‘Free Gift Was What He Wished’: Negotiating Desire in Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania

  • Marea Mitchell
  • Dianne Osland


There are obvious connections between Mary Wroth’s Urania (1621) and Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1593), not least of which are established through their direct family relationship, with Wroth being the daughter of Barbara (née Gamage) and Sidney’s brother Robert. Influenced by both her uncle Sidney and aunt Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, Wroth’s two volume Urania has only in the last 20 years received much criticism. The mammoth task of writing Urania clearly took some of its impetus from a redirection of her uncle’s interests. Where Urania is the absent idealized and Platonic means by which Sidney’s Arcadian shepherds Claius and Strephon are raised above their pastoral capacities, in Wroth’s text she occupies a much more central role, and begins by searching out her own identity rather than enhancing the identity of others. Wroth’s text both conspicuously links back to Sidney’s and begins a trajectory of its own.


Sexual Desire Central Character Female Character Woman Writer Marriage Ceremony 
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© Marea Mitchell and Dianne Osland 2005

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  • Marea Mitchell
  • Dianne Osland

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