Sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century epic writers had to work hard to invent a modern equivalent for the conceptual idiom of classical epic, and laboured both to unpick the idioms of earlier imitators and to create in the process a role for epic in their society. They improvised a modern heroic idiom, often while they composed. A sense that they had got epic wrong frequently led them to revise and extend their poems: Ludovico Ariosto, Torquato Tasso, Michael Drayton, Samuel Daniel, Robert Sidney, and Edmund Spenser all attempted to overcome the prevalent romance view of the Aeneid by revising their epic works, by fracturing and rewriting Virgilian episodes to accommodate rival interpretations, or by continuing their poems in a more ruthless idiom. They had to break away from a part of themselves in order to feel that they could write like authors of the past. And by developing the civic aspect of classical epic they sought to explore and modify the structures of power and of emotion that sustained their society.
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