Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Summary
Analysis
With his songs, Orpheus enchants the trees, animals, and rocks to follow him. Suddenly, a group of women from Thrace notice Orpheus. They start throwing spears at him, angry because he had rejected their company. For a while, Orpheus’s music weakens their blows and protects him from fatal wounds. However, the women beat their drums and play their pipes louder. Then they band together and attack Orpheus with stones, spears, and branches.
Orpheus is able to enchant everything to follow him except the angry women. The women who unleash an attack on Orpheus are angry because he once rejected their advances, having sworn off women after losing Eurydice. Their vengeance suggests that it is nearly impossible for a person to escape the destructiveness of passion, even if they want to.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Nearby, a group of farmers ploughing a field notice the frenzied women and flee in fright. The women kill the farmers’ abandoned oxen and take their tools to finish killing Orpheus. The trees lose their leaves and the river swells with tears in mourning for Orpheus. The women scatter Orpheus’s limbs and toss his head and lyre into the river. His head washes up on a foreign shore where a snake attacks it. Orpheus passes into Hades where he is reunited with Eurydice. He now looks back at her as much as he pleases.
The angry women resort to more and more brutal methods to kill Orpheus. They use farming tools as weapons, showing how humanity’s use of tools to tame nature leads to their use of weapons to kill other human beings. The women eventually scatter Orpheus’s limbs and chop off his head, recalling how Agave tore off her son Pentheus’s head when he scoffed at Bacchus.
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon