Article Title

'Deep clerks she dumbs': The Learned Heroine in Apollonius of Tyre and Pericles


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

It is not often in real life that a liberal arts education saves a girl from rape, and it must be even rarer in medieval and Renaissance romance. But in the case of the daughter of Apollonius of Tyre, Tarsia--called Marina in Pericles-education pays off, quite literally.I After the apparent death of her mother in childbirth, the infant Tarsia is entrusted by her father to the care of his friends Stranguillio and Dionysias in Tarsus, to be brought up with their daughter, while he goes off to Egypt ( chap. 28). At the age of five the two girls are sent to school to study the liberal arts ( chap. 29) : it seems to be accepted as quite normal that girls should be educated away from home. When Tarsia is abducted by pirates and sold to a brothel-keeper in Mitylene, she manages to preserve her chastity by telling the sad story of her adventures to her would-be clients and to the pimp's servant (chaps. 33-36). The servant is sympathetic to her desire to avoid prostitution, but points out that the pimp is extremely avaricious. This is where Tarsia's schooling comes into its own. She says confidently: "Habeo auxilium studiorum liberalium, perfecte erudita sum" ("I have the advantage of a liberal arts education, I am fully educated" [chap. 36]). She adds that she is good at music and suggests that she should make money by entertaining the populace with her eloquence, by asking and solving riddles, and by her music-making. This enterprise is a great success: she becomes tremendously popular with the citizens, makes lots of money, keeps the pimp happy, and also preserves her virginity.

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