There are several explanations for why change occurs in the Ovidan myths; however, there is different reason for each specific change in each tale. Semele, a beautiful Theban princess, is transformed because of her foolish choices. Narcissus and Echo transform because of their personal vanity. Arachne’s claim of being a better weaver than Athena, the goddess of the arts, causes Arachne’s life-altering change. Every metamorphosis occurs not to punish, but also to transform the person into something fitting to their personality. The story of Semele opens with Hera’s wrath. Zeus, Hera’s husband and ruler of the gods, had been intimate with Semele, a mere mortal. Hera considers ignoring the incident, until she discovers Semele is pregnant—an “honor” that Hera can never have (Metamorphoses III line 345). Hera cannot allow this to continue. Zeus is her husband. Allowing his mistress to continue with the pregnancy would be an insult to Hera’s role as Zeus’ wife. As Zeus’ wife, it is her “right” to bear his children (Metamorphoses III line 337). Hera tricks Semele into doubting Zeus’ divinity: She tells Semele that she should make sure that Zeus is a god by telling him to “embrace her…as when with Lady Hera” (Metamorphoses III line 366). Hera’s meddling is the underlying reason for Zeus’ change. Had Hera not prompted Semele, Semele would have never thought to ask Zeus for such a gift. The second reason that change occurs because Zeus swears to give Semele whatever she wants. Zeus severely underestimates Semele’s request because of her humanity. One can assume that when Semele asks for a gift—“nature unspecified”— Zeus simply thinks Semele wants assurance of his devotion or something easily given (Metamorphoses III line 370). He never anticipates Semele would ask for something hazardous to her health. Ultimately, Semele brought her fate upon herself. She boasted of her affair with Zeus, a married deity, yet her “clueless” nature proves that she does not...
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