"The only wife worth having"? Marriage and Storytelling in Apuleius' Metamorphoses


  • Joanne McNamara


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.