Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Endymion (ehn-DIHM-ee-uhn), a shepherd on Mount Latmos who distances himself from the other shepherds (and, hence, earthly matters) because of a dream in which he meets his idealization of feminine perfection. He sets out on an epic journey to find the dreamlover, exploring dreamworld regions of mythology. The character is based on the character from Greek myth who was a beautiful youth in love with Diana (inEndymion, she is named Cynthia), the virgin goddess of the moon. Embodied in Endymion is the young poet—his imagination and heart vainly seeking that which can satisfy him. According to Greek legend, Endymion’s favorite time is spent in the moonlight, where the moon is the witness to his all-consuming melancholy and ardor. Endymion’s story, both in Greek myth and as retold by Keats, is one of poetic aspiration, the search for idealized love, and a life spent more in dreams than in reality. Endymion ends with the youth finding immortal love with his beloved, with whom he disappears into the realm of myth.
Cynthia, Endymion’s dreamlover, the idealization of feminine perfection, whom Endymion chases through his dreams and the dreamworld to find the best love of all—the love that brings immortality. John Keats based Cynthia on the Roman goddess Diana, who was later identified with the Greek Olympian gods and goddesses. Diana was the goddess of the moon and hunting, the protectress of women and their chastity, and—in her earliest incarnations—the great mother goddess of Nature. During Endymion’s quest for Cynthia, Keats incorporates other aspects of the myth of Diana into the character. For example, when Endymion encounters the two streams of Arethusa (AR-uh-
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