ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Literature Review: Ovid's Metamorphoses

Updated on February 2, 2016
Film Frenzy profile image

Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Background

In 8 AD, Ovid first published his Metamorphoseon libri, which has been more commonly referred to as The Metamorphoses and is considered his magnum opus. Considered an epic or type of epic, the story has no central cast of characters, but contains a number of them both god and man over 250 narratives across 15 books. And though many of those stories originate with other writers like Hesiod and Homer, Ovid’s Metamorphoses has a considerable amount of influence, including on such authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Edmund Spenser, Dante and Giovanni Boccaccio. It has also influenced a number of painters from Titian, Pieter Brueghel, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Synopsis

A comprehensive chronology, the work recounts every event from the creation of the world to the deification and death of Julius Caesar. Scholars divide it into four sections: The Divine Comedy (not Dante’s story), The Avenging Gods, The Pathos of Love, and Rome and the Deified Ruler.

Review

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is quite interesting as it combines storytelling, over a number of genres, with the historical narrative of the Roman Empire. For one, there’s quite a bit of romance laden throughout, especially when it comes to the actions of the gods and nymphs. This includes the interactions between Daphne and Apollo, where the latter was made to fall in love with the former due to the wrath and an arrow of Cupid. Another couple worth mentioning is Orpheus and Eurydice, where the former loves the latter so much that he attempts to retrieve her from the underworld. And there’s horror, which can be seen in Bacchus’ birth and emergence. The whole event includes Jupiter raping Semele, burning her alive and bearing the son in his leg. And once Bacchus is born, he uses intimidation to become Acoetes’ high priest and literally whipping Theban women up to force them to kill King Pentheus by tearing him apart. The story also has some stories of revenge. One of which happens when Juno plagues an island because it’s named after a woman who slept with Jupiter. Further, there’s also some tragedy and revenge coupled with the aforementioned horror, which can be seen when a satyr is flayed alive because he loses to Apollo in a music contest or when Erysichthon is punished with never ending hunger because he chopped down a tree in Ceres’ sacred grove. His undying hunger leads him to sell everything for food, including his daughter and then dies trying to eat himself.

But a theme that’s present in every story contained within is that of change with all of them having someone or something transform, which is quite apt considering it’s known as the Metamorphoses. It’s even in the opening lines of the poem where Ovid claims that he’s intending to speak of forms changing into new entities. And throughout, humans are changed into inanimate objects and animals (usually because they're stupid enough to think that insulting gods who happen to be immortal and all-powerful are good ideas), animals and fungi are changed into humans. There are even changes of sex and color. And with all that change, Ovid finds himself wishing for improvement in his own time, which he states at the beginning as well. In recounting the ages of the world, he mentions that the period he’s in is awful and wishes that he were either born earlier with all the gods and heroes so he could witness the change or that he was born later as things would have improved for the better. It also becomes ironic due to the standard of living having grown significantly since Ovid’s time.

However, with all the stories that the Metamorphoses presents, it can be a bit difficult to get through because of all the genre shifts. There’s difficulty in following from story to story due to either mood whiplash, changing from a comedy or romance to something like a horror or a revenge. Or vice versa and the oddness of switching from a gruesome recounting of revenge to something so absurd it’s silly or something that’s romantic.

3 stars for Ovid's Metamorphoses

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)