The Metamorphoses portrays love as a destructive passion. Often, a character in love is afflicted by a passion that causes them to betray their family, kingdom, or values. For instance, when Scylla falls in love with Minos, her kingdom’s enemy, she betrays her father and her kingdom to be with him. Similarly, when Myrrha falls in love with her father, she betrays the laws of nature. Even the gods are not exempt from the destructive power of love. Jupiter, the head of all the gods, constantly cheats on his wife Juno due to passion for another. In another example, Pluto (god of the underworld) falls so madly in love with Proserpina that he dramatically kidnaps her in a way that’s uncharacteristic of a divine being. Moreover, the many instances of rape throughout the Metamorphoses show that love can stir a person to violence. For instance, when Apollo falls in love with Daphne, he pursues her predatorily, wanting to rape her. These rapes often destroy female characters by ensuring that blame falls on them: the women Jupiter rapes are often punished by Juno and Diana. The destructive power of love comes to a head in the story of Procne and Philomela. When Tereus kidnaps his wife Procne’s sister Philomela and brutally rapes her, the two women later join together to get their revenge. However, their revenge takes the form of its own crime: Procne kills her son and feeds him to Tereus, her motherly love having been completely destroyed by her discovery that her child’s father raped her sister. This shows that rape, while destructive in itself, can also destroy bonds of marriage and motherhood. Not only does Ovid give ample proof that many things thwart and poison love, but his stories also seem to claim that love is always doomed to tragedy. In the story of Pyramus and Thisbe—two people who love each other consensually—miscommunication and poor timing lead their love story to end in death. In giving tragic endings to his love stories, Ovid portrays love as a passion that destroys, leading inexorably to violence and heartbreak.
Love and Destruction ThemeTracker
Love and Destruction Quotes in Metamorphoses
We both implore you to grant this prayer: as our hearts were truly
united in love, and death has at last united our bodies,
lay us to rest in a single tomb. Begrudge us not that!
And you, O tree, whose branches are already casting their shadows
on one poor body and soon will be overshadowing two,
preserve the marks of our death; let your fruit forever be dark
as a token of mourning, a monument marking the blood of two lovers.
please use words which accord
with the facts of the case. Lord Pluto hasn’t committed a crime
but an act of love. No need for us to feel shame at the marriage,
if only you will accept it, Ceres. Setting aside
all other advantages, Pluto is Jupiter’s brother, no less!
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.’
God helps those
who help themselves, remember, and fortune favors the brave.
Another woman whose passion was blazing as strongly as mine
would now be already destroying whatever opposed her love—
and delight in destroying it. Why should another be braver than I?
I have committed a wrong which I cannot undo.
I’ve written my letter and asked for his love; my intention’s exposed.
If I venture no more, my reputation’s already tarnished;
there’s little to lose by further appeals, but much to be gained.
I wonder, for daughterly duty
cannot condemn this love. All other creatures can mate
as they choose for themselves. It isn’t considered a scandal for bulls
to mount the heifers they’ve sired […] and even a bird
can conceive her chicks by a mate who happens to be her father.
How lucky they are to do as they please! How spitefully human
morality governs our lives!