Ovid's Devaluation of Sympathy in Metamorphoses Essay
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Ovid's Devaluation of Sympathy in Metamorphoses
Ovid reveals two similar tales of incest in the Metamorphoses. First, he describes the non-sisterly love Byblis acquires for her twin brother Caunus. Later, he revisits the incestuous love theme with the story of Myrrha who develops a non-filial love for her father, Cinyras. The two accounts hold many similarities and elicit varying reactions. Ovid constantly tugs at our emotions and draws forth alternating feelings of pity and disgust for the matters at hand. "Repetition with a difference" in these two narratives shows how fickle we can be in allotting and denying sympathy, making it seem less valuable.
Both tales begin drawing forth a sense of disgust for the situation in…show more content…
Myrrha points out her "misfortune" and state of misery; since she was not been born to those "tribes in which / the mother mates with her own son, the daughter / with her own father" (339), she is "forlorn- denied the very man for whom [she longs]" (339). Overwhelming confusion in each girl's speech elicits further pity. Byblis begins her speech struggling to interpret her dream; it was a "beguiling scene" yet seemed so "true" (308). Myrrha begins asking, "Where has my mind led me?" (339), and wonders what makes this incestuous passion unlawful because "[she has] not heard that any god or written law condemns the union of a parent and his child" (Crane on-line). She decides that "human scruples" repress unions like these; envious law forbids what nature permits (Mandelbaum 339), but later, contrary to this conclusion, she states she does not want to "defile the code / of nature with a lawless flame" (340). Myrrha longs "to leave [her] native land" (339), but her passion compels her to stay so she can see, touch, speak to, and especially kiss her father (339-40). She feels these interactions should be sufficient and doesn't understand what drives her to ask for more. Byblis' mind sways when she wishes the gods had granted she and Caunus all their similarities, excluding their common parents, then "[calls] / upon the blessed gods to curb [her] love" (309). Later still, she