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Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Major Literary Influences

  • Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 6: The story of Philomel's rape by her brother-in-law, Tereus, and the revenge of Procne, who serves Tereus his son as a meal.
  • Seneca's dramatic works, especially Thyestes (where Atreus serves up Thyestes' two sons).
  • 16th century revenge tragedies, especially Thomas Kyd's bloody play The Spanish Tragedy.

Classical Allusions

Aside from Shakespeare's major literary sources (both of which happen to be Roman literary classics), there are tons of classical allusions in the play.

  • Jupiter Capitolinus, king of the Roman gods (1.1)
  • Priam, King of Troy during the Trojan War (1.1)
  • Queen Hecuba of Troy (1.1)
  • Trojan War hero Ajax (1.1)
  • Lucrece, rape victim of Tarquin (2.1)
  • The House of Fame, described by Chaucer (The House of Fame) and Ovid (Metamorphoses) (2.1)
  • Dido and Aeneas (2.3)
  • Acteon, Greek mythological hunter transformed by Diana (goddess of chastity and the hunt) into a deer (2.3)
  • Pyramus and Thisbe (2.3)
  • Cicero's Orator (4.1)
  • Roman gods Apollo, Pallas, and Mercury (4.1)
  • Hercules (4.2)
  • Prometheus (5.2)
  • Hippodamia's wedding feast (5.3)
  • Simon, the guy who persuaded the Trojans to accept the wooden horse full of soldiers during the Trojan War (5.3)

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