Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Cupid, a god, Venus’ son. He falls in love with Psyche and becomes her lover. When Psyche tries to see him, against his command, he kills her sisters, who had encouraged her action. He also abandons Psyche to the world. His love conquers his will, however, and he takes Psyche back again, petitioning Jove, king of the gods, to let her become immortal.
Psyche, a Greek princess. An oracle tells her father to leave her exposed upon a mountain to prevent the destruction of his people. Because of her beauty, Psyche arouses the jealousy of Venus. After being abandoned by Cupid, her lover, Psyche wanders the earth and finally becomes Venus’ slave. With supernatural help, she completes the otherwise insurmountable tasks assigned by Venus and wins back Cupid’s love. Upon drinking ambrosia given her by Jove, Psyche becomes immortal.
Venus, goddess of love. Jealous of Psyche, she makes the girl her slave and assigns her four tasks: to separate an immense pile of mixed seeds, to gather the golden fleece of Venus’ sheep, to fill a jug with water from a stream that feeds the rivers Styx and Cocytus, and to collect some of Proserpine’s beauty in a box.
Zephyrus, god of the south wind. He carries Psyche to Cupid’s palace. He also delivers Psyche’s sisters there when Cupid grants Psyche their company in her loneliness.
Mercury, the messenger god who conducts Psyche to the presence of Jove.
Jove (Jupiter), king of the gods. He grants immortality to Psyche so that she and Cupid can be together forever.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Franz, Marie-Louise von. The Golden Ass of Apuleius. Boston: Shambhala, 1992. Psychological interpretation of the Cupid and Psyche myth. An excellent resource for the study and analysis of this myth.
Haight, Elizabeth Hazelton. Apuleius and His Influence. New York: Longmans, Green, 1927. Although much research has followed in subsequent years, this remains a significant source for comparative studies. Traces the tradition of Cupid and Psyche from classical to modern literature. Cites various interpretations of the myth in different historical periods.
Labouvie-Vief, Gisela. Psyche and Eros. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Illustrates theories of the mind and gender using this myth as foundation. Interprets myth as a psychological development to overcome dualistic thinking in terms of gender. Comprehensive examination of the psychological components of mythmaking.
Neumann, Erich. Amor and Psyche. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. Provides detailed commentary that includes classical sources, art illustrations, and occurrences in other literature. Argues that Psyche represents the development of the feminine psyche.
Schlam, Carl C. The Metamorphoses of Apuleius. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Detailed commentary on sources of the myth of Cupid and Psyche and an extensive bibliography. Includes theories of a number of other critics to explain the myth’s origin.
Tatum, James. Apuleius and “The Golden Ass.” Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979. Identifies and compares a number of sources and interpretations of the Cupid and Psyche myth. Characterizes and analyzes individual parts of the story.