Transformations in Ovid

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Transformations in Ovid

Transformations from one shape or form into another are the central theme in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The popularity and timelessness of this work stems from the manner of story telling. Ovid takes stories relevant to his culture and time period, and weaves them together into one work with a connecting theme of transformation throughout. The thread of humor that runs through Metamorphoses is consistent with the satire and commentary of the work. The theme is presented in the opening lines of Metamorphoses, where the poet invokes the gods, who are responsible for the changes, to look favorably on his efforts to compose. The changes are of many kinds: from human to animal, animal to human, thing to human, human to thing. Some changes are reversed: human to animal to human. Sometimes the transformations are partial, and physical features and personal qualities of the earlier being are preserved in mutated form. In the story of Daphne and Apollo, the chief agent of transformation is love, represented by Venus and her youthful and mischievous son, Cupid. When the god Apollo brags to Cupid of his great might exemplified by his defeat of the python, Cupid humbles him by reducing the great god to a shameless lover with his gold-tipped arrow of love. A transformation of sorts takes place when the Cupid’s arrow strikes Apollo. Apollo transforms from a bragging God who claims superiority over Cupid by saying, “You be content with your torch to excite love, whatever that may be, and do not aspire to praises that are my prerogative,”(p. 41) to a man possessed by desire. Despite his powers of strength and domination, the God of War is humbled by Love. A lesson is being taught to Apollo by Cupid. A weakness is spotlighted and exposed, and the role of Apollo is almost completely reversed. He is transformed from a figurehead of power to a crazed lover with no power over his love. Just after shooting Apollo, Cupid...
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