Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Metamorphoses can help.
Summary
Analysis
When Alcmena finishes her story, Iole says that the grief of seeing a loyal servant transformed is nothing compared to the grief of seeing a family member transformed. Iole tells Alcmena the story of her sister Dryope: Even though Dryope was not a virgin (she had been raped by Apollo), she married well.
Iole follows up Alcmena’s story of Galanthis with another story about the injustice of the gods’ transformations. Her and Alcmena’s stories support the fact that the gods often use their power in unfair ways.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
One day, Dryope is walking in the woods, nursing her baby and picking flowers. She picks a lotus, and Iole, who is with her, notices that the flower’s stem is dripping blood. Dryope doesn’t know that the lotus was once a nymph who altered her features to escape a man who was trying to rape her. Dryope backs away, apologizing to the nymph. Suddenly, her feet are rooted to the ground. Bark covers her limbs. Iole embraces her, trying to prevent the bark from spreading.
Dryope picks the lotus completely accidentally, not knowing that the lotus is a nymph. What is more, Dryope apologizes to the nymph as soon as she realizes what she has done, showing that she didn’t mean to hurt anyone. In this way, transformed beings can be traps for innocent humans, and the gods are not merciful towards those who mistakenly hurt a disguised being.
Themes
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Dryope’s husband and father enter the woods and fall to their knees, embracing the tree with Dryope’s face. Dryope weeps, lamenting that she is being punished for nothing. She asks Iole to take her baby but to bring him back each day to play under her. She asks her family to keep her baby from picking flowers. They lift her baby so she can kiss him, and then the bark closes over her face.
Dryope feels that she is being punished for nothing, having hurt the lotus nymph accidentally. She instructs her family to keep her baby from picking flowers, hoping to save him from falling into the same trap she did by encouraging him not to interfere with nature at all. Even benign interactions with nature can lead to a person accidentally offending a god.
Themes
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon