The Book of Good Love? Design Versus Desire in Metamorphoses 10
Much attention has been paid recently to the role of individual narrators within the Metamorphoses. Whereas it was once considered adequate to attribute the characteristics of the poem solely to Ovid as narrator, a number of critics have now drawn correlations between the development of certain tales and the character of the narrators to whom they are attributed within the poem.
Book 10 calls particular attention to itself in this regard. Orpheus is its primary narrator: after losing Eurydice to death for the second and final time, he composes a song that recalls ‘boys beloved by the gods and young girls struck by unsanctioned passion’ (10.152-54) which occupies the major portion of the book. However, the marked dissonance between Orpheus' announced program and what actually unfolds pricks the reader's curiosity. The bard's initial criteria for choosing material implicitly condemn female passion and celebrate pederasty — an understandable, if extreme, reaction on the part of a man who has just been badly hurt by his passion for a woman. But of the seven stories that follow, only two concern divine pederasty; one of these ends unhappily. The subject of a third tale (Venus' love for Adonis) radically stretches the sense of ‘boy-love’. A fourth tale — of Pygmalion and his statue — does not fit either category of love.
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