Katherine Heavey
Katherine Heavey.

Katherine Heavey is a Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her recent monograph, The Early Modern Medea: Medea in English Literature 1558-1688, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015, and she has published articles on early modern mythic adaptation and translation in Literature Compass, Renaissance Studies, Translation and Literature, the Journal of the Northern Renaissance and Comparative Drama.


This paper will focus on an overlooked example of translating Medea in early modern England. The translation I will focus on is an anonymous seventeenth-century manuscript version of Seneca’s tragedy Medea, in British Library MS Sloane 911. I will introduce the translation, discuss possibilities for date and authorship, and consider how the translator’s handling of the Latin, and of the character of Medea herself, compare to the approaches of Edward Sherburne, whose translation of Seneca’s tragedy was printed in 1648 and reissued in 1701, and of John Studley, who had produced the first English translation in 1566. I will also ask how the manuscript might anticipate later translations of Seneca in the eighteenth century, both in print and in manuscript (e.g. an extract from the play in BL MS Harley 3910, dated to the first half of the eighteenth century, and newly transcribed and discussed by Gillespie 2018). Does the hitherto unstudied version of the play in MS Sloane 911 offer new ways of thinking about Medea? Does the translation anticipate the typically more sympathetic approaches to Medea taken by authors and translators from the Restoration onwards? To what extent does Seneca (as opposed to Euripides) remain a significant source for authors interested in Medea? Is Medea translated completely anew for a sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth-century readership, or are there common features that suggest that a reading of Medea might also constitute a reading of the literary development of the long eighteenth century itself?