“Like to the Pontic sea”: Early Modern Medea and the Dramatic Significance of Othello III.iii.456-61


  • Francesco Dall'Olio




Othello, Medea, Seneca, Otherness, Classical reception in early modern literature


This article offers a new take on a passage from the ‘seduction scene’ in Othello (III.iii.456-61), where scholarship has often recognized an imitation of a passage from Seneca’s Medea (404-7). It argues that this imitation has a deeper dramatic significance than previously recognized. It connects Othello to a well-established literary tradition founded on the perception of Medea in early modern English literature as a model of foreign, revengeful and powerful femininity. For this reason, her figure was, in Elizabethan prose and theatre, compared to or used as a model for the characterization either of rebellious female characters breaking societal norms to satisfy ‘unnatural’ desires, or for male characters suffering identity, social and/or gender, degradation. The passage in Othello apparently follows the same pattern. However, the context highlights a difference from this tradition, in so far as Othello is only an ambivalently integrated foreigner. The article shows how the imitation of Seneca’s Medea in the seduction scene fits into the dramatic and thematic patterns of Othello, contributing to the recent re-evaluation of continuities between this play and Senecan drama. 




How to Cite

Dall'Olio, F. (2023). “Like to the Pontic sea”: Early Modern Medea and the Dramatic Significance of Othello III.iii.456-61. Memoria Di Shakespeare. A Journal of Shakespearean Studies, (10). https://doi.org/10.13133/2283-8759/18619