Study Guide

The Metamorphoses Gender

By Ovid


What would a book about the infinite variety and fluidity of the universe be without some gender-bending? It wouldn't be Ovid's Metamorphoses, that's for sure. Some of the poet's explorations of gender involve characters who have either mixed gender (like Hermaphroditus), or switch from one gender to the other (like Caenis who becomes Caenus, or Iphis who preserves her own gender-neutral name). At the same time, there are also more ambiguous characters, like Atalanta, who is interested in sports and hunting, but who otherwise fits female gender stereotypes, or Achilles, whose disguise as a girl can't conceal his stereotypically male interest in weapons. Whichever way you slice it, Ovid's poem has plenty to keep a modern gender-theorist theorizing into the wee hours of the morning.

Questions About Gender

  1. Do Ovid's stories about transformations from one sex to another challenge or reinforce gender stereotypes?
  2. On the whole, does Ovid support or criticize patriarchal values?
  3. How would you characterize Ovid's views on homosexuality?
  4. Does Ovid portray gender roles as caused more by nature or by nurture?

Chew on This

Ovid is critical of excessive patriarchal authority.

Ovid is more sympathetic to female characters than male characters.