Edits, Libby Final

Edits, Libby Final - Elizabeth Pirinis December 14, 2009...

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Unformatted text preview: Elizabeth Pirinis December 14, 2009 Final Research Paper The Power and Wrath of Woman in Ovid’s Metamorphoses The dynamics of gender relations is a theme that is explored in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. As we know from reading the stories, the Gods are significantly more powerful than the mere mortals. Humans in the Metamorphoses are constantly being controlled and punished by the Gods and are unable to fight their determined fate. Although males seem to have the power and authority in the books, Jove being the supreme God and having control over the universe, the woman in the stories have a formidable influence. The relationship between Juno and Jove highlight this power that women have as Juno consistently challenges her husband and punishes him indirectly through hurting others. Whether it is by means of blatant force or a subtle use of sexuality and physical appeal, woman in Ovid’s stories are able to get what they want and hold a significant influence over the whether they be Gods or humans. Jove strays from Juno to have affairs with mortal womean on several occasions but always attempts to hide these from his wife. She however always finds out what he is doing. The fact that he works to hide his affairs says something about his respect for Juno and her authority. In Book I there is the story of Jove’s affair with Io. After raping this young girl and covering the earth in darkness in order not to be seen by his wife, he turns Io into a cow in the hope that Juno will not find out about his digression. Despite this transformation, Juno still believes that the cow is a girl so she asks Jove if she could have the cow. Believing it would satisfy his wife’s suspicion, he agrees, “It is shame which persuades him on the one hand, love dissuades him on the other. His shame would have been subdued by his love; but if so trifling a gift as a cow should be refused to the sharer of his descent and his couch, she might {well} seem not to be a cow” (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book I Lines 601-688). The extent that Jove does not want Juno to find out the truth gives her the power in this situation. Even after Juno finds out that Io is indeed a girl, she drives her mad in scorn of Jove and does not allow him to turn her into a nymph (to end her suffering) until she is completely satisfied (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book I Lines 724-779). The dynamics of the relationship between Juno and Jove are introduced early on in this story, giving us a glimpse of Juno’s power in comparison to her husband’s. Juno’s female authority over her husband is explored in her ability to have her will fulfilled. The story in Book II of Calisto and Jove is one that includes Juno getting exactly what she wants out of the situation. Although in this story Jove does not try to hide his seduction of the nymph Calisto, Juno is still able to punish him through turning her into a Bear. To make the punishment even worse, Arcas, her son, does not recognize her in this form and attempts to kill her before Jove turns them into constellations to stop this from happening. Juno’s intentions were to make sure that Jove’s discretions would not “become notorious by thy labors, and that {thereby} the disgraceful conduct of my husband, Jupiter, should be openly declared” (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book II Line 466550). She wishes to keep her dignity intact and is able to do this through punishing Calisto by transforming her into a very unattractive creature. Jove does not do anything to stop Juno from doing what she wants although he tries to rectify her actions. There are situations where Juno has the upper hand and Jove can do nothing to stop her. In Book III, Juno is angry at Semele as Jove is interested in her. Semele, however, is not aware that her lover is indeed the almighty Jove although she suspects it to be true. Knowing this information, Juno recommends that Semele find out for sure. Semele therefore makes Jove promise to grant her one request. Having agreed to this, she tells him of her desire to see him in the splendor and majesty in which he would usually appear for his wife. As he cannot deny her this, having given her his word, he submits to her request. She ends up being burnt to ashes as humans are not able to handle seeing Jove in his true form (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book III Lines 302338).Juno is able to manipulate Semele and through her cunning, Jove is unable to do anything to save her. Jove does not even end up finding out that she is behind it, having planned it out sneakily. Juno masterminds it in a way that allows her to have power over Jove that goes beyond what he realizes she has. Although Jove is unable to stop Juno from doing what she pleases, he sometimes is able to counteract the harm that she inflicts upon those who are undeserving. When Juno and Jove are arguing about which gender enjoys sex more, unable to come to an agreement they call upon Tiresias to share his insight. Having been both genders in his life, Tiresias knowledgably agrees with Jove in saying that "Decidedly the pleasure of you, {females}, is greater than that which falls to the lot of {us} males" (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book III Lines 302-338). Juno becomes very angered with him after he takes Jove’s side and takes away his ability to see. Jove cannot return Tiresias’ sight as he cannot reverse his wife’s act. He can, however, compensate Tiresias for this loss by providing him with foresight into the future. Although Jove has the power to give Tiresias something to make up for his wife’s punishment, he has no power reverse it, demonstrating a sense of equality when it comes to physical power. In the story of Actaeon and Diana, the degree of female power and authority comes through in the fact that she is a Virgin and wishes to remain this way, therefore not allowing men to empower her physically or emotionally. Actaeon, having been hunting in the woods nearby, stumbles upon Diana bathing in a pond completely nude. Although this was clearly an accident on his part, Diana punishes him by transforming him into a deer. As he shouts and tries to run away, his own hunting dogs see him and rip him to pieces. This story is scrutinized as it is unclear why such a harsh punishment was necessary. Diana does not think twice when she transforms him and simply states "Now thou mayst tell, if tell thou canst, how that I was seen by thee without my garments", making it seem like she is attempting to protect her purity (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book III Lines 131-252). As Diana prides herself on staying pure and distinct from males, she can be representational of a feminist. Due to her nature, the power she has over men is formidable as she does not have them in her life for anything more than companionship. This purity allows her to rise above all of the men that she comes across. Venus, being the Goddess of love and sex, has a significant amount of power and prominence among Gods and humans in the stories in the Metamorphoses. In Book IV she punishes The Sun for discovering the intrigue between Mars and herself by resolving to make his amours unfortunate, having the power to do so (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book IV Lines 167-233). In another story, as opposed to using her powers for evil as the Gods are known to usually do, Venus is able to transform Pygmalion’s love, which is a sculpture of a perfect female, into a real person for him to be with. The power to make this object come to life and her ability to change Pygmalion’s life and future happiness is significant. As she has control over love relationships, this means she has control over all Gods and humans included in the stories, love being so important to all of them. She carries the power to manipulate love and therefore has the power to give people what they want above all or oppositely take it away. The females in the stories can sometimes be equated with men as they take on the male roles of initiating violence and creating fear among others. Charles Segal mentions the characters of Circe and Scylla as two female characters who inspire fear among the men in the stories. In Book VIII, Scylla is first introduced as King Nisus' daughter. In the story a battle is in place between Minos and The King. Scylla ends up falling in love with Minos, her father’s enemy, despite how hard she tries to fight it. She ends up killing her father for Minos and then offering herself to him. He is interestingly disgusted by her act of betrayal and leaves the kingdom (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book IV Lines 263-268). Her act of violence and treachery is so great that not even her father’s enemy is able to accept it. A woman who exceeds Scylla in her violence and wickedness is Circe, a sorceress who lived on her own Island in her palace, having the power and supremacy to do so. In Book XIV she is approached by Glaucus, a merman who is in love with Scylla. Circe offers herself to him but he refuses her so she makes a potion and transforms Scylla’s body from the waist down into dogs' heads. Not being able to do anything but accept her current state, she stayed in the cove and became a sea-monster, picking off men from Ulysses' ship who she knew Circe loved (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book XIV Lines 479-480). These two woman, although they are violent in nature, command respect and power through the fear that people have for them. The figure of Medea is one that is significant in demonstrating female dominance through violence. In the story she falls in love with Jason when he is on his quest for The Golden Fleece, and uses her power and enchantments to keep him safe throughout the journey. She unfortunately is forced to flee his homeland as she avenges him through killing his enemy Pelias. She later finds out that in her absence Jason has married the daughter of king Creon. Out of anger she sets fire to the their palace, killing the princess and her father and then murders the two children which she had by Jason right in front of him before disappearing (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book VII Lines 159-401). Although what she does is very violent and terrible, she demonstrates the power of a scorned woman. Jason is defenseless against her wrath, especially considering the fact that she has special powers which she uses against him. The gender dynamic here is reversed as Medea is the one to exert power over Jason and has the ability to make his life miserable. The idea of there being equality among males and females is taken to another level in the story of the nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. The Naiad Salmacis falls in love with the youth Hermaphroditus, who rejects her advances. While he is bathing, she leaps into the water, wraps herself around him, and forcibly kisses him. She wishes for him to never leave her and her wish is granted to make them one person “so, when their bodies meet together in the firm embrace, they are no more two, and their form is twofold, so that they can neither be styled woman nor boy; they seem {to be} neither and both” (Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book IV Lines 285-388). This story emphasizes the ability for woman to get what they want, as Hermaphroditus rejected Salmacis’ advances until she forced herself upon him. As Charles Segal states, in this story there is a reversal in the roles of aggressor and victim as usually females are more prone to being raped by the Gods (Charles Segal 21). She got what she wished for in the end, which was for the two of them to never be apart. This story explores the idea of gender fluidity as the two genders are able to exist side by side within one person. If the idea that gender is fluid is true, this would indicate that both genders are equal. As Salmacis and Hermaphroditus are able to transition so freely from one gender to another, then there must not be a big gap between the two sexes in term of power and position. Charles Segal affirms this by indicating how in the Metamorphoses, “male and female can flow into one another” (Charles Segal 12). He explains that Salmacis in association with Hermaphroditus seems to suggest this “fluidity of gender divisions and to question their rigidity” as Teiresias attempts to do in Book III through having been a female at one time in his life and presently a male (Charles Segal 21). As Ovid’s stories involve a significant amount of transformation, from human to animal, human to divinity, this gender transformation implies that the roles of men and woman are relatively reversible. This would have to mean that women are being put somewhat on an even playing field as men. Works Cited Salzman-Mitchell, Patricia B. A Web of Fantasies: Gaze, image and Gender in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. 2005. The Ohio State University Press. <http://www.ohiostatepress.org >. Segal, Charles. Ovid's Metamorphic Bodies: Art, Gender, and Violence in the "Metamorphoses". Third Series, Vol. 5, No. 3. 1998. Trustees of Boston University. <http://www.jstor.org>. Stephens, Wade. Cupid and Venus in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. Vol. 89. 1958. The Johns Hopkins University Press. <http://www.jstor.org >. The Metamorphoses of Ovid Literally Translated into English Prose, with Copious Notes and Explanations. Publius Ovidius Naso. July 16, 2008. Henry Thomas Riley. Project Gutenberg. <www.gutenberg.org>. The Metamorphoses of Ovid Volume I, Books I-VII. Publius Ovidius Naso. June 8, 2007. Henry Thomas Riley. Project Gutenberg. <www.gutenberg.org>. ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/21/2011 for the course COMPLIT 201 taught by Professor Gradstudent during the Spring '09 term at Emory.

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