Arcadia Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Arcadia

Arcadia. Arcadia is a real place in southern Greece’s mountainous Peloponnese region; however, its name has been used conventionally for idyllic pastoral settings since Heliodorus’s Aethiopica (third century c.e.). Sidney depicts Arcadia both as the ideal realm of eternal youth and joy and as a real kingdom that has fallen into chaos because its ruler, Basilius, has allowed his passion for Zelmane to overcome the reasonable rule of his family and his subjects. The peaceful Arcadia of literary tradition serves both as an example of what the real Arcadia could be and as a basis for satire, showing how far the real world has fallen from the ideal.

*River Ladon

*River Ladon. Clear stream near Basilius’s Arcadian retreat, where Philoclea and Zelmane (Pyrocles) are finally able to be alone together. It is also the stream in which Philoclea and Pamela are bathing when Zelmane discovers the love-stricken Amphialus spying on them. The river symbolizes Philoclea’s natural, swiftly flowing feelings (Philoclea is described as “environed with sweet rivers of clear virtue”), in contrast to Pamela’s more solid use of reason to temper her own feelings.

Cecropia’s castle

Cecropia’s castle. Located on a high rock in the middle of a large lake, this castle, in which the princesses are held captive by Amphialus and his ambitious mother, is the emblem of Pamela, whose “determination was built upon so brave a rock that no shot of hers [Cecropia’s] could reach unto it. . . .” Pamela resists not only Cecropia’s attempts to persuade her to marry Amphialus, but also the courtship of Prince Musidorus, disguised as the shepherd Dorus. Only after he rescues her from the castle does she confess her love and...

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Arcadia Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Davis, Walter. “A Map of Arcadia: Sidney’s Romance in Its Tradition.” In Sidney’s “Arcadia.” New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965. A thorough study of the work’s complex background in Greek, Latin, and Spanish pastoral romance.

Lanham, Richard. “The Old Arcadia.” In Sidney’s “Arcadia.” New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965. The first close analysis of Sidney’s prose style and its relation to classical modes of rhetoric; the starting point for discussion of Sidney’s language.

Levao, Ronald. Renaissance Minds and Their Fictions: Cusanus, Sidney, Shakespeare. Berke-ley: University of California Press, 1985. A brilliant discussion of the old Arcadia and how Sidney’s narrative refuses to allow readers any stable reference point for judging the characters’ moral dilemmas.

Raitiere, Martin N. Faire Bitts: Sir Philip Sidney and Renaissance Political Theory. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1984. Places Sidney’s work in the context of continental Protestant politics and elucidates Sidney’s intellectual relations with his close friend, the French political theorist Hubert Languet. An important study.

Robertson, Jean, ed. The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (The Old Arcadia). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973. The first modern scholarly edition of the old Arcadia; Robertson’s introduction provides an excellent starting point for study of the work.