Ovid Metamorphoses Essay Topics

The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the play as a whole and analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.

Topic #1
On one level, the Metamorphoses may be taken as a literal explanation of the origin of things; compare and contrast the Graeco-Roman creation myths with the Judeo-Christian Genesis accounts.

I. Thesis Statement: The Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian accounts of creation have numerous points suitable for comparison and contrast.

II. The Graeco-Roman creation myths as related by Ovid
A. The creation out of Chaos
B. The differentiation of things
1. Heaven from earth
2. Water from land
3. Air from stratosphere
4. Further subdivision

III. The Judeo-Christian traditions of creation as told in the Bible
A. The Creation in Genesis 1:1–2:4
B. The Creation in Genesis 2:4–2:25

IV. There are numerous similarities between the two traditions
A. Both show that the original chaos was changed by a creator
B. Both show that the creation occurred in stages

V. The two traditions also show many differences
A. In Graeco-Roman: the identity of the creator is uncertain
B. Judeo-Christian: God created everything

Topic #2
The Greek and Roman gods show many moral failings and lack of sympathy toward humans. Show examples of their behavior which appear reprehensible to us....

(The entire section is 648 words.)

Book I
1. Book I of the Metamorphoses presents numerous similarities to the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Creation and the early history of mankind. What are some of them?

2. There are many contrasts between the Greek traditions and the Judeo-Christian traditions. What are some of them? Specifically, comment on the different conceptions of divinity. What are some of the characteristics of Graeco-Roman gods which set them apart from the Judeo-Christian conception of God?

Book II
1. In several of the tales of seduction and/or rape by a god, the victim gets blamed, called ugly names, and punished or at least abandoned. Comment on this attitude of “blaming the victim” in the light of attitudes toward rape victims today.

2. Which of the myths in this book may be used to illustrate: a) nature myths; b) moral instruction; c) politico-religious history?

Book III
1. Juno’s hatred and jealousy of Europa and Semele eventually extended to all of their relatives and even the whole community of Thebes. How do you feel about this concept of collective guilt or “guilt by association?” Are there examples of this concept still alive today?

2. Serpents are mentioned several times in this Book. Give examples of the many roles they play in the lives of the characters. Compare them with modern attitudes toward serpents.

Book IV
1. In each book, Ovid introduced us to more and more of Jove’s far-flung offspring. If we accept Graves’ theory of the symbolic meaning of these “rapes” and the resulting offspring, how do these myths show the expansion of the patriarchal system with its primacy of the worship of the sun over the older matriarchal system and its moon-worship? Be specific by identifying some of the geographical designations found in the poem. (For example, Europa is taken by Jove from Sidon to Crete. Trace this on the map.)

2. This book, more than the previous ones, employs casual, colloquial speech. Give examples and discuss whether in your opinion they are appropriate to the speaker and situation or not, and why.

Book V
1. Comment on Perseus’ behavior during his wedding “festivities.” Granted that Phineus attacked him first, can you justify the savagery of his subsequent deeds? Note especially the fates of the innocent bystanders. Comment also on his behavior immediately following his victory.

2. The song of the woman who turned into a magpie gives an interesting twist to the characterization of the Olympian gods. Analyze the text by comparing each “portrait” to the orthodox image of each divinity. What does this section tell you about Ovid’s own belief in the Olympians?

Book VI
1. If you compare this book with the earliest ones, do you find an increasing complexity of characterization? Give examples.

2. This Book is...

(The entire section is 1203 words.)

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