Ovids narrative technique

Ovid's narrative technique for metamorphoses


Ways ovid links stories

  • a character explains to others why he is about to something
  • a character is asked by the previous one to tell his story
  • A character moves to a different country which prompts new stories
  • An article e.g. a leaf
  • a relative of the previous character prompts the next story
  • the story illustrates something previously mentioned
  • the previous charcter's fame is the link
  • a story is told to disprove the previous one
  • It is dinner time (traditionally where they are told)

Metamorphoses consists of a series of short narrative poems, skilfully woven together to form a continuous work e.g. pan and syrinx

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Landscape painting

  • Ovid sets the scene clearly with detailed description of the landscape
  • it is like a theatre director designing a stage set
  • allows him to establish a mood before we meet the characters
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Small Human Detail

Sometimes the broad landscape that entrances us but sometimes its the final detail

  • scylla went up on the wall to throw the 'smallest of pebbles'
  • atlanta's robe was 'clasped at the neck by a buckle of polished metal, her hair very simply gathered up in a single knot'

The details make us engage with the characters and what they are doing

We focus on the minutiae of their acts or appearance we become more involved with them and the narrative

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The Grotesque

In some stories its the macabre and grotesque which makes it so gripping

  • the dragons which cadmus encounters is fearsome

the small part of the description of the dragon shows how well ovid appeals to the senses of the reader- we see terrible jaws, can hera the panting and smell the foul breath

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learning how to talk persuasively was a part of every well-born Roman boy's education

Ovid, as a young man decided poetry was for him no law courts

in metamorphoses we can recognise several speeches which use the techniques ovid would have practised in school

most of the story of scylla is expressed through her long speeches, the first one to herself as she tries to persuadfe herself that going to offer herself to minos is the correct course of action

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Direct speech

use of direct speech makes stories come alive

  • when cadmus is sowing dragons teeth the armed men don't just appear they tell him off
  • as daphne is being chased by apollo it is the direct speech of apollos long speech which makes it so dramatic
  • the desperate words of actaeon which brings his tragic situation to life and emphaise the horror of his death
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Personified abstractions

Ovid takes an abstract power and gives it the form of a human

  • most striking example is hunger in book 8
  • also notus the south wind is described in a similar way in book 1

In this way ovid makes us aware of the tremendous power of these forces

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Are used to bring the narrative to life, some are about nature and belong to the tradition of epic poetry, others relate to roman things and some add humour

  • the similie in the story of the lydian sailors conveys the movement well but also adds a hint of scorn
  • the similie in the story of Narcissus describes how he beats his chest in desperation, it expresses the colour, but the choice of a ripening fruit gives him vunerability and beauty
  • some similies are for the romans and something they can relate to like similie comparing a boar to a catapult- could relate to if been in army
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Along with of all the tales of tragedy and death there is some humour

  • meleagars sisters excessive grief is presented humourously
  • in daphne and apollo the rivers don't know whether to console or congratulate her father
  • erysichthon is evil and deserves the punishment but there is a hint of humour in the way he keeps reselling his daughter
  • Philemon and baucis do appear rather farcical
  • the gods despite cruel ways are portrayed with humour
  • the description of the boar hunt is farcical, nestor pole vaults and ends up in a tree, telamon gets his foot caught and falls on his face and jason hits a dog
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There are reminders of greek tragedy in the moments of great drama

  • in book 8 when queen althaea realises her son killed her two brothers,
  • ovid gives her an emotional speech which debates what she should do
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Ovid and his readers where familiar with the aenied and the iliad and the odyssey, these were epic poems which told of wars and heroic actions at the time metamorphoses sounds like a grand epic poem

the bloodthirsty and grotesque description of the wounds ono the calydonian boar reads like a battle scene from the iliad or aeniad

another feature of epic is the long catalogue of names such as the 33 hounds in acteaon

The poem in latin is written with the same verse form as epic (hexameters)

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Ovid was born in the year after Julius ceaser died and wrote metamorphoses when rome was flourishing under Emperor Augustus

when we read metamorphoses we are aware of the greatness of Rome

the poem begins with the creation of the world and ends with the metamorphoses of Julius Ceaser into a god

The assembly of gods in book 1 is described like an important meeting of roman politicians, minor gods on edges- like plebs

ovid seems to want his readers to imagine augustus as powerful as Jupiter

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