Shakespeare and Heliodorus

Reynolds, Simon. 2000. Shakespeare and Heliodorus. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Shakespeare and Heliodorus)
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Abstract or Description

The object of this study is to examine the relationship between Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and the Aithiopika of Heliodorus, a complex romance composed in late Antiquity which was widely admired in Shakespeare's age. It argues that, while an indirect Heliodoran influence was exerted upon The Winter's Tale through Greene's novels, the direct influence of the Aithiopika also shows itself, most notably in the substitution of the tragic conclusion of the play's chief source, Greene's Pandosto, with a joyous outcome heralded by the appearance of a work of art (albeit a fictional one).

The important role played by the Perseid in the Aithiopika is considered and it is argued that ancient and Renaissance treatments, in literature and art, of Danae’s impregnation by the 'shower of gold' provide a key to understanding how the Renaissance would have interpreted Heliodorus’ novel.

The phenomenon of maternal impression employed by Heliodorus and by Tasso in Gerusalemme liberata is discussed as is the presence of the motif of imaginative interference in reproduction in other examples drawn from the genre of Accused Queen tales.

This study concludes that both the Aithiopika and The Winter's Tale explore the same idea, that the creation of a new life in a mother's body is analogous to the mind receiving a powerful visual 'impression'. The plot, and subplots, of the Aithiopika elaborate this central idea, and the instances of seeing and pregnancy which dominate The Winter's Tale can also be seen to be aspects of a single theme of conception.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Shakespeare, Hefiodorus, The Winter's Tale, Aithiopika

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Jul 2020 14:43

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:22


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