Shakespeare's Myths


The Taming of the Shrew  (c. 1590-1604, 1592), Induction 2, 34-35:


Wilt thou have music?


Hark, Apollo plays,

And twenty cagèd nightingales do sing.


The Taming of the Shrew (c. 1590-1604, 1592), Induction 2, 56-59:

Third Servingman [proposing Sly still another painting]:

Or Daphne roaming through a thorny wood,

Scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds,

And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep,

So workmanly the blood and tears are drawn.


Venus and Adonis (1593), Dedication to the Earl of Southampton:

Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo

Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.

[The dedication quotes Ovid, Amores, I, xv, 35-36, “Let vulgar writings be wondered at by the common sort; for me, may golden-haired Apollo minister full cups of Castalian water”. Translated as “Let base-conceited wits admire vile things, /Fair Phoebus, lead me to the Muses’ springs” by Christopher Marlowe, Ovid’s Elegies, I, xv, 35-36. The water of the Castalian spring, at the foot of mount Parnassus, favoured poetic inspiration]


Titus Andronicus (1594), I.i.5-9:


As when the golden sun salutes the morn

And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,

Gallops the zodiac in his glistering coach

And overlooks the highest-peering hills,

So Tamora.


Titus Andronicus (1594), IV.i.65-66:


Apollo, Pallas, Jove, or Mercury

Inspire me, that I may this treason find.


Titus Andronicus (1594), IV.iv.13-16:


And now he writes to heaven for his redress.

See, here’s “to Jove” and this “to Mercury”, [Jupiter]

This "to Apollo", this to "the god of War"  — [Mars]

Sweet scrolls to fly about the streets of Rome!


Love’s Labour’s Lost  (c. 1595), IV.iii.316-19:


For valour, is not love a Hercules,

Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?

Subtle as Sphinx, as sweet and musical

As bright Apollo’s lute strung with his hair.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), II.i.230-31:


The story shall be changed:

Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase.


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1601-c. 1604, 1602), II.i.159-68:


Within what space

Hop’st thou my cure ?


The great’st grace lending grace,

Ere twice the horses of the sun shall bring

Their fiery coacher his diurnal ring,

Ere twice in murk and occidental damp

Moist Hesperus hath quenched her sleepy lamp,

Or four-and-twenty times the pilot’s glass

Hath told the thievish minutes how they pass,

What is infirm from your sound parts shall fly,

Health shall live free, and sickness freely die.


Troilus  and Cressida (1602-1603, 1602), I.i.95-99:


I cannot come to Cressid but by Pandar,

And he’s as tetchy to be wooed to woo

As she is stubborn-chaste against all suit.

Tell me, Apollo, for thy Daphne’s love,

What Cressid is, what Pandar, and what we?


Troilus  and Cressida (1602-1603, 1602), I.iii.89-94:


And therefore is the glorious planet Sol

In noble eminence enthroned and sphered

Amidst the other, whose med’cinable eye

Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil

And posts like the commandment of a king,

Sans check, to good and bad.


Troilus  and Cressida (1602-1603, 1602), I.iii.320-25:


... make no strain

But that Achilles, were his brain as barren

As banks of Libya – though, Apollo knows,

’Tis dry enough – will with great speed of judgement,

Ay with celerity, find Hector’s purpose

Pointing on him. (320-325)


Troilus and Cressida (1602-1603, 1602), II.ii.77-78:


He [Paris] brought a Grecian queen [Helen], whose youth and freshness

Wrinkles Apollo’s and makes stale the morning.


Troilus and Cressida (1602-1603, 1602), III.iii.291-94:


What music will be in him [Agamemnon] when Hector has knock’d out his brains, I know not. But I am feared none, unless the fiddler Apollo gets his sinews to make catlings on.


King Lear (1605-1606, 1605), i.151-52 (Q); I.i.159-60 (F)

Lear: Now, by Apollo —

Kent. Now, by Apollo, King, thou swear’st thy gods in vain.


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), II.i.184-89:


 I have dispatched in post

To sacred Delphos, to Apollo’s temple,

Cleomenes and Dion, whom you know

Of stuffed sufficiency. Now from the oracle

They will bring all, whose spiritual counsel had

Shall stop or spur me.


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), III.i.14-21:


Great Apollo

Turn all to th’best! These proclamations,

So forcing faults upon Hermione, I little like.


 The violent carriage of it

Will clear or end the business. When the oracle,

Thus by Apollo’s great divine sealed up,

Shall the contents discover, something rare

Even  then will rush to knowledge. (14-21)


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), III.ii.113-17:


Your honours all,

I refer me to the oracle.

Apollo be my judge.

A Lord:

This your request

Is altogether just. Therefore bring forth,

And in Apollo’s name, his oracle.


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), III.ii.123-27:


You here shall swear upon this sword of justice

That you, Cleomenes and Dion, have

Been both at Delphos, and from thence have brought

This sealed-up oracle, by the hand delivered

Of great Apollo’s priest.


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), III.ii.132-36:

Officer (reads): Hermione is chaste, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, his innocent babe truly begotten, and the King shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found.

Lords: Now blessèd be the great Apollo!


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), III.ii.145-46:

Leontes: Apollo’s angry, and the heavens themselves

Do strike at my injustice.


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), III.ii.152-55:

Leontes: Apollo, pardon

My great profaneness ’gainst thine oracle.

I’ll reconcile me to Polixenes,

New woo my queen, recall the good Camillo.


The Winter’s Tale (c. 1610-1611, 1610), IV.iv.25-31:


The gods themselves,

Humbling their deities to love, have taken

The shapes of beasts upon them. Jupiter

Became a bull, and bellowed; the green Neptune

A ram, and bleated; and the fire-robed god,

Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,

As I seem now.

[In Greene’s Pandosto (STC), Dorastus thinks to himself: “shame not at thy shepherd’s weed: the heavenly gods have sometimes earthly thoughts; Neptune became a ram, Jupiter a bull, Apollo a shepherd; they gods, and yet in love; and thou a man appointed to love”]


Pericles (1606-1608, 1608), xii.64-65:

[Opening the lid of Thaisa’s coffin, Cerimon finds her apparently dead body and a written paper]


A passport, too!

He takes a paper from the chest

Apollo perfect me i’ th’ characters.


The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613-1614, 1613), V.ii.9-15:


Hail, sovereign queen of secrets, who hast power

To call the fiercest tyrant from his rage

And weep unto a girl; that hast the might,

Even with an eye-glance, to choke Mars’s drum

And turn th’alarum to whispers; that canst make

A cripple flourish with his crutch, and cure him

Before Apollo …

How to cite

Claire Bardelman. “Apollo.”  2010.  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology (2009-), ed. Yves Peyré.

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