Therocitus… Erotic Desire: Comedy or Tragedy?
The bucolic world, first described in Theocritus’ idylls, shepherd-poets sing and play their ‘pan pipes’, share folklores, and woo beautiful nymphs all while tend to their flocks. In two of his short poems, Idyll 1 and Idyll 11, Theocritus tell two very different stories about an unrequited love. In Idyll 1 "Thrsis’ Lament for Daphnis” Thrysis sings ‘the sufferings of Daphnis’, a most earnest story of a bucolic hero, who, as the poem would tell, pined and died over an unrequited love. Idyll 11 “The Cyclops’ Serenade” tells a much more satirical story of Polyphemus, a hopelessly infatuated Cyclops, singing to his beloved, the beautiful sea-nymph Galatea. It is Theocritus’ careful choice of language, plot, poem structure, and imagery in the production of the two poems that allow him to depict two vastly different portrayals of the same erotic desire. In order to understand the significance behind the contrasting themes in idylls 1 and 11, the parallels of the two must first be recognized. The poems are not simply two different love stories sharing no common grounds; in fact, they are written with the intention of having them be contrasted against one another because of what they have in common. Both idylls deal with the pining away for an unattainable lover by the main subjects of the poem. As myth goes, his first lover, a nymph, blinded Daphnis, from Idyll 1, for his infidelity. Polyphemus, the Cyclops, is the same Cyclops from the Odyssey where he too is also later blinded. Theocritus chose the two main subjects of his unrequited love poems to both be bucolic-poets and herdsmen whom are both blinded in the larger telling of their stories. The way in which Theocritus presents the two characters is where the stories diverge. With his differing use of diction and imagery, Theocritus is able to illustrate two entirely contrasting stories and figures, one comic and one tragic. In Idyll 1, through the...
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