There is no work of imaginative fiction more influential in its own time than Sidney’s Arcadia. The prose romance was read, referred to, and imitated by major and minor writers throughout the 1590s and into the mid-seventeenth century: in Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and Richardson, its force is felt. It appealed no less to the non-professional reader, and was a bestseller for more than a century.
The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, to give it its full title, owes much to continental and classical models in the pastoral and romance modes by Theocritus, Vergil, Heliodorus, Montemayor and Sannazaro. It was initially conceived as a relatively light-hearted chivalric pastoral-romance in five books telling the …
Preston, Claire. "Arcadia". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 14 March 2006
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