"The only wife worth having"? Marriage and Storytelling in Apuleius' Metamorphoses
Apuleius’ novel is thought to provide an overwhelmingly pessimistic portrayal of marriage. In contrast, this paper concentrates on the four positive portrayals of the institution (comprising of Cupid and Psyche, Charite and Tlepolemus, the marriage of Plotina, and the symbolic marriage of Lucius and Isis, represented by Lucius’ initiation in Book 11) and on their narratological relationship with the novel as a whole.
In the case of the marriages which feature as ‘tales,’ the examination of each marriage takes a double approach. Firstly, an attempt is made to ascertain to what degree each relationship contributes to a positive portrayal of marriage, focusing in particular on the role of the female participant. Secondly, by looking at how and why each tale is narrated, and the effects of these findings on the tales’ credibility, a point of comparison is offered from which to consider the relationship of Lucius and Isis, which constitutes the climax of Lucius’ ‘tale.’ A particular connection is made between Plotina and Isis as ‘the only wives worth having,’ and consequently, a narratological link can be created between the deceptive tale of ‘Haemus,’ which features Plotina, and the conundrum that is the Metamorphoses.