The theme of adultery features in a wide range of literature through the ages. This is hardly surprising, as the fact of adultery has been a part of the human existence for as long as there has been marriage. As a theme it automatically brings its own conflict, between the people concerned and between sexual desires and a sense of loyalty; it brings intense emotions into the foreground, and has consequences for all concerned.

In the Bible, occasions adultery are present almost from the start. The story of Abraham contains several incidents and serve as warnings or stories of sin and forgiveness. Abraham attempts to continue his blood line through his wife's maidservant, with consequences that continue through history. Jacob's family life is complicated with similar incidents.

Shakespeare wrote two plays in which the perception of adultery plays a significant part. In both Othello and The Winter's Tale it is the (false) belief by the central character that his wife is unfaithful that brings about his downfall.

In The Country Wife by William Wycherley, the morals of English Restoration society are satirised. The characters treat adultery as a game, the object being to commit as much of it as possible without losing ones reputation, and while preventing one's spouse from committing any.

The following works of literature have adultery and its consequences as one of their major themes. (M) and (F) stand for adulterer and adulteress respectively.



(There are lots of famous examples still missing here. Please add to this list.)