Tragedy and transformation: generic tension and apotheosis in Ovid's Metamorphoses




Prest, Sarah A.C.

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This study considers the role of tragedy in Ovid’s Metamorphoses as demonstrated in four different episodes, those of Cadmus, Hercules, Hippolytus, and Medea. I have identified two main themes that the episodes share, namely, generic tension, particularly between epic and tragedy as emphasized by intertextual allusion to Virgil’s Aeneid, and the use of apotheosis as a means of not only transforming the character in question, but also signalling a generic shift, more appropriate for Augustan Rome. However, Ovid’s treatment of tragedy varies dramatically from one narrative to the next. Cadmus’ civic foundation is plagued with tragic themes and his apotheosis occurs only by later substitution. Hercules and Hippolytus achieve relatively standard deifications by pushing past the boundaries of their tragedies, but their refashioned selves are called into question. And the apparent apotheosis of Medea is even less straightforward, as she appears forever preserved in tragedy through meta-literary self-consciousness.



tragedy, epic, Ovid, Metamorphoses, Cadmus, Hercules, Hippolytus, Medea