I am writing a period-piece play based in London circa 1660s and wrote a poetic line that alludes to the crocodile as a "fearsome foe" or of much "danger and dread".

I examined every mention of the word "crocodile" in Shakespeare (not too-too before the play's set-period) and its etymology origin (which states it meant a large amphibious reptile) dates from the 1560s.

Shakespeare never considers the "crocodile" like an animal of dread but rather, according to its mention in Othello being the much older "crocodile-tears" reference, which I thus conclude that it must have been regarded as having a cunningness to it, but would it have been considered in any way of "exotic horror" or "dread"? Which I arguably will consider as the more accepted, modern-day connotation which lies in them.

O devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,
Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.
Out of my sight!

And furthermore, if my distinction and confinement of basing the connotation to London 1660s is much too specific, then any insight on the connotations of the word anywhere in the 17th Century would be most well regarded and thanked.

P.S. Since I am already asking on the basis of the "crocodile", anything on the timed connotations of the "alligator", which I know is attested to the mid-16th century origin, would be appreciated likewise.

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    Dido and Aeneas (1689) contains the lines "Thus on the fatal banks of Nile Weeps the deceitful crocodile." But surely people must have known that it was a dangerous beast as well as a (supposedly) cunning one? – Kate Bunting Jun 12 '20 at 8:01

Othello being the much older "crocodile-tears" reference, which I thus conclude that it must have been regarded as having a "fox-like" cunningness to it, but would it have been considered in any way of "exotic horror" or "dread"?

Crocodile-tears have nothing to do with "fox-like" cunning – they are a description of feigned sorrow at circumstances in which the person shedding them is secretly delighted at the misfortune that has befallen the other person.

The presence of “crocodile tears” in the language gives the evidence that crocodiles and their nature must have been known well before the metaphorical reference.

The bestiaries, famous for their depiction of animals (real and imagined), of the Middle Ages (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestiary) were very popular. The creatures that they described were always linked in some way to Christianity and saw animals as examples of moral traits in humans.

Among the animals, there is, of course the crocodile (http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beast146.htm), which has been known in the West since at least the 5th century BCE – Heroditus, who was read by the educated, wrote a good, almost scientific, description.

(History, book 2): The following are the peculiarities of the crocodile:- During the four winter months they eat nothing; they are four-footed, and live indifferently on land or in the water.

However, in England, in the 13th century, from a monk, we have

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 18): If the crocodile findeth a man by the brim of the water, or by the cliff, he slayeth him if he may, and then he weepeth upon him, and swalloweth him at the last.

The idea is that the crocodile is similar to sinners who appear to repent but, in fact, secretly delight in what they have done, and will certainly repeat their sins. And the story gives fair warning about the crocodile being dangerous and fearsome.

From this we can see that at the time of Shakespeare, the population were familiar with crocodiles and their part in teaching the nature of mankind.

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    This is very interesting! The expression "crocodile tears" also exists in modern Greek and in Spanish which would seem to suggest the expression comes from further back than the 13th century, perhaps an Ancient Greek or Latin saying? – terdon Jun 12 '20 at 16:38
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    Plutarch mentions "crocodile tears". – Greybeard Jun 12 '20 at 16:58
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    Crocodiles really do appear to weep while out of the water (as a way to lubricate their eyes) so the expression could date back to the first humans who ever lived near crocodiles. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocodile_tears – user3153372 Jun 12 '20 at 18:27
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    "Herodotus", btw. – Prime Mover Jun 13 '20 at 7:25

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