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Philomela Character Analysis

Philomela is Procne’s sister. When Procne’s husband Tereus deceives her and rapes her, she is furious and distressed. She feels that Tereus has forced her to become her sister’s rival. When Tereus cuts out her tongue and imprisons her, Philomela weaves writing into a tapestry to send to Procne that informs her of her husband’s crime. Procne and Philomela then band together and seek their revenge against Tereus, killing and feeding Tereus’s son Itys to Tereus. At the end of the story, Philomela is turned into a swallow with “the red badge of murder” on its chest.

Philomela Quotes in Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses quotes below are all either spoken by Philomela or refer to Philomela . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Book 6: Tereus, Procne and Philomela Quotes

But once she saw that maternal claims were making her purpose
waver, she turned away from her child to the face of her sister,
then looking at each in turn, she reflected: ‘Should Itys be able
to say that he loves me, when poor Philomela has lost her tongue?
He can call out to his mother, but she cannot call out to her sister.’

Related Characters: Procne (speaker), Itys , Philomela , Tereus
Related Symbols: Speech, Words, and Writing
Page Number: 629
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Metamorphoses LitChart as a printable PDF.
Metamorphoses PDF

Philomela Character Timeline in Metamorphoses

The timeline below shows where the character Philomela appears in Metamorphoses. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 6: Tereus, Procne and Philomela
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Five years after their marriage, Procne begs Tereus to let her sister Philomela visit her in Thrace. Tereus agrees and sets sail for Athens to ask Pandion for... (full context)
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Tereus repeats Procne’s request for Philomela’s visit, adding his lustful passion to his voice. While appearing as a devoted husband wanting... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Pandion gives permission for Philomela to visit Thrace. At Philomela’s farewell banquet, Pandion takes Tereus aside and makes him promise... (full context)
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
When the ship gets to Thrace, Tereus drags Philomela onto land and into the forest. Tereus brutally rapes Philomela while she screams for her... (full context)
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
Tereus is frightened by Philomela’s threats. He ties her hands behind her and pulls out his sword. She lifts her... (full context)
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
Philomela is imprisoned in a stone hut. Unable to speak, she fashions a loom and weaves... (full context)
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Philomela shudders with shame, unable to look Procne in the eyes. Procne tells Philomela not to... (full context)
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Procne and Philomela drag Itys to another room. Itys pleads, but Procne kills him with a sword and... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
...flesh. When he calls for Itys, Procne tells him that Itys is inside his belly. Philomela then revels herself, tossing Itys’ head in Tereus’s face. Tereus goes mad and chases the... (full context)
Book 6: Boreas and Orithyia
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Pandion dies with grief after hearing what happened to Procne and Philomela. The throne of Athens is taken over by a new king who has many beautiful... (full context)