Shakespeare's Myths

Titus Andronicus (1594), II.iv.26-27; 38-43:

[Marcus, upon discovering his niece, Lavinia, raped and with her hands and tongue removed]

Marcus: But sure some Tereus hath deflowered thee

And, lest thou shouldst detect him, cut thy tongue.


Fair Philomel, why she but lost her tongue

And in a tedious sampler sewed her mind.

But, lovely niece, that mean is cut from thee.

A craftier Tereus, cousin, hast thou met ,

And he hath cut those pretty fingers off

That could have better sewed than Philomel.


Titus Andronicus (1594), IV.i.45-49:

[Titus describes Lavinia using a copy of the Metamorphoses to reveal what has happened to her]

Titus: Soft, so busily she turns the leaves.

Help her. What would she find? Lavinia, shall I read?

This is the tragic tale of Philomel,

And treats of Tereus’ treason and his rape,

And rape, I fear, was root of thy annoy.


The Rape of Lucrece (1594), 1128-34:

Come, Philomel, that sing’st of ravishment,

Make thy sad grove in my dishevelled hair.

As the dank earth weeps at thy languishment,

So I at each sad strain will strain a tear,

And with deep groans the diapason [outpouring / range of harmony] bear;

For burden-wise I’ll hum on Tarquin still,

While thou on Tereus descants [musical counterpoint] better skill.


Cymbeline (c. 1608-1611, 1609), II.ii.44-46:

Giacomo:  She hath been reading late,

The tale of Tereus. Here the leaf's turned down

Where Philomel gave up.






How to cite

Sarah Carter.  “Tereus.”  2013.  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology  (2009-), ed. Yves Peyré.

<< back to top >>