shirt of Nessus


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shirt of Nessus

That which causes destruction, ruin, or misfortune, from which there is no escape. An allusion to the centaur Nessus from Greek mythology, who deceived the wife of Heracles (Hercules) into wrapping him in a garment soaked in its blood, which poisoned and eventually killed him. The government ran blindly into the arms of these loans to survive the economic disaster, but what was supposed to aid and support us ended up being the poisoned shirt of Nessus, as the debt has put a stranglehold on our entire economy over the past five years.
See also: Nessus, of, shirt

the shirt of Nessus

used to refer to a destructive force or influence. literary
In Greek mythology, Nessus was a centaur killed by Hercules . While dying, Nessus told Deianira , Hercules' wife, that if she ever had cause to doubt her husband's love, she should wrap him in a shirt soaked in Nessus' blood as this would ensure his constancy. Deianira followed these instructions, but the centaur's blood was in fact a powerful poison that corroded Hercules' body and as he tried to remove the shirt chunks of his flesh were ripped away.
1922 Edith Wharton The Glimpses of the Moon It was as if a sickness long smouldering in him had broken out and become acute, enveloping him in the Nessus shirt of his memories.
See also: Nessus, of, shirt
References in periodicals archive ?
So, a search in Bartleby.com about, say, the centaur Nessus brings up an entry about him from the encyclopedia, as well as another about Hercules, a quote from Antony and Cleopatra from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations ("Now the shirt of Nessus is upon me"), and several entries from the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable--along with irrelevant hits.
For the Tories, local government was a kind of Shirt of Nessus; they could neither get it 'right' nor leave it alone.
To build opposite the History Faculty must be the architect's equivalent of donning the shirt of Nessus. In form, materials and orientation, Stirling,s glowering masterpiece is a calculated snub to the Casson Conder block next to it and a threat to anything which might be placed in the immediate vicinity.
When Miola claims that Seneca's Hercules Furens is an important source for Othello, it is difficult to conceive that Othello's heroic feats as a warrior, with which he woos Desdemona, are like the labors of Hercules, or that the notorious handkerchief is analogous to the poisoned shirt of Nessus. Miola makes no exaggerated claims about Shakespeare's knowledge of the classics, but nevertheless there is an assumption that similarities between Seneca and Shakespeare are of marked significance.