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Hindsight as Foresight: Virgilian Retrospective Prophecy in Coopers Hill and The Destruction of Troy

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-174
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of the Classical Tradition
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jan 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Nov 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2019


This article discusses how the Virgilian intertexts of the stag hunt in the 1642 edition of Coopers Hill support the interpretation of the passage as a commentary on the trial and execution of the Earl of Strafford, and how they allow Denham to criticize Charles I’s involvement in Strafford’s death. Despite this criticism, other texts, including Denham’s revised (1653/5) edition of the poem, subsequently adapted the stag-hunt episode to commemorate Charles’s own trial and execution. The false presentation of the 1653/5 Coopers Hill as an edition that prints an original, authentic version of the poem from 1640 draws on the Virgilian technique of retrospective prophecy to make its status as a commentary on Charles’s execution more explicit. Denham repeated this technique in The Destruction of Troy (1656), which heavily revised an excerpt from his 1630s manuscript translation of Aeneid II–VI, and asserts the composition date of this earlier version in order to ‘foretell’ Charles’s execution. Analysing these Virgilian post eventum prophecies shows how both texts simultaneously censure and mourn Charles I, and also identifies increasingly self-recriminatory elements to Denham’s own royalism.

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