INTRODUCTION

1. Susanna was perhaps meant as a technical exercise in the writing of a narrative passage in the Ovidian manner. But Gager’s selection of the familiar apocryphal story of Susanna and the elders (found in the Book of Susanna) is psychologically revealing. In the General Introduction to the plays his virtual obsession with the theme of chastity has been discussed. Susanna reflects the same interest. Its situation anticipates that of Ulysses Redux, a rapacious assault on a chaste wife by thoroughy inappropriate and unpleasant suitors, with a climactic vindication of the wife’s virtue.
2. Gager’s persistent interest in the theme of chastity under siege, as well as general considerations of Ovid romanticism, explain his motives for introducing a subtle shift in the story’s emphasis. He follows the Apocryphal account faithfully, albeit with suitable embroidery and embellishment, but he does not include any equivalent of the final chapter of that Book (64), which provides the climax of the original narrative: from that day forth was Daniel had in great reputation in the sight of the people. A substantial part of the original tale’s point was to narrate the emergence of the prophet Daniel. By suppressing this element, Gager has diminished his importance so as to throw the spotlight fully on Susanna and her predicament. Also, the Book of Susanna says that Daniel was told to take his place among the elders (ch. 50), while at 349f. Gager says he was told to sit among the grown men. Whether or not such was his intention, this change has the effect of toning down the implications of this invitation.
3. Susanna is preserved by British Library Additional Ms. 22583, our A, pp. 17 - 29. For the dedicatory poem accompanying Susanna, addressed to Gager’s mentor Robert Dorset, see poem LXX.