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The Transformation of Grief in Ovid's Metamorphoses

From: Syllecta Classica
Volume 21 (2010)
pp. 93-118 | 10.1353/syl.2011.0000



In Ovid's Metamorphoses women suffer from pathological grief and undergo metamorphosis as a result of this emotional state much more frequently than men. In these narratives depicting women's all-consuming grief, Ovid focuses on spontaneous transformation rather than divine intervention. This is in contrast to Ovid's depiction of masculine grief. The metamorphosis of the female mourner represents the power of grief to transform and subsume the individual while making her permanent sorrow a feature of the physical landscape. Voicelessness, tears, and petrifaction are common distinguishing features of those women whose grief has alienated them from society and rendered them unable to communicate with the living. In contrast to these stories, there are four individuals who grieve but are not transformed. They are depicted as sharing their grief and stories with others. All-encompassing grief is a prevalent characteristic of women in the Metamorphoses that narrative alone has the possibility of alleviating.

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