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Greek Mythology and William Shakespeare

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Jordan Brand

on 17 August 2014

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Transcript of Greek Mythology and William Shakespeare

Greek Mythology
The Greek myths are an extremely detailed and in depth account of mythology which have survived until the present day. Today, they are considered stories or fairy tales, but to the people of Ancient Greece, they were like an oral bible, handed down from generation to generation, telling of their gods, and teaching them lessons on how to live. Many of them focus on what they call heroes, people who were half human, half god, and went about the land, helping people, the idea on which modern superheroes are based.
How Shakespeare used the Greek Myths
William Shakespeare, like every other educated man of his age, had learned about the Greek myths. Naturally, seeing them as a writing tool which everyone would know about, he put references to them in many of his works, most famously
A Midsummer's Night's Dream
, which has several famous mythological characters in it.
A Midsummer's
Night's Dream
The play
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
begins in fact in the court of Athens, the most famous city in Greek mythology, where Theseus, one of the most famous Greek heroes of all time, is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, warrior women. These two characters are in fact some of the most famous figures in Greek mythology, both of them even met Heracles. This play also involves fairies, or nymphs, who often appear in Greek mythology as kind or helpful spirits.
Other References in Shakespeare
Some fantasy style plays, such as
The Tempest
, contain elements from Greek mythology, such as mythical creatures and quests. In some of Shakespeare's sonnets there are references to Cupid, the Roman god of love, who is spoken about in sonnet 153. He fired invisible arrows which could make any mortal fall in love. His Greek equivalent is Eros, the son of Aphrodite, goddess of love.
The Merchant of Venice
There are many quotes involving Hercules in
The Merchant of Venice.
One example follows:
"Now he goes
With no less presence but with much more love
Than young Alcides, when he did redeem
The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy
To the sea monster. —Go, Hercules!
Live thou, I live. With much, much more dismay
I view the fight than thou that makest the fray." Act 3, scene 2,
The Merchant of Venice.
Another example is this:
"But, alas the while! If Hercules and Lychas play at dice, which is the better man?" Act 2 Scene 1,
The Merchant of Venice.
Why Greek Mythology in Shakespeare is important
The reason it is important for us to know why Shakespeare put the Greek Myths into his plays is because then we can study those myths and discover more about how Shakespeare's plays should be performed. This means we can make our own interpretations better and better, until we understand the story well enough to perform it perfectly. If you can't understand Shakespeare's plays, you can't perform them well, and that is really what Shakespeare is all about. Performing his plays, and entertaining an audience.
By Jordan Brand 8P
Greek Mythology and William Shakespeare
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