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The Metamorphoses Love Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation, but these citations refer not to the lines in Mandelbaum's edition, but to the original Latin.

Quote #4

(The daughter of Minyas:)
"[Pyramus and Thisbe] owed
their first encounters to their living close
beside each other – but with time, love grows.
Theirs did – indeed they wanted to be wed,
but marriage was forbidden by their parents;
yet there's one thing that parents can't prevent:
the flame of love that burned in both of them.
They had no confidant – and so used signs:
with these each lover read the other's mind:
when covered, fire acquires still more force." (4.59-64)

These lines are the polar opposite of the obsessive, violent imagery associated with the story of Apollo and Coronis. Here, Ovid portrays love as something completely natural and harmless, that "grows" like a plant "with time." That said, what about the end of Pyramus and Thisbe's story later in Book 4, when Pyramus commits suicide because he thinks Thisbe's dead, and Thisbe commits suicide because Pyramus did so first? Can we still say love is natural when it can lead to something like this? Or should love come with a warning label, like a toxic plant? On another note, do you notice any parallels between the story of Pyramus and Thisbe and Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet?

Quote #5

"Meanwhile, the heartsick Ceres seeks her daughter:
she searches every land, all waves and waters.
No one – not Dawn with her dew-laden hair,
nor Hesperus – saw Ceres pause. She kindled
two pinewood torches in the flames of Etna.
Through nights of frost, a torch in either hand,
she wandered. Ceres never rested. When
the gracious day had dimmed the stars, again
the goddess searched from west to east, from where the sun would set to where the sun ascends." (5.438-445)

Here Ovid shows us a completely different kind of love: the love between a mother (Ceres) and her daughter (Proserpina). The love of Ceres is portrayed as selfless and devoted. How typical is this of the other parent-child relationships depicted in Ovid's poem?

Quote #6

But when the wretched Philomela sees
the dwelling of the man of infamy,
she shudders, pale as death. But patient Procne,
once she has found a proper place, removes
the poor girl's Bacchic costume; she uncovers
her shamefaced sister and embraces her. (6.601-605)

Here we find another positive example of familial love. Even though Philomela has repeatedly been raped by her sister Procne's husband, Procne doesn't look down upon her. (This might not sound all that significant, but you have to remember just how often characters in Ovid's poem engage in "blaming the victim" of rape. The goddess Juno is the most guilty of this.) How do you think this episode reflects Ovid's view of family relationships more generally?

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