How to Use and Cite the Dictionary

Contents and Organisation of the Dictionary Entries

Sources of Information and References

Editorial Policy


Contents and Organisation of the Dictionary Entries


Each entry consists of several sections:


TITLE.  Usual name of the mythological character, or pair of characters, or animal, or attribute, followed by other existent Medieval and Elizabethan spellings.


RELATED ENTRIES.  This section lists other thematically connected entries. Thus, in the entry “Iris”, the myths of “Ceres”, “Juno” and “Venus” are mentioned as related entries because they all appear in relation with “Iris” in The Tempest; “Harpies” is also mentioned as a related entry because the relation between Iris and the Harpies is studied in the “Analysis” for Iris. By clicking on one of the names in Related Entries, the reader is directly sent to the corresponding Dictionary entry. 


BRIEF PRESENTATION.  This section offers a brief summary of the myth's major features.


CLASSICAL SOURCES.  This section lists references to the main sources of the relevant myth in classical authors. The sources most readily available to Shakespeare are underlined.


SOME SECONDARY SOURCES.  This section quotes or summarises the texts of some mythographical treatises, emblems, dictionary entries and Elizabethan translations of classical authors all available in Shakespeare’s time. The word “source” here is therefore not to be taken literally but in its widest sense, as defining a cultural background. Quotations are selected so as to present a variety of different significant interpretative contexts, with no claim to exhaustivity. Whenever a modern edition is easy to find (as for Arthur Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses), only the reference is given. The order is chronological. Elizabethan translations of Seneca’s plays appear at the date of the first publication of each individual play. The date of Thomas Norton’s edition of the complete collection (1581) is recalled in brackets. Texts added by the translators appear in the “Contemporary Occurrences” section.


OCCURRENCES IN SHAKESPEARE.  These cover three main cases:

references: the myth is quoted in Shakespeare’s text (as when Hamlet refers to his mother “Like Niobe, all tears”, Hamlet, I.ii.149).

allusions: the myth is not quoted but recognizable (as in Richard III’s allusion to the phoenix when referring to Princess Elizabeth’s womb as “that nest of spicery”, Richard III, IV.iv.355). When there seems to be no clear textual evidence of a mythological allusion, critical history is taken into account: as, for example, the many studies of the significance of a possible allusion to the Pygmalion myth in the coming to life of Hermione’s “statue” in The Winter’s Tale.

structural myths: these include the relevance of the Salmacis and Hermaphroditus myth in Venus and Adonis or the Pyramus and Thisbe story in both Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Occurrences in Shakespeare are listed in the chronological order proposed in Annals of English Drama 975-1700 by Alfred Harbage, revised by S. Schoenbaum, third edition revised by Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim.  London: Routledge, 1989.


SOME CONTEMPORARY REFERENCES.  This section offers a selection of allusions to the myth by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, the word being taken in its widest meaning, to include authors as early as Chaucer or, more rarely, as late as Milton. Allusions are selected so as to offer a literary background against which Shakespeare’s use of myths can be better understood. They are used to assess Shakespeare’s position in Elizabethan and Jacobean mythological culture and to throw light on his practice as poet and dramatist. This section may also reveal contemporary trends and fashions in mythological discourse as well as personal appropriations and cultural shifts. The quotations are by no means exhaustive and do not constitute a systematic collection. They offer a range of what seems to be most significant as a literary context against which to examine Shakespeare’s works.


ANALYSIS.  This section offers a critical evaluation and interpretation of Shakespeare’s use of a myth.


BIBLIOGRAPHY.  A selected list of the main studies of the myth in Shakespeare and more widely in Renaissance literature and arts, this bibliography applies only to the myth studied in the entry. It does not duplicate with the General Bibliography, which lists works that may be considered useful for all entries.


ICONOGRAPHY.  This is restricted to interpretations of the myth by Renaissance artists. Whenever possible a link is offered towards the websites of relevant museums.


Sources of Information and References



Unless otherwise specified, references are to editions in the Loeb Classical Library.



References are to be found in the General Bibliography (Primary Texts).



All references are to the second edition of The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. The chronological order adopted is that of Annals of English Drama 975-1700 by Alfred Harbage, revised by S. Schoenbaum, third edition revised by Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim.  London: Routledge, 1989.



Quotations are presented in chronological order. In the case of plays, the dates given in brackets are the supposed limits of the first performance, followed by the date at which the play is classified in Harbage’s Annals of English Drama. Thus,


Robert WilsonThe Cobbler’s Prophecy (c. 1589-1593, 1590):


means that the play was composed between around 1589 and 1593, and that it is to be found in the slot 1590 in Annals of English Drama. When only one date appears, it means that only the date of first performance is known with certainty. All dates for plays follow


Annals of English Drama 975-1700 by Alfred Harbage, revised by S. Schoenbaum, third edition revised by Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim.  London: Routledge, 1989.


All other texts are listed according to the date of first publication. When a text was published in several instalments, it appears at the date of the first complete edition. An exception is made for Spenser’s Faery Queene: the first three books being quoted for 1590, the remaining books for 1596.


Editorial Policy


Textual sources have all been examined afresh. Some obvious emendations have been silently made. Spelling and punctuation have been modernised throughout, except in titles, although titles of plays have been modernised to follow Alfred Harbage’s Annals of English Drama. Quotations from Chaucer have not been modernised as modern critical editions are easily accessible. Scottish texts have also been reproduced in their original version, followed by a translation in modern English. For all texts, explanatory notes are given in different print, within square brackets.

The texts have been established by collating the UMI collection of microfilms in the possession of the IRCL (Institut de Recherche sur la Renaissance, l’Âge Classique et les Lumières) with all modern editions available, including the facsimile collections of The Renaissance and the Gods series, edited by Stephen Orgel (New York: Garland Publishing, 1976), Scolar Press Facsimiles, Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum facsimiles (Amsterdam), the Anglistica and Americana series (Hildesheim), and Tudor Facsimile Texts. We have occasionally consulted Bullen’s Collection of Old English Plays, Hazlitt’s Dodsley and the Hunterian Club Collections for rare texts. The editions of individual works we have checked cannot all be acknowledged here. The publications of the Barnabe Riche Society, of the Early English Text Society, of the Malone Reprints, of the Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies series, have been consulted, as well as editions in The Revels Plays, The New Mermaids series, the Regents Renaissance Drama series and Renaissance Drama (New York: Garland).


The following critical editions of complete or collective works have also been systematically examined:


Ascham, RogerEnglish Works, ed. William Aldis Wright.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904.


Beaumont, Francis and Fletcher, JohnThe Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, ed. Fredson Bowers, 10 vols.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966-1994.

Bodenham, John? or Linge, Nicholas? or A. B.? England’s Helicon, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1935.

Breton, NicholasThe Works in Verse and Prose, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 2 vols.  Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1969 (Printed for private circulation, Edinburgh University Press, 1879).

Breton, NicholasPoems not hitherto reprinted, ed. Jean Robertson.  Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1967 (1952).

Brome, RichardThe Dramatic Works of Richard Brome, 3 vols.  London: John Pearson, 1873.

Browne, Sir ThomasThe Works of Sir Thomas Browne, ed. Charles Sayle, 3 vols.  Vol. 1 and 2, London: Grant Richards, 1904.  Vol. 3, Edinburgh: John Grant, 1907.

Bullen, A. H., ed. Some Longer Elizabethan Poems.  New York: Dutton, 1903.

Bullen, A. H., ed. Some Shorter Elizabethan Poems.  New York: Dutton, 1903.

Burton, RobertThe Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Thomas C. Faulkner, Nicolas K. Kiessling and Rhonda L. Blair (vols. 1-3) and J. B. Bamborough with Martin Dodsworth (vols. 4-6), 6 vols.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989-2000.


Campion, ThomasThe Works of Thomas Campion, ed. Walter R. Davis.  London: Faber and Faber, 1969.

Chapman, GeorgeThe Plays of George Chapman, ed. Thomas Marc Parrott, 4 vols.  New York: Russell and Russell Inc., 1961 (1914).

Chapman, GeorgeThe Plays of George Chapman: The Tragedies with Sir Gyles Goosecappe, ed. Allan Holaday with G. Blakemore-Evans and Thomas L. Berger.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1987.

Chapman, GeorgeThe Works of George Chapman: Poems and Minor Translations, With an Introduction by Algernon Charles Swinburne.  London: Chatto and Windus, 1875.

Chaucer, GeoffreyThe Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991 (1987).

Collier, J. Payne, edIllustrations of Old English Literature, 3 vols.  New York: Benjamin Blom, 1966 (London, 1866).

Constable, HenryThe Poems of Henry Constable, ed. Joan GrundyLiverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1960.

Copland, RobertPoems, ed. Mary Carpenter Erler.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.

Cunliffe, John W., edEarly English Classical Tragedies.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912.


Davies, Sir JohnThe Poems of Sir John Davies, ed. Robert Krueger and Ruby Nemser.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

Deloney, ThomasThe Works of Thomas Deloney, ed. Francis Oscar Mann.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969 (1912).

Drayton, MichaelThe Works of Michael Drayton, ed. J. William Hebel, 5 vols.  Oxford: Blackwell, 1961 (1931-1941).

Drummond of Hawthornden, WilliamThe Works of William Drummond, of Hawthornden.  Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1970 (Edinburgh: James Watson, 1711).

Du Bartas, Guillaume de SalusteThe Divine Weeks and Works of Guillaume de Saluste Sieur Du Bartas: Translated by Josuah Sylvester, ed. Susan Snyder, 2 vols.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.


Field, NathanThe Plays of Nathan Field, ed. William Peery.  Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1950.

Fletcher, Giles and PhineasPoetical Works, ed. Frederick S. Boas, 2 vols.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970 (1908-1909).

Ford, John [Massinger, Philip]The Dramatic Works of Massinger and Ford, ed. Hartley Coleridge.  London: Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1863.

Ford, JohnThe Non Dramatic Works of John Ford, ed. L. E. Stock, Gilles D. Monsarrat, Judith M. Kennedy, Dennis Danielson. Renaissance English Text Society, Seventh series, vol. XV.  Binghampton, Binghampton: State University of New York, 1991.


Gascoigne, GeorgeA Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, ed. G. W. Pigman III.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000.

Gascoigne, GeorgeThe Complete Works, ed. John W. Cunliffe, 2 vols.  Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1974 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1907).

Googe, BarnabeEclogues, Epitaphs and Sonnets, ed. Judith M. Kennedy.  Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1989.

Gower, JohnThe English Works of John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, 2 vols.  Oxford: Early English Text Society E. S. 82, Oxford University Press, 1969 (1901).

Greene, Robert [Peele, George]The Dramatic and Poetical Works of Robert Greene and George Peele, ed. Alexander Dyce.  London: Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1861.

Greville, FulkeThe Works in Verse and Prose Complete, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, 4 vols.  Blackburn: Charles Tiplady for The Fuller Worthies’ Library, 1870.

Greville, FulkePoems and Dramas of Fulke Greville, First Lord Brooke, ed. Geoffrey Bullough, 2 vols.  Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1938.


Hall, JosephThe Poems of Joseph Hall, ed. Arnold Davenport.  Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1969 (1949).

Henryson, RobertPoems, ed. Charles Elliott.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980 (1963).

Heywood, ThomasThe Dramatic Works of Thomas Heywood, 6 vols.  New York: Russell and Russell, 1964 (1874).

Hulse, Clark, edMetamorphic Verse: The Minor Elizabethan Epic.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.  

Hunter, William B. Jr, edThe English Spenserians: The Poetry of Giles Fletcher, George Wither, Michael Drayton, Phineas Fletcher and Henry More.  Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1977.


Jonson, BenThe Works of Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Hertford, Evelyn Simpson and Percy Simpson, 11 vols.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-1952.

Jonson, Ben.  Works, ed. David Bevington, Martin Butler, and Ian Donaldson, 7 vols.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.


Kline, Holger M, edEnglish and Scottish Sonnet Sequences of the Renaissance, 2 vols.  Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1984.

Kyd, ThomasThe Works of Thomas Kyd, ed. Frederick S. Boas.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962 (1901).


Lee, SidneyElizabethan Sonnets, 2 vols.  New York: Dutton, 1904.

Lydgate, JohnLydgate’s Troy Book, ed. Henry Bergen, 3 vols.  Millwood, New York: Early English Text Society E. S. 97, 103, 126, Kraus Reprint, 1973 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1901-1908). 

Lydgate, JohnLydgate’s Fall of Princes, ed. Henry Bergen, 4 vols.  Oxford: Early English Text Society E. S. 121-124, Oxford University Press, 1967 (1924). 

Lydgate, JohnThe Assembly of Gods, ed. Oscar Lovell Triggs.  Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint, 1981 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1895). 

Lydgate, JohnReson and Sensuallyte, ed. Ernst Sieper.  London: Oxford University Press (Early English Text Society), 1901-03. 

Lydgate, JohnTemple of Glas (1403), ed. J. Schick.  London: Oxford University Press (Early English Text Society), 1987 (1892). 

Lydgate, JohnThe Siege of Thebes, ed. Axel Erdmann, 2 vols.  Early English Text Society  E. S. 108 and 125.  London: Oxford University Press, 2004 (1911) and 1998 (1920). 

Lyly, JohnThe Complete Works of John Lyly, ed. R. Warwick Bond, 3 vols.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967 (1902).


Marlowe, ChristopherThe Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, ed. Roma Gill, 5 vols.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986-98.

Marston, JohnThe Works of John Marston, ed. J. O. Halliwell, 3 vols.  London: John Russell Smith, 1856.

Marston, JohnThe Works, ed. Arthur Henry Bullen.  Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1970 (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887).

Massinger, Philip [Ford, John]The Dramatic Works of Massinger and Ford, ed. Hartley Coleridge.  London: Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1863.

Massinger, PhilipThe Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson, 5 vols.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

Middleton, ThomasThe Collected Works, ed. Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino, with Macdonald P. Jackson, John Jowett, Valerie Wayne and Adrian Weiss.  Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2007.


Nashe, ThomasThe Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow, 5 vols.  Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958-66.


Peele, George [Greene, Robert]The Dramatic and Poetical Works of Robert Greene and George Peele, ed. Alexander DyceLondon: Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1861.

Peele, GeorgeThe Life and Works of George Peele, ed. Charles Tyler Prouty, 3 vols.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952-1970.

Pettie, GeorgeA Petite Pallace of Pettie his Pleasure (London: Richard Watkins, 1576), ed. Herbert Hartman.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938.


Sackville, ThomasThe Works of Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, ed. Reginald W. Sackville-West.  London: John Russell Smith, 1859.

Shirley, JamesDramatic Works and Poems, ed. Alexander Dyce, 6 vols.  Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2007 (London: John Murray, 1833).

Sidney, Sir PhilipThe Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, ed. Maurice Evans.  Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1982 (1977).

Sidney, Sir PhilipSir Philip Sidney, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones.  The Oxford Authors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Skelton, JohnThe Complete English Poems, ed. John Scattergood.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.

Spenser, EdmundThe Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton.  London: Longman, 1977.

Spenser, EdmundThe Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, ed. William A. Oram, Einar Bjorvand, Ronald Bond, Thomas H. Cain, Alexander Dunlop, and Richard Schell.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.


Watson, ThomasThe Complete Works of Thomas Watson, ed. Dana F. Sutton, vol. 1. Studies in Renaissance Literature 13a.  Lewiston / Queenston / Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1996.

Webster, JohnThe Works of John Webster, vol. 1, ed. David Gunby, David Carnegie and Antony Hammond; vol. 2, ed. David Gunby, David Carnegie and Mac Donald P. Jackson.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995-2003.

Weston, Elizabeth JaneCollected Writings, ed. Donald Cheney and Brenda M. Hosington.  Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Wroth, Lady MaryThe Poems of Lady Mary Wroth, ed. Josephine A. Roberts.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1983.

Wyatt, Sir ThomasCollected Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt, ed. Kenneth Muir and Patricia Thomson. Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 1969.


Online editions have also been consulted:

Early English Books Online:

The Electronic Text Center (University of Virginia):

Lexicons of Early Modern English (University of Toronto):

The Philological Museum (University of Birmingham):

Renaissance Electronic Texts (University of Toronto):

Renascence Editions (University of Oregon):

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