What is the relationship between the gods' amorous affairs and the affair of Hero and Leander? Consider both the set-piece references to the gods and their actual interaction with the two lovers in the poem.

Hero's encounter with Apollo:

Lines 5-8: At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair / Whom young Apollo courted for her hair, /And offered as a dower his burning throne, / Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.

How the god of prophecy, music, and poetry was unable to woo Hero.

Mention how Apollo was willing to offer Hero a goddess status: to deify her.

Refer to lines 15-16: Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain, / Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain. These lines refer to her bloodstained clothes from the men who committed suicide, so it's not just the gods suffering from Hero's unwillingness.

The same lines also show how committed Hero is to her virginity and the values she follows in the name of Venus.

Hero knows that she is amazingly beautiful, and knowing that men commit suicide after her rejections gives her a higher sense of dignity in which she realizes in idolizing Venus.

Hero's encounter with Cupid:

Lines 37-45:

Some say, for her the fairest Cupid pines, / And looking in her face, was strooken blind. / But this is true: so like was one the other / As he imagined Hero was his mother; / And oftentimes into her bosom flew, / About her naked neck his bare arms threw, / And laid his childish head upon her breast, / And with still panting rocked, there took his rest. / So lovely fair was Hero, Venus' nun.

This marks the comparison between Hero and Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.

If Cupid is repeatedly finding himself falling for Hero, her beauty must be as great as that of Venus.

It's quite an oxymoron to find that Hero, who is protecting her virginity, also idolizes Venus.

Leander's encounter with Neptune:

As Leander is swimming back to meet Hero, he encounters during his swim across the Hellespont Neptune, the god of the sea.

Neptune mistakes Leander for Ganymede, who is also an extremely handsome boy taken by Jove.

This encounter is quite awkward to say the least, looking at lines 651-652: The lusty god embraced him, called him love, / And swore he never should return to Jove.

Neptune tried to make moves on Leander as well, lines 670-671: And, as he turned, cast many a lustful glance / And throw him gaudy toys to please his eyes.

Leander in line 676: "You are deceived; I am no woman, I."

Neptune grows angry with Leander for fooling him, throws his mace at him and causes Leander to flee, leaving the once powerful god to feel rejection.

It's interesting to point out that both Hero and Leander rejected the love offered them by gods. The gods were unable to use their power to woo mere humans.

Both Hero and Leander seem to be s saving themselves for one another instead of giving up their virginity or sexual desires to gods.

The gods are out looking for humans solely for the purpose of sexual pleasure; I find that the relationship between Hero and Leander is one of true passion and love for one another. I mean if Leander has one of the most beautiful women in the world swooning over his great looks and rejecting the gods, there definitely has to be some love connection between the two.

It's as if both Hero and Leander were made for one another albeit they both act as two ill-fated lovers, but their love transcends what the gods offer, the love between Hero and Leander is guanine and honest, there is a level of truth being shared between one another. Hero is willing to give up her chastity in which she hold strong conviction over for a true romantic in Leander.

3. What view of love emerges from this poem? Is the focus on idealism, eroticism, both? Explain.

Mentioning of the brief sexual scene between Hero and Leander in lines 781-788, because some may have missed it in the reading.

I feel that Marlowe's work in a sense begins as a romantic comedy of two lovers from two different cities. You have two of the most beautiful humans imaginable and throughout the tale there are gods preventing both Hero and Leander from coming together.

Hero's cat and mouse game with Leander is more playful and sensual than erotic; I feel that both Hero and Leander want to be with one another. Its just that they're waiting for that moment to set them off ie: when Leander comes in naked.

Upon seeing Leander naked, Hero is shocked. Of course she would be (right), and by coincidence in lines 721/723: Where, seeing a naked man, she screeched for fear / (Such sights as this to tender maids are rare) / And ran into the dark herself to hide.

727-728:The nearer that he came, the more she fled, / And, seeking refuge, slipped into her bed, and thus slowly reeled Leander into her bed as well.

Leander now, like Theban Hercules, / Entered the orchard of th' Hesperides, / Whose fruit none rightly can describe but he / That pulls or shakes it from the golden tree. And now she wished this night were never done, And sighed to think upon th' approaching sun / For much it grieved her that the bright daylight / Should know the pleasure of this blessed night.

I believe that written during its current time period Marlowe's poem would come across as erotic, but in the 21st century, it has softened its image among most as a more romantic and idealistic relationship.

I will also refer back to the encounter of Neptune and Leander as a noted erotic scene between two men. As I mentioned before it was an awkward moment for the already sexually naïve Leander.

The gods seem more focused on throwing their status or power over both Hero and Leander, as if to say that by being a god, you should be flattered by me offering myself to you.

The love between two humans and between human and gods have two contrasting feelings, with the gods forcing themselves in an erotic and creepy sort of way and the relationship between Hero and Leander is one marked with passion and honest emotions being shared between one another.

The love story between Hero and Leander is one that can be read over many times, and the impression in which it leaves is everlasting. Everyone loves to hear about a story about ill-fated lovers defying the odds to be with their true loves.

This poem ends abruptly leaving the reader to finish off the story of the two lovers. There is a sense of immortality between Hero and Leander, two humans who defied gods and pursued their own desires, is something quite honorable and rememberable as well.