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Allusions

Main ideas Allusions

Act 1, scene 1

Mythological (Constellation)

That you shall surely find him, Lead to the Sagittary the raised search, And there will I be with him.(1.1.160–162)

This is an allusion to Sagittarius, the centaur, a mythological creature that is half horse, half man.

Act 1, scene 2

Mythological

By Janus, I think no.(1.2.33)

This is an allusion to Janus, the two-faced Roman god of beginnings, endings, transitions, and duality.

Act 1, scene 3

Mythological

And of the Cannibals that each others eat, The Anthropophagi, and men who heads Grew beneath their shoulders.(1.3.144–146)

This is an allusion to a race of cannibals called the Laestrygones who tried to eat Odysseus.

Mythological

No, when light-winged toys Of feathered Cupid seel with wanton dullness . . .(1.3.268–269)

This is an allusion to Cupid, the Roman god of love, desire, and attraction.

Religious

The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida.(1.3.345–346)

This is an allusion to Saint John the Baptist who ate locusts and prophesized the coming of God’s Final Judgement.

Act 2, scene 1

Mythological (Constellation)

[T]he wind-shaked surge, with high and monstrous mane, Seems to cast water on the burning bear, And quench the guards of th’ ever-fixèd pole.(2.1.14–16)

This is an allusion to Ursa, the bear-shaped constellation that contains two stars that appear to “protect” the star, Polaris.

Mythological

Great Jove, Othello guard, And swell his sail with thine own powerful breath,(2.1.83–84)

This is an allusion to Jove, the Roman god of the sky and thunder and king of all Roman gods.

Mythological

But my Muse labors And thus she is delivered:(2.1.137–138)

This is an allusion to the nine Muses in Greek mythology who provided musicians, artists, architects, and great thinkers with the inspiration to produce their great works.

Mythological

And let the laboring bark climb hills of seas Olympus-high, and duck again as low As hell’s from heaven!(2.1.190–192)

This is an allusion to Mount Olympus, the home of the ancient Greek gods.

Act 2, scene 3

Mythological

He hath not yet made wonton the night with her, and she is sport for Jove.(2.3.16–17)

This is an allusion to Jove, the Roman god of the sky and thunder and king of all other Roman gods.

Historical/Political

King Stephen was a worthy peer, His breeches cost him but a crown,(2.3.78–79)

This is an allusion to King Stephen, the king of England from 1135 until his death in 1154.

Historical/Political

He is a soldier fit to stand by Caesar And give direction.(2.3.108–109)

This is an allusion to Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator of the Roman Empire who was assassinated by rivals in 44 BC.

Religious

Diablo, ho!(2.3.146)

This is an allusion to the Devil; diablo is “devil” in Spanish.

Mythological

Had I as many mouths as Hydra, such an answer would stop them all.(2.3.289–290)

This is an allusion to Hydra, a serpent with many heads from ancient Greek mythology.

Act 3, scene 3

Mythological

And when I love thee not Chaos is come again.(3.3.91–92)

This is an allusion to Chaos which was, according to Greek mythology, the empty void present before the creation of the universe.

Mythological

And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats The immortal Jove’s dead clamors counterfeit . . .(3.3.363–364)

This is an allusion to Jove, the Roman god of the sky and thunder and king of all other Roman gods.

Mythological

Her name, that was as fresh As Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black As mine own face.(3.3.394–396)

This is an allusion to Dian, or Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon, the hunt, and chastity.

Act 4, scene 1

Historical/Political

Do ye triumph, Roman?(4.1.115)

This is an allusion to ancient Roman generals who, after a battle victory, would further wound and humiliate their captives by dragging them behind their chariots.

Act 4, scene 2

Religious

You, mistress, That have the office opposite to Saint Peter And keep the gate of hell!(4.2.97–99)

This is an allusion to Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, who is traditionally portrayed as the gatekeeper of heaven.

Act 5, scene 2

Mythological

I know not where is that Promethean heat That can thy light relume.(5.2.12–13)

This is an allusion to Prometheus, the Greek Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humankind, enabling society to progress and prosper.

Historical/Political OR Religious

Of one who hand, Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away Richer than all his tribe.(5.2.362–364)

This could be an allusion to the Indians of the New World who were thought to be so primitive that they would throw away something as valuable as a pearl. However, some scholars believe that in the original manuscript “Indian” was originally “Judean” making this an allusion to Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus and, in doing so, threw away his most precious possession—his soul.

Historical/Political

O Spartan dog, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea, Look on the tragic loading of this bed.(5.2.378–380)

This is an allusion to the Spartans, an ancient Greek warrior society known to be ruthless killers.