David Ross (dyvyd) wrote,
David Ross

Greece 4: Fictional and Real Asses

Did Shakespeare read Adlington's translation of Apuleius?  This thought is what brought my Greece posts to a sudden halt.  Dates and fictional cross-references have become so loosely organized in my head, that whenever I try to apply a Burke-like analysis to some issue, it sends me off into a month of research to find out why I seem to believe such connections should exist. And well, my research is always tangential at best.  I wind up in some parallel universe trying to remember my point of origin.

According to Wikipedia, Adlington's translation of  The Golden Ass was a favorite of Shakespeare's.  I did that check in 30 seconds just now.  What I originally did though was to go to my library and start re-reading the introduction to Robert Grave's translation of The Golden Ass.  And well, wound up reading the whole book again to look for personal messages.

Some people read Tarot cards, cast the I-Ching, consult their daily Horoscope, or randomly open the Bible for a personal message from God.  Myself, I have always believed that books magically come into your hands and are the ones you are meant to read.  All your personal answers are in them, all the messages you will ever need for guidance,

The transformation of Lucius into an ass was not an invention of Apuleius either.  There were at least two contemporary Lucius stories going around that he is thought to have borrowed and improved upon.  Behind these stories is a tradition of ass symbolism that arises from Egyptian lore.  The ass is base, coarse, profane, unlucky, out of grace with the gods-- these, just to grab a few adjectives from a time-line of historical sources.  There is quite lot more to ass lore than this.  The ass is a mysterious cult figure indeed!

One thing that strikes me now, that never did before, is how strange it seems for Shakespeare to place Oberon and Titania in a woods near Athens.  Classical gods were ejected with "extreme prejudice" by Christianity, but when did the fairies arrive, exactly?  

I also note that Apuleius himself became impecunious in Athens.  Graves suggests he may have fallen in with thieves, thus finding his source material for The Bandit's Cave chapter there.

That I was transformed, there was no doubt.  My ass head consisted of a red-faced disorientation, a shame that I had appeared to Metro thieves as such a "low status" clown, that even a "high status" clown like one of them could have the best of me. Braying filled my ears, but it was the internal braying of my wounded ego inflicting self ridicule.  I was dazed until the next day, when wandering among tavernas on a hill just below the Acropolis, I passed a iron garden fence that guarded a tiny plot containing only one tall rose.  I took a picture, and somehow the beauty of the place I was in woke me from my trance.  Lucius, I discovered again later, was transformed back into a human by roses.

We stopped at  one of the tavernas and ate an extravagant lunch.  I over-tipped the waiter, and for the rest of the trip paid small attention to the cost of things, having realized that if all of the money I had in the world were lost, it would hardly be enough for an enlightened ass to weep over.

Tags: greece

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