Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 3: Actaeon Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cadmus marries and fathers many children who then bear him grandchildren. His legacy is mostly happy, except for what happened to his son Actaeon: One day, Actaeon and his fellow hunters and bloodhounds are hunting in the mountains. They have just left off from a long day of hunting. Meanwhile, Diana bathes nearby in her secret place along the river while her virgin nymphs hold her clothes. Actaeon wanders upon the scene by mistake. Diana’s virgin nymphs cry out and try to hide Diana, but she is so tall that Actaeon sees her naked body.
Although Actaeon sees Diana’s naked body by mistake, the fact that her body has been seen cannot be undone. Therefore, Diana blames Actaeon for seeing her even though he is blameless. This is similar to the way Diana punished Callisto even though Callisto lost her virginity involuntarily. This shows that much of what happens to a person—and the transformations that they undergo in consequence—are beyond that person’s control.
Themes
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Not having her arrows, Diana splashes water at Actaeon. She curses him, causing antlers to sprout from his head. Slowly, Actaeon turns into a stag and loses his voice. As he wanders the woods, his ferocious pack of bloodhounds catch sight of him. Not recognizing their master, they chase him and shred him to pieces with their teeth. Actaeon’s hunting companions cheer the hounds on, then look around for Actaeon so he can praise their kill. When Actaeon is dead, Diana’s anger finally subsides.
Because Actaeon loses his speech along with his looks, he is unable to alert his hunting hounds and his fellow hunters to his transformation. As a result, Actaeon is killed by his own hunting companions. This shows how essential a person’s speech is in supporting their identity. Without speech, a person has no way to express themselves and thereby protect themselves.
Themes
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