Medusa Quotes: What Do Writers Say About Medusa?

She is one of the most terrifying monsters in literature and myth...


Medusa was a monstrous being in Greek mythology, with a mass of snakes coming out of her head. According to legend, anyone who looked directly at Medusa would turn to stone. Perseus, a slayer of monsters, beheaded Medusa with a mirror given to him by the Greek gods so that he would not have to look at her.

Over the centuries, famous writers as varied as Sigmund Freud and Ray Bradbury to Charlotte Bronte have mentioned Medusa in their poems, novels and general quotes. Below are some of the most memorable quotes from writers who alluded to this mythological figure.

Literary Quotes

"Did I escape, I wonder? / My mind winds to you / Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable, / Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous / repair." - Sylvia Plath, Medusa

This 1962 poem, which Plath wrote about her mother shortly before committing suicide in 1963, evokes the image of a jellyfish, whose tentacles are almost impossible to escape. The poem is a companion piece to "Daddy," a work of "exorcism in which she distanced herself from her dead father’s influence," according to Don Tresca, a scholar writing on the MuseMedusa.

"I thought Medusa had looked at you, and that you were turning to stone. Perhaps now you will ask how much you are worth?" - Charlotte Bronte, "Jane Eyre"

Jayne Eyre, the novel's protagonist and narrator in this 1847 classic work of literature, is talking to her clergyman cousin, St. John Rivers. Eyre had just learned about the death of her beloved uncle, and Rivers was commenting about how emotionless Eyre seemed to be after she heard the sad news.

"What thus snaky-headed Gorgon-shield / That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin, / Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone, / But rigid looks of chaste austerity, / And noble grace that dashed brute violence / With sudden adoration and blank awe!" - John Milton, "Comus"

Milton, a famous 17th-century poet, is using the Medusa image to explain the importance of maintaining chastity, which is the subject of "Comus." According to myth, Medusa was a virgin until she was raped by the Greek god Poseidon in Athena's temple.

Medusa Quotes in Popular Culture

"The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little."
- Ray Bradbury

The late science fiction writer, who died in 2012, is clearly calling television an idiot box that turns billions of people who gaze upon it nightly into stone.

"The terror of the Medusa is thus a terror of castration that is linked to the sight of something. The hair upon the Medusa's head is frequently represented in works of art in the form of snakes, and these once again are derived from the castration complex." - Sigmund Freud

Freud, the famous father of psychoanalysis, was using Medusa's snakes to explain his theory of castration anxiety.

"You read any Greek myths, puppy? The one about the gorgon Medusa, particularly? I used to wonder what could be so terrible that you couldn't survive even looking at it. Until I got a little older and I figured out the obvious answer. Everything." -  Mike Carey and Peter Gross, "The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity"

This work is actually a comic book that uses imagery from Harry Potter to ancient mythology to tell the tale of its protagonist Tommy Taylor, the former model for the boy hero of his father Wilson’s 13 fantasy novels. Taylor uses the Medusa image as a metaphor for his difficulties facing the realities of life.


  • Medusa - Sylvia Plath
  • Gorgon Quotes
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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "Medusa Quotes: What Do Writers Say About Medusa?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Lombardi, Esther. (2020, August 25). Medusa Quotes: What Do Writers Say About Medusa? Retrieved from Lombardi, Esther. "Medusa Quotes: What Do Writers Say About Medusa?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).