A new way to please you: Helen of Troy in early modern comedy



Helen of Troy most commonly featured in early modern English literature as an example of unsurpassed beauty, or as an unfaithful and sexually voracious woman. Inextricably linked to the fall of Troy, Helen was associated with feminine unreliability, the deaths of worthy men, and the fall of a great city. This article explores a less common use of Helen's myth, demonstrating how early modern playwrights including Shakespeare, Heywood and Shirley found comic potential in her story, and repackaged a well-worn story of betrayal in new and innovative ways, making sport of Helen's reputation, of Helen-like women, and of the men infatuated by this icon.