Fifty ways to kill your brother
Medea and the poetics of fratricide in early modern English literature
in Interweaving myths in Shakespeare and his contemporaries
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In the poetic collection Hesperides, Robert Herrick includes the brief verse 'To his booke', in which he addresses his own literary creation. Apsyrtus is the younger brother of the classical sorceress and infanticide Medea. Although he plays a relatively minor part in Medea's story, Apsyrtus is also foregrounded in one of William Shakespeare's only direct references to Medea's myth, in 2 Henry VI. In the essay 'Why did Medea kill her brother Apsyrtus?' Jan N. Bremmer surveys ancient versions of Medea's fratricide. He shows how the tale gradually evolved from the third century BCE version of Apollonius Rhodius to the much more common classical story, referenced by Euripides, and subsequently by Ovid and Seneca. Unsurprisingly, the fratricide directly contravened early modern as well as classical thinking about women's obedience and, particularly, about the 'ideal' relationship between brothers and sisters.

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