Shakespeare's Myths


The Comedy of Errors (c. 1590-3, 1592), III.ii.8:

Luciana (to Antipholus of Syracuse): Muffle your false love with some show of blindness.


The Taming of the Shrew (c. 1590-1604, 1592), V.i.115:

Lucentio: Love wrought these miracles.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), I.i.39-41:

Valentine (to Proteus): Love is your master, for he masters you,

And he that is so yokèd by a fool

Methinks should not be chronicled for wise.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), II.i.65-67:

Speed: If you love her you cannot see her.

Valentine: Why?

Speed: Because love is blind.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), II.iv.93-96:

Valentine: Why, lady, love hath twenty pair of eyes.

Thurio: They say that love hath not an eye at all.

Valentine: To see such lovers, Thurio, as yourself.

Upon a homely object love can wink.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), II.iv.127-28, 131-40:

Valentine: I have done penance for contemning love,

Whose high imperious thoughts have punished me …

For in revenge of my contempt of love

Love hath chased sleep from my enthrallèd eyes,

And made them watchers of mine own heart’s sorrow.

O gentle Proteus, love’s a mighty lord,

And hath so humbled me as I confess

There is no woe to his correction,

Nor to his service no such joy on earth.

Now, no discourse except it be of love.

Now can I break my fast, dine, sup, and sleep

Upon the very naked name of love.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593),

Proteus: Love, lend me wings to make my purpose swift,

As thou hast lent me wit to plot this drift.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), II.vii.9-11:

Julia: A true-devoted pilgrim is not weary

To measure kingdoms with his feeble steps.

Much less shall she that hath love’s wings to fly


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), III.i.124-25:

Duke: for love is like a child,

That longs for everything that he can come by.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), III.ii.58:

Duke (to Proteus): You are already love’s firm votary.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), IV.ii.45-47:

Song: Love doth to her eyes repair,

To help him of his blindness,

And, being helped, inhabits there.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), IV.iv.191-93:

Julia: What should it be that he respects in her

But I can make respective in myself,

If this fond love were not a blinded god.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1593-1594, 1593), V.iv.27:

Valentine: Love lend me patience to forbear awhile.


Venus and Adonis (1593), 123:

Love keeps his revels where there are but twain.


Venus and Adonis (1593), 241-46:

At this Adonis smiles as in disdain,

That in each cheek appears a pretty dimple.

Love made those hollows, if himself were slain,

He might be buried in a tomb so simple,

Foreknowing well, if there he came to lie,

Why, there love lived, and there he could not die.


Venus and Adonis (1593), 580-82:

[Venus] Bids him farewell, and look well to her heart

The which, by Cupid’s bow she doth protest,

He carries thence encagèd in his breast.


Venus and Adonis (1593), 947-48:

Love’s golden arrow at him should have fled,

And not death’s ebon dart to strike him dead.


The Rape of Lucrece (1594), 351:

Tarquin: Then love and fortune be my gods, my guide!


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), I.ii.61-62:

Armado: I think scorn to sigh. Methinks I should outswear Cupid.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), I.ii.163-65:

Armado: Love is a familiar; love is a devil. There is no evil angel but love.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), I.ii.161-68:

Armado: Cupid’s butt-shaft is too hard for Hercules’ club.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), II.i.255:

Maria [on Boyet]: He is Cupid’s grandfather, and learns news of him. (II.i.255)


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), III.i.169, 172:

Biron: I that have been love’s whip …

A domineering pedant o’er the boy.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), III.i.174-81:

Biron: This wimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,

This Signor Junior, giant dwarf, Dan Cupid,

Regent of love-rhymes, lord of folded arms,

Th’anointed sovereign of sighs and groans,

Liege of all loiterers and malcontents,

Dread prince of plackets, king of codpieces,

Sole imperator and great general

Of trotting paritors…


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), III.i.196-98:

Biron: it is a plague

That Cupid will impose for my neglect

Of his almighty dreadful little might.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), IV.iii.21-22:

Biron: Shot, by heaven! Proceed, sweet Cupid, thou hast thumped him with thy bird-bolt under the left pap.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), IV.iii.51:

Biron: … The shape of love’s Tyburn, that hangs up simplicity. (IV.iii.51) 


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), IV.iii.55-56:

Biron: O, rhymes are guards on wanton Cupid’s hose,

Disfigure not his slop.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), IV.iii.342:

King: Saint Cupid, then, and, soldiers, to the field!


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), V.ii.6-15:

Princess: as much love in rhyme

As would be crammed up in a sheet of paper

Writ o’ both sides the leaf, margent and all,

That he was fain to seal on Cupid’s name.

Rosaline: That was the way to make his godhead wax,

For he hath been five thousand year a boy.

Catherine: Ay, and a shrewd unhappy gallows, too.

Rosaline: You’ll ne’er be friends with him, a killed your sister.

Catherine: He made her melancholy, sad, and heavy,

And so she died.


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), V.ii.87-88:

Princess: Saint Denis to Saint Cupid! What are they

That charge their breath against us?


Love’s Labour’s Lost (1595), V.ii.752-53:

Biron: As love is full of unbefitting strains

All wanton as a child, skipping and vain


The Merchant of Venice (c. 1596-1598, 1596),

Jessica: But love is blind, and lovers cannot see

The pretty follies that themselves commit;

For if they could, Cupid himself would blush

To see me thus transformèd to a boy.


The Merchant of Venice (c. 1596-1598, 1596), II.ix.98-99:

Portia: I long to see

Quick Cupid’s post that comes so mannerly.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), I.i.169-70:

Hermia (to Lysander): I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow,

By his best arrow with the golden head…


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), I.i.234-41:

Helena: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Nor hath love’s mind of any judgment taste;

Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.

And therefore is love said to be a child

Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,

So the boy Love is perjured everywhere.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), II.i.155-68:

Oberon (to Puck): That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,

Flying between the cold moon and the earth

Cupid, all armed. A certain aim he took

At a fair vestal thronèd by the west,

And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow

As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts.

But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft

Quenched in the chaste beams of the wat’ry moon,

And the imperial vot’ress passèd on,

In maiden meditation, fancy-free.

Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.

It fell upon a little western flower―

Before, milk-white; now, purple with love’s wound—

And maidens call it love-in-idleness.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), III.iI.102-03:

Oberon: Flower of this purple dye

Hit with Cupid’s archery…


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), III.iii.28-29:

Puck: Cupid is a knavish lad

Thus to make poor females mad.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596), IV.i.71-72:

Oberon: Dian’s bud o’er Cupid’s flower

Hath such force and blessèd power.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), I.i.166-69

Benvolio: Alas that love, so gentle in his view,

Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof.

Romeo: Alas that love, whose view is muffled still,

Should without eyes see pathways to his will.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), I.i.205-08

Romeo:                  She’ll not be hit

With Cupid’s arrow; she hath Dian’s wit,

And, in strong proof of chastity well armed,

From love’s weak childish bow she lives unharmed.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), I.iv.4-6

Benvolio (to Romeo): We’ll have no Cupid hoodwinked with a scarf,

Bearing a Tartar’s painted bow of lath,

Scaring the ladies like a crowkeeper…


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), I.iv.17-18

Mercutio (to Romeo): You are a lover; borrow Cupid’s wings,

And soar with them above a common bound.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), I.iv.27-28

Mercutio: If love be rough with you, be rough with love.

Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), II.i.11-14

Mercutio (to Romeo): Speak to my gossip Venus one fair word,

One nickname for her purblind son and heir,

Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim

When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), II.i.32-33

Benvolio: Blind is his love and best befits the dark.

Mercutio: If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), II.i.108-09

Romeo: With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls,

For stony limits cannot hold love out.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), II.i.122-23

Romeo: By love, that first did prompt me to enquire.

He lent me counsel, and I lent him eyes.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), II.iii.12-15

Mercutio: Alas, poor Romeo, he is already dead—stabbed with a white wench’s black eye, run through the ear with a love song, the very pin of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy’s butt-shaft.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), II.v.7-8

Juliet: Therefore do nimble-pinioned doves draw Love,

And therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings.


Romeo and Juliet (c. 1594-1596, 1596), III.ii.9-10

Juliet:                   if love be blind

It best agrees with night.


The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597), II.i.4-6

Mistress Page (reads): though Love use Reason for his precision, he admits him not for his counsellor.


The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597), II.ii.131

Pistol: This punk is one of Cupid’s carriers.


The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597), V.v.3-5

Sir John: Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa; love set on thy horns. O powerful love, that in some respects makes a beast a man; in some other, a man a beast!


The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597), V.v.27-28

Sir John: Why, now is Cupid a child of conscience; he makes restitution.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), I.i.37-40

Beatrice (on Benedick): He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at the flight; and my uncle’s fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid and challenged him at the bird-bolt.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), I.i.172-74

Benedick (to Claudio): But speak you this with a sad brow, or do you play the flouting jack, to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder?


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), I.i.234-37

Benedick: … pick out mine eyes with a ballad-maker’s pen and hang me up at the door of a brothel house for the sign of blind Cupid.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), I.i.253-54

Don Pedro: Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice thou wilt quake for this shortly.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), II.i.360-62

Don Pedro: If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), III.i.21-23

Hero:                Of this matter

Is little Cupid’s crafty arrow made,

That only wounds by hearsay.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), III.i.47

Hero: O god of love!


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), III.i.105-06

Hero: If it prove so, then loving goes by haps.

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), III.ii.9-11

Don Pedro (on Benedick): He hath twice or thrice cut Cupid’s bow-string, and the little hangman dare not shoot at him.


Much Ado About Nothing (1598), V.ii.25-28

Benedick (sings): The god of love

That sits above

And knows me, and knows me,

How pitiful I deserve―


As You Like It (c. 1598-1589, 1599), I.iii.1-2

Celia: Why cousin, why Rosalind ― Cupid have mercy, not a word?


As You Like It (c. 1598-1589, 1599), III.v.31-32

Silvius (to Phoebe): Then shall you know the wounds invisible

That love’s keen arrows make.


As You Like It (c. 1598-1589, 1599), IV.i.45-46

Rosalind: … it may be said of him that Cupid hath clapped him o’th’shoulder, but I’ll warrant him heartwhole.


As You Like It (c. 1598-1589, 1599), IV.i.201-05

Rosalind: … that same wicked bastard of Venus, that was begot of thought, conceived of spleen, and born of madness, that blind rascally boy that abuses everyone’s eyes because his own are out, let him be judge how deep I am in love.


Henry V (1599), V.ii.291-98

Burgundy: … if [you] conjure up love in her in his true likeness, he must appear naked and blind. Can you blame her then, being a maid yet rosed over with the virgin crimson of modesty, if she deny the appearance of a naked blind boy in her naked seeing self? It were, my lord, a hard condition for a maid to consign to. 

King Harry: Yet they do wink and yield, as love is blind and enforces.


Henry V (1599), V.ii.311-16

King Harry: … she must be blind too.

Burgundy: As love is, my lord, before that it loves.

King Harry: It is so. And you may, some of you, thank love for my blindness, who cannot see many a French city for one fair French maid that stands in my way.


Sonnets (published 1609)

Sonnet 115, 13

Love is a babe


Sonnet 137, 1-2

Thou blind fool love, what dost thou to mine eyes

That they behold and see not what they see?


Sonnet 145, 1

Those lips that love’s own hand did make …


Sonnet 148, 1

O me, what eyes hath love put in my head


Sonnet 148, 8

Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s.


Sonnet 148, 13

O cunning love, with tears thou keep’st me blind.


Sonnet 151, 1

Love is too young to know what conscience is.


Sonnet 153

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep.

A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,

And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep

In a cold valley-fountain of that ground,

Which borrowed from this holy fire of love

A dateless lively heat, still to endure,

And grew a seething bath which yet men prove

Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.

But at my mistress’ eye love’s brand new fired,

The boy for trial needs would touch my breast.

I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,

And thither hied, a sad distempered guest,

But found no cure; the bath for my help lies

Where Cupid got new fire: my mistress’ eyes. 


Sonnet 154

The little love-god lying once asleep

Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,

Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep

Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand

The fairest votary took up that fire

Which many legions of true hearts had warmed,

And so the general of hot desire

Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarmed.

This brand she quenched in a cool well by,

Which from love’s fire took heat perpetual,

Growing a bath and healthful remedy

For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,

Came there for cure, and this by that I prove:

Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.


Hamlet (c. 1600-1601, 1601), III.ii.152-53

Player King: Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands

Unite commutual in most sacred bands.


Twelfth Night (c. 1601-1602, 1601), I.i.34

Orsino: How will she love when the rich golden shaft

Hath killed the flock of all affections else.


Twelfth Night (c. 1601-1602, 1601), I.v.276

Cesario (to Olivia): Love make his heart of flint that you shall love.


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), I.i.62-63

Troilus (to Pandarus): Thou lay’st in every gash that love hath given me

The knife that made it.


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), III.i.106-07

Helen: Let thy song be love. “This love will undo us all”. O Cupid, Cupid, Cupid!


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), III.i.112-16

Pandarus (sings): For O love’s bow

Shoots buck and doe.

The shaft confounds

Not that it wounds,

But tickles still the sore.


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), III.ii.12-14

Troilus:                   O gentle Pandar,

From Cupid’s shoulder pluck his painted wings

And fly with me to Cressid.


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), III.ii.71-72

Troilus (to Cressida): O let my lady apprehend no fear. In all Cupid’s pageant there is presented no monster.


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), III.ii.206-07

Pandarus: And Cupid grant all tongue-tied maidens here

Bed, chamber, pander to provide this gear.


Troilus and Cressida (c. 1602-1603, 1602), III.iii.215-18

Patroclus (to Achilles): Sweet, rouse yourself, and the weak wanton Cupid

Shall from your neck unloose his amorous fold

And like a dew-drop from the lion’s mane

Be shook to air.


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1603-1604, 1603), I.i.169-71

Helen:                    with a world

Of pretty fond adoptious christendoms [ adoptious christendoms: attributed names, nicknames]

That blinking Cupid gossips. [blinking: blind; gossips: to give a name to]


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1603-1604, 1603), I.iii.109-11

Reynaldo [reports Helen as saying]: Love [is] no god, that would not extend his might only where qualities were level.


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1603-1604, 1603), II.iii.58

Helen (to Lords): To each of you one fair and virtuous mistress

Fall when love please.


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1603-1604, 1603), II.iii.75-77

Helen: Now, Dian, from thy altar do I fly,

And to imperial Love, that god most high,

Do my sighs stream.


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1603-1604, 1603), II.iii.83-86

Helen: Love make your fortunes twenty times above

Her that so wishes, and her humble love.

Second Lord: No better, if you please.

Helen:                   My wish receive,

Which great Love grant.


All’s Well that Ends Well (c. 1603-1604, 1603), III.ii.15

Lavatch: The brains of my Cupid’s knocked out.


Measure for Measure (1604), I.iii.1-2

Duke: Believe not that the dribbling dart of love

Can pierce a complete bosom.


Othello (c. 1603-1604, 1604), I.iii.268-72

Othello:               when light-winged toys

Of feathered Cupid seel with wanton dullness

My speculative and officed instruments,

That my disports corrupt and taint my business,

Let housewives make a skillet of my helm …


King Lear (c. 1605-1606, 1605), XX.131-32

Lear (to Gloucester): I remember thy eyes well enough. Dost thou squiny on me?

No, do thy worst, blind Cupid, I’ll not love.


Antony and Cleopatra (c. 1606-1608, 1607), II.ii.208-10

Enobarbus:               On each side her,

Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,

With divers-coloured fans …


Antony and Cleopatra (c. 1606-1608, 1607), IV.xv.35-36

Antony: Unarm, Eros. The long day’s task is done,

And we must sleep.


Timon of Athens (c. 1606-1608, 1607), I.ii.119-24 

                                                      Enter one as Cupid

Cupid:  Hail to thee, worthy Timon, and to all

That of his bounties taste! The five best senses

Acknowledge thee their patron, and come freely

To gratulate thy plenteous bosom. Th’ear,

Taste, touch, smell, all, pleased from thy table rise.

They only now come but to feast thine eyes.


Pericles (c. 1606-1608, 1608), I.i.81

Antiochus: Here they stand martyrs, slain in Cupid’s wars.


Cymbeline (c. 1608-1611, 1609), II.iv.88-91

Giacomo:                Her andirons —

I had forgot them ― were two winking Cupids

Of silver, each on one foot standing, nicely

Depending on their brands.


Cymbeline (c. 1608-1611, 1609), III.ii.36-39

Innogen:                     Lovers

And men in dangerous bonds pray not alike;

Though forfeiters you cast in prison, yet

You clasp young Cupid’s tables.


The Tempest (1611), IV.i.86-101

Ceres (to Iris):             Tell me, heavenly bow,

If Venus or her son, as thou dost know,

Do now attend the Queen. Since they did plot

The means that dusky Dis my daughter got,

Her and her blind boy’s scandalled company

I have forsworn. 

Iris:                                   Of her society

Be not afraid. I met her deity

Cutting the clouds towards Paphos, and her son

Dove-drawn with her. Here thought they to have done

Some wanton charm upon this man and maid,

Whose vows are that no bed-right shall be paid

Till Hymen’s torch be lighted ― but in vain.

Mars’s hot minion is returned again.

Her waspish-headed son has broke his arrows,

Swears he will shoot no more, but play with sparrows,

And be a boy right out.


The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613-1614, 1613),

Jailer’s Daughter:                O Love,

What a stout-hearted child thou art!


The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613-1614, 1613), IV.ii.12-14

Emilia [looking at a picture of Arcite]: What an eye,

Of what a fiery sparkle and quick sweetness

Has this young prince! Here love himself sits smiling!


The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613-1614, 1613), IV.ii.42-43

Emilia [looking at a picture of Palamon]: O, love, this only

From this hour is complexion.


The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613-1614, 1613), V.ii.21-26

Palamon (Praying to Venus): … What godlike power

Hast thou not power upon? To Phoebus thou

Add’st flames hotter than his ― the heavenly fires

Did scorch his mortal son, thine him. The huntress,

All moist and cold, some say, began to throw

Her bow away and sigh.



How to cite

Jane Kingsley-Smith. “Cupid.”  2011.  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology (2009-), ed. Yves Peyré.

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