Mythographies were books that collected, explained, and interpreted myth-related material. Extremely popular during the Renaissance, these works appealed to a wide range of readers. While the European mythographies of the sixteenth century have been utilized by scholars, the short, early English mythographies, written from 1577 to 1647, have puzzled critics. The first generation of English mythographers did not, as has been suggested, try to compete with their Italian predecessors. Instead, they made mythographies into rhetorical instruments designed to intervene in topical debates outside the world of classical learning. Because English mythographers brought mythology to bear on a variety of contemporary issues, they unfold a lively and historically well-defined picture of the roles myth was made to play in early modern England. Exploring these mythographies can contribute to previous insights into myth in the Renaissance offered by studies of iconography, literary history, allegory, and myth theory.
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