Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 2: Aglauros Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After transforming Battus, Mercury takes flight. He notices a procession of virgin maidens making their way to Pallas’s temple with provisions for a sacrifice. He starts circling the maidens like a hawk waiting for spoils. He is struck by the beauty of Herse and is filled with desire for her. Mercury lands on Earth but doesn’t bother to put on a disguise. He neatens his appearance and makes his way to the maidens’ lodgings. Aglauros—Herse’s sister and the girl who’d defied Pallas and peeked into the basket—greets the god. Mercury tells her he wants to have a child with her sister Herse. Aglauros, who is greedy, demands gold in exchange for admitting him to Herse.
Like Jupiter, Mercury is distracted from more god-like activities by the beauty of a mortal girl. Unlike Jupiter, however, Mercury does not use disguises or displays of power to seduce and overpower his love interest. He approaches Herse and her sisters in his true form and requests to be with her. Mercury deals with his attraction to human beings by approaching them on their terms, whereas Jupiter abuses his power to take what he wants against a person’s will.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
At Aglauros’s request, Mercury leaves. Minerva, Aglauros’s sister, thinks angrily of Aglauros’s greedy sins. Minerva travels to Envy’s cavern, a filthy dark cave where Envy lurks and feeds on snakes. Envy is pale and shriveled, and her teeth drip with poison. She wastes away, torturing herself and her victims. Minerva approaches Envy and asks her to infect Aglauros with her poison.
Besides simply transforming a person, the gods also punish characters by sending demons to the transgressors to infect them with poisonous vices. This is another form of metamorphosis in which a character is infected with the vice that they initially gave in to.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Envy follows Minerva to Athens. There, she strokes Aglauros’s breast, infecting her heart with poison. Then she implants Aglauros’s mind with images of Herse and the glorious god Mercury to torture her with jealousy. Aglauros wants to die to escape her jealousy. She crouches in front of Herse’s door and blocks Mercury when he returns, but Mercury magically opens Herse’s door. Aglauros feels herself turn to stone and lose her voice, becoming a statue stained with the poison of envy.
Aglauros is poisoned by Envy—the demon of the vice that she herself was prone to. In this way, Aglauros is punished by being transformed into a symbol of her own crime. Like many other victims of transformation, Aglauros loses her voice. As with other characters, her loss of speech caps off her punishment by making her incapable of expressing herself.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon