What are examples of pastoral literature?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Pastoral literature is a genre set in urban areas such as in forests, pastures, or farms, far away from cities. Themes of pastoral literature represent city life as corrupt and urban life as idyllic. It was first developed by the ancient Greeks; then, it rose in popularity in the 15th century and continued in popularity through the 17th century.

Examples of ancient Greek pastoral literature can be seen in Theocritus's (300 BC - 260 BC) poems, called idylls, which are short pastoral poems. One example can be seen in Idyll XXX in which a boar in the woods is brought to Cypris, another name for Aphrodite, after having killed her lover Adonis. The boar swears he wounded Adonis accidentally because he had tried to kiss Adonis and accidentally stabbed him with his tusks. After the apology, Cypris takes pity on the boar and releases him, creating an idyllic, happy ending.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Torquato Tasso and Battista published pastoral plays. The pastoral literary tradition continued when, in the 16th and 17th centuries, many authors published pastoral romance novels, such as those written by Jacopo Sannazzaro, Jorge de Montemayor, and Miguel de Cervantes. Even Shakespeare wrote some plays parodying pastoral literature such as his plays A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It.

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