O'Reilly, Mary Bernadette
"Undercurrents in Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' : Hercules, Pygmalion, and Myrrha".
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This study looks at three episodes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, namely the Hercules episode in Book 9 and the Pygmalion and Myrrha episodes in Book 10. These episodes are connected by the fact that, in each, the superficial interpretation of the text interacts with the tale’s underlying meaning and thus invites reassessment of that tale. This is a recurring feature throughout the Metamorphoses.
The first chapter looks at the Hercules episode. It begins with a study of Ovid’s sources for the tale of Hercules and Deianira and is followed by a discussion of the episode itself. The central argument is that despite the amatory facade of the tale, the narrator systematically establishes Hercules’ lack of amorous interest in Deianira.
The second chapter examines the Pygmalion episode. It looks at recent critical interest in the implicit eroticism of the episode and further contributes to this area of discussion. This study has two parts. In the first, Venus’ contribution to the erotic undercurrent in the tale is discussed. In the second, the relationship between Pygmalion and the Iphis episode in Book 9 is examined.
The third chapter discusses the Myrrha episode which immediately follows that of Pygmalion in Ovid’s epic. The central argument of this chapter is that Ovid deliberately establishes a ritual undercurrent of sacred marriage in the tale. This Cyprian cult practice was an important feature of the Myrrha-Cinyras legend and examination of this aspect in the Ovidian adaptation begins with an examination of the relevance of this ritual motif to that legend generally. This is followed by a discussion of how Ovid deliberately establishes the scared marriage as a backdrop to his own incest tale. This depends on the creation of an undercurrent of marriage and on the religious atmosphere which exists alongside it.
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