“Powdered with Golden Rain”: The Myth of Danae in Early Modern Drama
Early Modern Literary Studies 8.2 (September 2002) / Special Issue 10
This essay explores the appropriation and reworking of the mythological story of Danae, who was impregnated while imprisoned in a tower by Jove in the form of a golden shower. Many early modern poets and dramatists were drawn to this particular myth but their individual deployments of it can be read in a historicized manner: their revisions alter in emphasis according to the contingencies of history, politics, and artistic context. In the Jacobean period, when city comedy is a predominant public theatre genre, the ‘golden shower’ is read in a highly pragmatic and reductionist manner as a literal bribing of the tower guards. Examples of this in plays by Jonson and Heywood amongst others are examined. In the Caroline period, an important shift in focus can be registered, that enables a recycling of the myth in the context of debates about female agency, in particular theatrical female agency. The specific case of James Shirley’s 1633 The Bird in a Cage, where the inset play performed by Eugenia and her incarcerated women is that of Jupiter and Danae, provides the concluding discussion of the essay.