Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Love and Destruction Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Humanity vs. Nature  Theme Icon
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
Time, Fate, and Poetry  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Metamorphoses, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love and Destruction Theme Icon

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.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Love and Destruction ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Love and Destruction appears in each chapter of Metamorphoses. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Love and Destruction Quotes in Metamorphoses

Below you will find the important quotes in Metamorphoses related to the theme of Love and Destruction.
Book 4: Pyramus and Thisbe Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Thisbe (speaker), Pyramus
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
5.3 Quotes

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!

Related Characters: Jupiter (Jove) (speaker), Pluto , Ceres , Proserpina
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Book 8: Scylla and Minos Quotes

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?

Related Characters: Scylla (speaker), Minos
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 9: Byblis Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Byblis (speaker), Caunus
Related Symbols: Speech, Words, and Writing
Page Number: 626
Explanation and Analysis:
Book 10: Orpheus’ Song: Myrrha Quotes

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!

Related Characters: Myrrha (speaker)
Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis: