Happy Valentine’s Day! Discover Shakespeare’s Cupid…

February 14, 2013

Shakespeare is well known for his love poetry, but have you ever wanted to find out when and how he used Cupid in the plays he wrote near the end of his life? This may seem like a daunting task, but with the help of the Advanced Search on Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO) you can find this out in no time.

First you need to go to the Advanced Search page by clicking the button in the top right – remember to do this in another tab or window so you don’t lose these instructions!

On this page choose “Author name” from the first drop down menu and type in “Shakespeare”. Choose “Work text--Text” from the next drop-down menu and type “Cupid” – this will provide you with results just from Shakespeare’s own words. You can use the screenshot below as a guide.

Advanced Search

This will bring up 39 results. Now you can use the filters on the left hand side to narrow the results to his plays and his final years.

Tick the box next to “Drama” and click “Update” to find 36 results in his plays. Then simply type in 1603 and 1616 (remember: Shakespeare died in 1616) into the “Date of Work” boxes, click “Update” and you will have nine results left. See below for more details:

Filtering results 

In under a minute you have found nine places in Shakespeare’s plays where he uses the word “Cupid” in a variety of ways. Three of these are from Timon of Athens, where Cupid is a character in the play itself. In Cymbeline the character of Innogen talks of “young Cupid’s tables” (3.2.38), a phrase which the editorial note explains means love letters. Other references are much darker, with King Lear calling Gloucester “blind Cupid” (20.133), a statement explained by the editorial note (the “god of love [is] traditionally represented as blind”) but made all the worse as Gloucester’s eyes had been previously gouged out.

In portraying Cupid as blind, rather than a cute, little archer, it perhaps indicates that Shakespeare had a mixed outlook on love in his final years. With more research and the help of the Advanced Search function on OSEO maybe you can find out?


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