George Chapman

Definition

Theater

  • (1560 - 1634) English poet and dramatist, also noted forhis translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey (whichinspired Keats's sonnet 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer').Chapman, who is thought to have served as a soldier in his youth,began to write plays for the Admiral's Men in the 1590s; his earlierworks include the comedy An Humorous Day's Mirth (1597), whichinfluenced Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour (1598).Most of Chapman's surviving plays date from the first decade of the17th century, the tragedy Bussy D'Ambois (1604) and its sequelThe Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois (1610) being usually consideredhis best work.

    In 1605, in collaboration with Ben Jonson and John Marston,Chapman wrote Eastward Ho!, a play that King James I foundso offensive to his fellow Scots that he had Chapman and Marston imprisonedfor their part in it. Chapman was also threatened with imprisonmentin 1613 for Chabot, Admiral of France, which offended the FrenchAmbassador. Eastward Ho! has proved to be Chapman's most frequentlyrevived work, although Jonathan Miller directed a revival of BussyD'Ambois at the Old Vic in 1988.

    Although little is known for certain about Chapman's lifeand character, his somewhat shadowy relationships with other writersof the period have prompted much speculation. In particular, he hasoften been identified as the 'rival poet' alluded to in Shakespeare'sSonnets and as the model for both the pedant Holofernes inLove's Labours Lost (1594) and the scurrilous Thersites inTroilus and Cressida (1601). Chapman has also been associatedwith the so-called 'School of Night', a supposed coterie of freethinkersand occultists that also included Christopher Marlowe andSir Walter Raleigh. Intriguingly, Chapman claimed that his translationsof Homer had been inspired and guided by the poet's ghost.

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