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Tereus Character Analysis

Tereus is a barbarian king who marries Procne—the daughter of an Athenian king who seeks to make peace with the barbarians. After marrying Procne, Tereus returns to Athens to retrieve Procne’s sister Philomela. As soon as Tereus sees Philomela, he lusts after her. Pretending to act as a devoted husband bringing his wife’s sister to visit his wife, he brings Philomela on his ship to his homeland. Once on land, he brutally rapes Philomela, cuts out her tongue, and rapes her two more times. He imprisons Philomela and returns to Procne, pretending as though nothing happened. Meanwhile, the two sisters manage to reunite, and they seek their revenge against Tereus by killing his son Itys and feeding him to Tereus at a banquet. After this episode, Tereus is turned into a monstrous bird with a long beak.

Tereus Quotes in Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses quotes below are all either spoken by Tereus or refer to Tereus . 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

Tereus Character Timeline in Metamorphoses

The timeline below shows where the character Tereus 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 engaged in a war with barbarians. These barbarians are led by a king named Tereus. To achieve peace and because Tereus is wealthy, Pandion, the king of Athens, arranges for... (full context)
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... (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... (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 to take care of Philomela. With tears in his eyes,... (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... (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... (full context)
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
...the eyes. Procne tells Philomela not to weep, and says that she plans to destroy Tereus, either by cutting off his sex organs or by some other cruelty. Just then, Itys,... (full context)
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Tereus comes home and dines on his son’s flesh. When he calls for Itys, Procne tells... (full context)