Uditha Devapriya's Reviews > Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses by Ovid
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's review
Apr 09, 2012

really liked it
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The whole idea - if not abstraction - of transformation, both literal and metaphoric, serves as the linking chain throughout The Metamorphoses. My immediate reflections upon having completed reading it was not merely a sense of exhilaration, or of liberation: on the contrary, I simply wondered why Ovid himself didn't predict his own apotheosis towards the end of this wonderful classic. For is it not true that Ovid would undoubtedly deserve it, after having masterfully completed this illuminating piece of history, where it's very title - Metamorphses - is in itself a metamorphosis?

The Metamorphoses comprises fifteen books, each having more than ten enchanting stories packed within themselves. Highlights of how much Greek mythology has influenced modern art are purely based on Ovid's intepretation of those stories - basically, such stories as Pygmalion (which influenced the same-titled play by Shaw, and Hitchcock's classic Vertigo) owe their conceptions and popularity purely to Ovid. It is a testament to his final words in the book's Epilogue ("Now I have finished my work, which nothing can destroy") that its influence still reverberates today, in art and film and literature, from Titian to Hitchcock to Ted Hughes. It is also nothing less than the deepest sense of justice, then, to be able to apotheosise this marvel of classical literature, and preserve it safely to eternal posterity.

The stories that underlie the Metarmorphoses meander through one same source - that of change, and in its turn specifically, that of metamorphosis. The temperament it occupies shifts periodically from storyline to storyline. At one corner, there are those stories structured in a humourous, farcical, even comical tone ("The Daughters of Pierus"), to its darker passages ("Tereus, Procne and Philomela"), to the more sexual associations ("Hyacinthus") and romantic escapades ("Venus and Adonis"). But whatever the tone it shifts in each story (itself indicative of the theme of transformation), the basic premise of the Metamorphoses - that nothing really stands still and transmutes except for immortality (which it engages in three apotheoses). That is the lasting touch of Ovid's genius, which endures to this day.

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Reading Progress

04/09/2012 "The Metamorphses teaches us the antithesis of religion: it seems we mortals need be protected from the Gods, instead of its opposite dogma of today."
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