The Arcadian Ass: Sir Philip Sidney and Apuleius

Robert H. F. Carver

in The Protean Ass

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780199217861
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191712357 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Classical Monographs

 The Arcadian Ass: Sir Philip Sidney and Apuleius

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This chapter explores Apuleian influences in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia. Upon his death in 1586, Sidney left behind two versions of Arcadia: the so-called Old Arcadia, a pastoral tragicomedy ‘in five books or acts’ completed in about 1581; and a so-called New Arcadia, a much revised and expanded version in two and a half books which was abandoned in 1584. It is argued that the revision manifests contradictory impulses — an attempt to Heliodoreanize the work, to render it more serious, edifying, and stable, coupled with a centrifugal tendency to explore more dynamic possibilities of narrative and characterization (including those provided by The Golden Ass). The paradox is that the very qualities — the moral and imaginative dynamics — which invest the New Arcadia with such interest, also account for its formal failure. But that failure was as productive as it was inevitable. The Arcadia is one of the earliest examples of comparative criticism of the ancient novels and it serves as a case study of the sorts of tensions and possibilities facing early-modern writers of fiction.

Keywords: Arcadia; Sir Philip Sidney; New Arcadia; Apuleius

Chapter.  9536 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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