Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Endymion (ehn-DIHM-ee-on), who is hopelessly in love with the goddess Cynthia. To keep his true love secret, he pretends to be in love with Tellus. After being put into an enchanted sleep at the instigation of his jealous deceived sweetheart, he is awakened by Cynthia. He vows to spend his life in platonic devotion to her.
Cynthia, the goddess of the moon. Chastely above mortal passion, she is moved to pity by Endymion’s enchanted sleep, awakens him, and accepts his platonic worship. She has been interpreted as an idealized portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.
Tellus (TEH-luhs), the goddess of the earth. Loving Endymion, she is angered at what she considers his treachery to her. Imprisoned by Cynthia, she learns to love her jailer, Corsites, and releases Endymion to his moon-worship. She has been interpreted as a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Eumenides (ew-MEH-nih-deez), Endymion’s faithful friend and confidant. He is able to learn the secret of Endymion’s enchantment because he is a faithful lover. Unselfishly, he asks for the secret to save his friend instead of for his own success in love.
Semele (SEH-meh-LEE), a witty, sharp-tongued girl, delighted with flouting her lover, Eumenides. She is finally moved by Cynthia’s request and Eumenides’ faithfulness to accept him.
Corsites (kohr-SI-teez), Tellus’ jailer, who is in love with his prisoner.
Sir Thopas (TOH-puhs), a fantastical braggart of the literary family that contains Falstaff, among many others. Scornful of love and bloodthirsty in language only, he strangely falls in love with Dipsas, the hideous, elderly enchantress. Disappointed in his expectations there, he accepts Bagoa.
Samias (SA-mee-uhs), and
Epiton (EH-pih-ton), witty and mischievous pages who delight in making sport of Sir Thopas.
Dipsas (DIHP-suhs), a malicious old enchantress, the estranged wife of Geron. She aids Tellus by casting Endymion into an enchanted sleep for forty years. Cynthia’s benign influence reforms her and restores her to her husband.
Bagoa (beh-GOH-uh), Dipsas’ assistant. She pities Endymion and confesses her part in the spell. After she is turned into a tree by Dipsas, Cynthia restores her.
Geron (JEH-ron), Dipsas’ aged husband, who helps Eumenides find out that the cure for the spell on Endymion is a kiss from Cynthia.
Floscula (FLOS-kuh-luh), Tellus’ friend, who warns her against love inspired by witchcraft.
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Hunter, G. K. John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962. The work against which subsequent criticism of Lyly is compared. Suggests that Lyly was motivated primarily by a desire to establish himself at Elizabeth’s court. Concentrates on Endymion more than any other play.
Knapp, Robert S. “The Monarchy of Love in Lyly’s Endimion.” Modern Philology 73 (May, 1976): 353-367. Argues that Lyly is intentionally enigmatic, mixing a wide range of possible interpretations under the general heading of love allegory.
Lenz, Carolyn Ruth Swift. “The Allegory of Wisdom in Lyly’s Endimion.” Comparative Drama 10, no. 3 (Fall, 1976): 235-257. Analyzes the play in terms of sixteenth century religious and philosophical thought, with special reference to Neoplatonic conceptions of love.
Saccio, Peter. The Court Comedies of John Lyly: A Study in Allegorical Dramaturgy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969. Suggests a complex dramaturgical structure involving both moral and political allegory. Includes an eighteen-page section on Endymion and many other references to the play.
Weltner, Peter. “The Antinomic Vision of Lyly’s Endymion.” English Literary Renaissance 3, no. 1 (Winter, 1973): 5-29. Self-consciously rejects historically based readings of the play, arguing instead for a symbolic reading based on Jungian archetypes. Idiosyncratic but interesting.