Guide to Literary Terms

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Pastoral

Pastoral - an artistic composition dealing with the life of shepherds or with a simple, rural existence. It is also a work of art representing the idealized life of shepherds to create an image of a peaceful and uncorrupted existence. In addition, the term is used to describe simplicity, charm, and serenity attributed to country life. Currently, it applies to any literary convention that places kindly, rural people in nature-centered activities.

The term is from the Latin pastor, meaning “shepherd.”

The rural settings and characters originate from folk songs and ceremonies that honored the pastoral gods. Theocritus (316 – 260 B.C.) first used the convention in his Idylls. As You Like It, written by Shakespeare in 1600, is also considered a pastoral.