John Lyly


2 February(?) 1588

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A servant to Dipsas, the enchantress. She assists her mistress to place a curse upon Endymion while he sleeps, but she pities him quietly as she does. We later learn from Dares that Dipsas turned Bagoa into an aspen tree for betraying her secrets. We learn in V.iii that the secret she betrayed was the curse her mistress placed upon Endymion. Cynthia's touch restores her to her woman's shape, and she is matched to Sir Tophas.


A Captain, in love with Tellus. Cynthia commands him to take the haughty Tellus off to a desert castle where she is to remain and weave. He confesses his love to Tellus and agrees to move Endmion's sleeping body to win her love. He does not realize that the curse on Endymion will not allow him to be moved. He fails to move Endymion, and fairies enter and pinch him to sleep while they sing. He is awakened when Cynthia comes to restore Enymion. When Tellus realizes that Endymion's loyal love to Cynthia can never make him hers, she accepts Corsites' love.


The Queen. She learns that Endymion has been enchanted with such a sleep that none may awaken him. She banishes Tellus to a desert castle for being haughty in the face of Endymion's distress. She sends her retainers to the ends of the earth to find a cure for the stricken Endymion. When Eumenides learns that only a kiss from her will revive Endymion, she is not too proud to kneel to Endymion and not too chaste to save him with her first and only kiss. She accepts Endymion as a loyal follower, and her favor returns his youth. She matches up all the characters for the happy ending: Eumenides with Semele, Geron with Dipsas, Tellus with Corsites, even Sir Tophas with Bagoa.


Page to Eumenides. With his master in love, there is nothing left for him to do but devise mischief. He and Samias seek out Sir Tophas. They first tease him with two young women, Scintilla and Favilla, but when they discover he has fallen in love with the enchantress, Dipsas, they agree to help him in his wooing for their sport.


An old Enchantress. She agrees to thwart Endymion's love for Cynthia by planting suspicion in Cynthia. She sets a curse upon Endymion while he sleeps that he should awake old and die without knowing love. When Bagoa betrays her secret, Dipsas turns her into an aspen tree. When she is confronted by her old and melancholy husband, Geron, she repents and regrets that she sent him away to grow old. Cynthia banishes her into the desert. Geron speaks for her. Dipsas forswears witchcraft, and she is pardoned and reunited with Geron.


In love with Cynthia, the moon. While he sleeps, Tellus (who loves him and feels scorned) has the enchantress, Dipsas, place a curse upon Endymion that he may sleep until he is old and awake to die never knowing love. He is awakened after forty years by Cynthia's first and only kiss. When confronted with Tellus, who reveals to Cynthia that he has loved her all along, Endymion swears it is true but that his love is all devotion, virtue, and purity. Cynthia accepts it as such and favors him for it. Her favor returns him to youth.


Page to Sir Tophas. He has no idea what a poet is, and Sir Tophas cannot enlighten him. He is little more than a sounding board for Sir Tophas to vent his foolish wit upon.


Endymion's friend, in love with Semele. He attempts to dissuade Endymion from feeding upon his fancies in his desire to love the moon. He brings news to Cynthia that Endymion is under a spell from which he cannot awaken. Cynthia sends him to Thessaly in search of a remedy for Endymion's curse. He comes upon Geron in his travels who shows him a magic fountain, into which a true lover may weep and see the answer to his one question. Eumenides does not know whether to ask for a cure for Endymion or a lesson in winning Semele. He decides to save Endymion, for friendship is more rare than love. He learns that Cynthia may rid his friend of the sleeping curse.


A waiting maid. One of the young women that Dares and Samias persuade into teasing Sir Tophas with feigned love. Scintilla is the other.


Friend to Tellus. She advises jealous Tellus to be flattered that only Cynthia, the moon herself, could prove a rival in her love for Endymion. She pities Endymion's state not because she loves him but because she loves his honor and virtue.


An old man, husband to Dipsas. He tells Eumenides to weep into an enchanted fountain. If he is a true lover he will see the bottom of the fountain. When Eumenides sees the bottom and is bidden to ask but one question, Geron advises him to ask to save Endymion rather than win Semele, for friendship is rarer than love. In the end, he speaks for Dipsas, saves her from banishment, and is reunited with his reformed wife.


An Egyptian Soothsayer. He comes to the aid of Endymion, but finds that his distress is beyond the pale of Nature. When he finds Corsites pinched black and blue by fairies, he gives the captain an unguent to wipe away the bruises. He learns to follow Cynthia, abjuring his philosophies as vain pursuits.


A lord in Cynthia's court. Cynthia sends him to Egypt in search of a remedy for Endymion's curse. We learn through him and Zontes that Bagoa betrayed Dipsas' curse, so now the court knows why Endymion had slept.


The Greek philosopher. Cynthia receives him kindly when he comes to the aid of Endymion. He tells her that his old theories are vanquished in the light of her reason. His philosophies were but vanity.


Page to Endymion. With his master in love, there is nothing left for him to do but devise mischief. He and Dares seek out Sir Tophas. They first tease him with two young women, Scintilla and Favilla, but when they discover he has fallen in love with the enchantress, Dipsas, they agree to help him in his wooing for their sport.


A waiting maid. One of the young women that Dares and Samias persuade into teasing Sir Tophas with feigned love. Favilla is the other.


Loved by Eumenides. Her sauciness causes Cynthia to command her not to speak for a year on pain of losing her tongue. Cynthia deems her "the very wasp of all women, whose tongue stingeth as much as an adder's tooth." When Cynthia learns of Eumenides' honorable love of Semele, she asks if Semele will have him. Semele, still under orders not to speak, remains silent, and Endymion reminds all that silence is consent. She is therefore given to Eumenides. She chooses, however, to lose her tongue and says she will not have him. Cynthia orders her head cut off, but Semele protests that Eumenides is not faithful for he never asked her for her love. Geron insists that the trial at the magic well proved his faithfulness as a lover. Eumenides offers to have his tongue cut out instead of Semele's, and, so proving his love, Semele accepts him gladly.


In love with Endymion. She asserts that "as long as sword, fire or poison may be hired, no traitor to my love shall live unrevenged." She determines to trap him into loving her. She engages the enchantress, Dipsas, to confound Endymion's love with Cynthia. Cynthia banishes her to a desert castle to punish her haughtiness. Corsites takes her there. When Corsites confesses his love to her, Tellus promises to love him in return if he will only move Endymion's sleeping body to a secure place. It is a trick, for she knows that the curse will keep him from being moved. When Endymion is restored, Tellus is at last brought to Cynthia where she learns of Endymion's loyal and honorable love of the Queen. Tellus then accepts the love of Corsites.


A Braggart. He enters at first exclaiming that love is an invention of poets made up to get money writing of it. He uses Latin to chop logic and claims that Mars himself has given him charge over all warriors. His valor, however, is all spent upon killing his "great enemies" the fish, fowl, and sheep of the field. He falls in love with Dipsas and cannot think of war but rather decides to trim his beard, saying, "I feel all Ovid." Later (V.ii) he exclaims, "Love is a lord of misrule and keepeth Christmas in my corpse." He agrees to lose his teeth and nails to be more attractive to Dipsas, but he finally falls out of love with her when he discovers that she is married to Geron. He is finally matched with Bagoa after Cynthia magically returns her to being a woman when Dipsas had changed her into an aspen tree.


A lord in Cynthia's court. Cynthia sends him to Greece in search of a remedy for Endymion's curse. We learn through him and Panelion that Bagoa betrayed Dipsas' curse, so now the court knows why Endymion had slept.


I.i: Endymion tells his friend Eumenides that he is enamored of Cynthia, goddess of the moon. Eumenides, too, is in love and swears to keep this love secret from his love until Endymion succeed.

I.ii: Tellus, the earth goddess, tells Floscula that Endymion has made a fool of her by hiding his love for Cynthia and pretending love to Tellus instead. She loves Endymion, but her jealousy leads her to plot to have Endymion bewitched so he may never have the love of Cynthia. Floscula tries to dissuade her.

I.iii: Dares and Samias, the pages of Endymion and Eumenides, have some fun with the foolish Sir Tophas. Tophas, who says he is a devout follower of Mars, wages war with songbirds and fish.

I.iv: Tellus and Floscula meet the old witch Dipsas. They contract with Dipsas to ruin Endymion's love for Cynthia. Dipsas is not powerful enough to ruin love, but she can cause Cynthia always to suspect Endymion's love. Tellus says that will be sufficient.

II.i: Endymion meets Tellus and dissembles his love for her.

II.ii: Dares and Samias loose two young girls, Scintilla and Favilla, on the foolish Sir Tophas in order to test his claim to follow Mars and not to be effected by Venus. Indeed, Tophas has no interest in the girls and goes off to do battle with a sheep.

II.iii: Endymion enters and falls asleep. Dipsas casts a spell over him that he might never awake until the day he is to die of old age.

In a dumb show we see Endymion's dream vision. He sees three women, one with a knife and looking glass (Tellus) is pushed on to kill him by another (Dipsas) while the third (Floscula) wrings her hands and begs leniency. She is stopped from the murder. Next, an old man offers a book with three pages in it. Endymion refuses the book until the old man tears out two of the pages.

III.i: Cynthia enters, hearing of Endymion's strange sleep. Tellus is impudent to her. Cynthia orders her captain, Corsites, to carry Tellus away to a castle where she will weave tapestries for the remainder of her life. She sends Eumenides and others to every corner of the earth to seek out a cure for Endymion.

III.ii: Corsites brings Tellus to the castle. He secretly falls in love with her.

III.iii: Tophas has fallen in love with the old witch Dopsas. He sends Dares and Samias to plead for him.

III.iv: Eumenides comes to a fountain where an old man laments. The old man, Geron, has a secret he will not disclose. He tells Eumenides that the fountain will grant one gift to every true lover who comes to it. Eumenides is discovered to be a true lover and is granted one wish. He hesitates whether he should wish for his love Semele or to wish for Endymion's cure. He decides in favor of his friend. He learns that Endymion can be revived with a kiss from Cynthia. Eumenides and Geron travel back together.

IV.i: Tellus has guessed that Corsites loves her, so she uses her influence upon him to have him move Endymion's sleeping body to a cave, knowing that the heavy-spelled Endymion cannot be lifted.

IV.ii: Dares and Samias come to view Endymion's body, but are turned back by the Watch.

IV.iii: Corsites enters to carry Endymion away, but finds him too heavy to move. Corsites is fallen upon by the fairies guarding Endymion and pinched until he falls to sleep. Cynthia enters with Pythagoras and Gyptes (the philosophers). They wake Corsites, who confesses his weakness in loving Tellus. He is forgiven. The philosophers cannot tell how to awake Endymion.

V.i: Samias and Dares sneak in with Cynthia's entourage to see Endymion. Eumenides has returned with the cure. Cynthia agrees to kiss Endymion, and the cure works. It has been forty years, however, and Endymion cannot recognize his elderly friend Eumenides nor remember much about himself beyond his infatuation with Cynthia. He relates his dream vision to Cynthia. Cynthia offers a reward to anyone who will discover who laid the curse upon Endymion.

V.ii: Dares and Samias return to Tophas. They tell him Dipsas will not marry any man who has teeth or nails. Tophas agrees to have his removed. They tell him she has turned Bagoa her servant into an aspen tree for telling Cynthia it was she who charmed Endymion. Finally they tell him that Dipsas's husband, Geron, has returned. Tophas is distraught only by the last news.

V.iii: Bagoa has told Cynthia of Dipsas' spell indeed and has become an aspen tree for her troubles. Cynthia banishes Dipsas to the desert. Tellus confesses her part in the deed, claiming that her love for Endymion pushed her to it. When Cynthia learns that Endymion has loved her all along, she bids him to continue her suitor. The news restores Endymion's youth. Because he is young again Tellus is allowed to go unpunished. Endymion tells Cynthia that Eumenides loves Semele. But Semele refuses to be given to Eumenides by Cynthia because he did not wish for her at the fountain and is therefore not a faithful lover. She is reconciled by the suggestion that he would not have been given a wish had he not been a faithful lover and the two are matched.

Tellus is matched with Corsites.

Dipsas is matched with Geron on condition that she renounce witchcraft, which she does. Her banishment is revoked

. Tophas wonders who is left for him. Bagoa is redeemed from being an aspen tree and matched with Tophas happily.

Pythagoras and Gyptes are admonished to give up their vain philosophy and follow Cynthia, which they agree to do.


Generally flat characters. No one really stands out. All characters seem only to drive plot rather than be an outgrowth of personality.

Sir Tophas is a Miles Gloriosus and may be the English forerunner to other such braggarts as Ralph Roister Doister, Sir Bobadill, and Andrew Aguecheek.

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Notes of Interest:

The play is rather flat, full of the euphuistic style Lily made his trademark (and even named), a style which does little more (by modern tastes) than add long speeches where short statements would suffice.

The main problem in this play is the passage of time. In the time it takes the young pages Dares and Samias to meet Tophas (I.iii), toy with him a bit, and finally tell him that Geron has returned to claim Dipsas (V.ii) in the subplot, forty years have passed in the main plot. Although Endymion and Eumenides age beyond recognition, the pages remain boys. Tellus seems not to age; neither does Dipsas (who is an old witch when she first charms Endymion) seem to age the additional forty years during the period of the curse.

There is an interesting line regarding the Renaissance conception of microcosmus at IV.ii.47.

When Corsites is pinched to sleep by the fairies (IV.iii) there is much made of pinching him "black and blue." Later, when the sleeping Corsites is discovered, he is likened to a leopard, and his "spots" are remedied by a salve supplied by Gyptes. These spots (the bruises placed on him by the fairies) were probably created by something similar to burnt cork applied to the fingers of the fairies so that they mark him when they pinch to give the illusion from the stage of bruising.

The Dumb Show at II.iii demonstrates the influence of the Italian stage at this period in English drama. The Dumb Show will become a integral facet of English drama in the future. It will introduce every act of Gorboduc, for example, and other Inns of Court plays. It will become an integral part of the later plays such as Friar Bacon & Friar Bungay, Doctor Faustus, and The White Devil where characters see visions portrayed in Dumb Show.

The play could be and allegory of the court despite the Prologue's direct disavowal of that conclusion. The theory that Endymion represented Leicester is largely refuted today. One of the theories advanced is that Cynthia = Elizabeth, Tellus = Mary, Queen of Scots, and Endymion = James VI (later James I).

The play owes very little to the actual myth of Endymion.

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