The dramatic poem entitled Empedocles on Etna, which is set in ancient Greece, was first published anonymously in 1852 when Matthew Arnold was thirty years of age. It was contained in a slender volume called Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems by A. Previous to that, he had published only one collection of verse. This appeared in 1849 with the title The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems.
Arnold's decision to place the poem in a Greek setting was probably more sentimental than aesthetic and proceeded from a dislike for his own age...The use of a Greek setting has a more immediate implication with regard to Arnold's condemnation of the hero's morose skepticism.
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Maher, William E.. "The Empedoclean Rationale of Matthew Arnold: An Interpretation of the Ethical Problem in Empedocles on Etna." (1960). http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/engl_etds/159