Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 5: Perseus (2) Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While Perseus is telling stories at his wedding feast, a commotion breaks out. A man named Phineus raises his spear and announces he’s come to seek revenge on Perseus for stealing his bride. Phineus’s brother Cepheus rebukes Phineus for being ungrateful for Perseus’s heroic deed and asks him why he didn’t rescue Andromeda from the sea monster. Phineus ignores Cepheus and flings his spear at Perseus, but misses. Perseus launches his spear at Phineus, but Phineus dodges it and it kills another man. Fury towards Perseus breaks out and weapons start flying.
The war that breaks out at Perseus and Andromeda’s wedding feast is over an argument as to who has the right to Andromeda. Phineus believes he has the right to Andromeda because he was engaged to her before Perseus came along. Perseus, on the other hand, believes he won Andromeda fair and square. In the same way that he took Medusa’s head, Perseus believes a person has the right to whatever they can get for themselves.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
The warrior goddess Minerva arrives to protect and encourage Perseus. Many famous and innocent people die. Perseus kills an elegant youth whose loyal friend tries to avenge him but is quickly killed by Perseus as well. Phineus’s spear accidentally strikes a neutral observer. A wise elder, the singing minstrel, and many others die. Soon, Perseus’s henchmen are all dead. Andromeda and her mother scream in the background. Phineus and his thousands of supporters circle around Perseus, who stands against a pillar, fending off his attackers left and right.
The fight between Perseus and Phineus is the first full-blown war to occur in the Metamorphoses. The scope of the war that breaks out here as a result of a fight shows how the world has become corrupted again since the flood. Ovid lists all the people who are casualties of the violent disagreement between Perseus and Phineus, showing how tragic war is in that it takes the lives of those who had no part in the conflict. 
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Losing his courage, Perseus pulls the Medusa head out of his bag. His opponents all attack him in turn but freeze to stone before they can strike. In all, two hundred of Perseus’s attackers are turned to stone, and one of his innocent supporters. Phineus, who had looked away, begs for mercy. Perseus calls Phineus a coward and forces the Medusa head in his face. Phineus freezes in his cringing posture, and Perseus displays him in his father-in-law’s palace.
Perseus uses Medusa’s head to turn his enemies into statues which he then displays in his new palace. Transforming Phineus into stone seems to be a worse punishment than simply killing him because it preserves evidence of Phineus’s cowardice in a statue that will exist for all time. By transforming Phineus, Perseus immortalizes his weak nature.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Perseus and Andromeda return to Perseus’s native city. There, Perseus defeats his grandfather’s brother who had taken over Acrisius’s kingdom by forcing him to stare into the Medusa head. Perseus’s grandfather now believes that Perseus is Jupiter’s son, but a nearby king still belittles Perseus’s glory and scoffs at the Medusa head. Perseus promptly turns him to stone.
From start to finish, Perseus’s story shows how he acquired the power necessary to prove that he is the son of Jupiter. He obtains the Medusa’s head and then uses it against his enemies. This display of power forces those who refuse to respect him as a person of divine descent to worship him.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
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