Study Guide

The Metamorphoses Foolishness and Folly

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Foolishness and Folly

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!" These words, spoken by Puck to Oberon in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, would apply to many episodes in The Metamorphoses. The only problem is that his gods aren't much better. Time and time again, Ovid portrays a particular situation: a god promises to give a mortal anything they wish for. Then the mortal wishes for something ridiculous and extravagant that ends up destroying him or her and, often, others as well. At other times, humans are duped by their belief in newfangled medical treatments (the daughters of Pelias), or by the desire to appear tough in front of their friends (Eryx). Do these situations sound familiar? There's no doubt about it: stupidity springs eternal.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Who does Ovid think are more foolish: gods or humans? Or are they just about the same?
  2. What does Ovid portray as the main cause or causes of foolishness?
  3. Does Ovid think some people are just plain foolish, or is it more that certain situations bring out the fool in people?
  4. Are people smarter now, or do the foolish acts Ovid portrays still ring true today?

Chew on This

Ovid portrays gods and mortals as equally foolish.

Ovid thinks foolishness is avoidable.

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