Happiness in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia

in Critical Survey
Joachim Frenk Universität des Saarlandes, Germany

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Sir Philip Sidney is not commonly associated with a search for happiness or the use he made of concepts of happiness in his works. Yet, as this article seeks to show, he employed a rhetoric of happiness throughout. In particular, Sidney's Arcadias – the Old Arcadia, which he finished in 1581, and the New Arcadia, the substantial rewriting which remained unfinished – are markedly different in their representations of and their reflections on happiness. While happiness is associated with the Arcadian state as a – potentially fatal – aim in the Old Arcadia from its very beginning, it is subordinated to a sterner and more violent discourse in the New Arcadia, for which after Sidney's death other writers wrote diverse happy endings. This different treatment of happiness in the Arcadias is also discussed with a view to different manuscripts and print editions as well as to the power play at the Elizabethan court.

Contributor Notes

Joachim Frenk is Professor of British Literary and Cultural Studies at Universität des Saarlandes. His research interests include early modern theatre and (material) cultures. He is the author of Textualised Objects: Aspects of Material Culture in Early Modern English Literature (Winter, 2012) and has published on Shakespeare, Jacobean drama and early modern popular culture. He has also published on topics not early modern, such as Charles Dickens, digital beauty, The Matrix and James Bond.

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