The Different Perspectives of Being Caught in Ovid’s Myth: Diana and Actaeon

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In Ovid’s Metamorphoses the myth of “Diana and Actaeon” is written using descriptive diction and symbolism. The symbolism creates ambiguity leading to many possible interpretations of the myth. One symbolic line is that shows the fear expressed by Actaeon and Diana is: “so deeply blushed Diana, caught unclothed” (Ovid, III, 188). Both Diana and Actaeon become caught figuratively and literally in the myth. Caught prey reacts instinctively and both Actaeon and Diana react likewise. By viewing the myth from Diana and Actaeon’s individual perspective they both experience mental anguish for being caught.
Diana presents the female perspective of the situation. To strengthen the male and female divide Ovid feminizes the water, and surrounds
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Diana only speaks once but what she says to
Actaeon illustrates how important her chastity is to her: “Now tell you saw me here naked without my clothes, if you can tell at all”(190-3). Her words are blunt and the tone is forceful. It gives insight to how detrimental the information Actaeon possesses is to her. By allowing Actaeon to live and suffer alone in mental thoughts only mirrors what Diana is forced to do. It is understandable when Actaeon dies that Diana would be relieved and satisfied. His death ensures that the location of her sacred grove is kept secret and her chastity remains an idolized symbol of femininity. In contrast to Diana that loses her chastity Actaeon loses his life. The male perspective is presented by Ovid. Ovid wants the audience to sympathize with Actaeon for his unfortunate encounter with Diana. He does that by writing much of the myth about Actaeon and drawing out his suffering and death. Actaeon is perplexed to have stumbled upon the sacred grove and later equally confused by his new form as a stag. Although it takes awhile for Actaeon to grasp his new form it is the inability to speak that causes deep mental anguish and makes him cry. Actaeon is staring at himself in the stream when: “he tried to say Alas! – but no words came; / he groaned- that was his voice, the tears rolled down/ on cheeks not his – all changed but his mind”(202-4). The fact that he does cry makes the audience sympathetic towards his
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