Metamorphoses Essay Questions

  1. 1

    In Ovid's Metamorphoses some people are transformed as a reward for good actions, others as punishment for bad actions. How can transformation serve as both a punishment and a reward? Does it simply depend on the result of the transformation? Use at least one "positive" and one "negative" transformation to support your answer.

  2. 2

    Define hubris and explain the role it plays in Ovid's [Metamorphoses]. Give examples from the text to support your answer.

  3. 3

    One of the roles played by myths in a society is to explain things that seem to be unexplainable. In Metamorphoses, Ovid examines large questions like how the universe was created, but he also examines small questions, like how certain plants or animals came into being. Aside from providing explanations, what do these origin stories add to Metamorphoses? What is their role within Roman society?

  4. 4

    Though Ovid represents the gods and goddesses of Roman mythology as very powerful, he does not represent any of them, even Jove, as all-powerful. What does this fact suggest about the religious beliefs of the ancient Romans? Use examples from the text to support your answer.

  5. 5

    Ovid suggests that gods and goddesses feel a strong attraction for mortals. This attraction helps explain the interest the gods take in human lives and the tendency of gods (and to some extent goddesses) to force themselves upon humans. Why might gods and goddesses feel this attraction for ordinary mortals, who are merely lesser, weaker versions of themselves?

  6. 6

    While Ovid's poem focuses primarily on religious aspects of ancient roman life (that is, relationships between mortals and gods), the poem also reveals a great deal about society during Ovid's time. Name three characteristics that were valued in roman society and explain how Ovid's [Metamorphoses] treats these values.

  7. 7

    In Metamorphoses, Ovid suggests that love is a dangerous, destructive emotion which has more negative than positive results. How do the actions and characteristics of the god and goddess of love (Venus and her son Cupid) support this interpretation? Are there any counterexamples in the poem? That is, does love ever play an entirely positive role in a relationship or action?

  8. 8

    Discuss the theme of Trust in the poem. Does Ovid believe that trust is something to be valued, or does he think that too much trust can be dangerous? Name and analyze at least three stories in which trust plays an important role.

  9. 9

    Many women in the poem, some goddesses and some mortal, wish to remain chaste. Why might this decision seem appealing to women in this society? Support your answer with examples from the text of women who made this decision, both successfully and unsuccessfully.

  10. 10

    Ovid intersperces story-telling and singing contests throughout the poem, which suggest that the act of remembering and retelling myths and legends was an important activity in this society. How does this fact help explain why Ovid's Metamorphoses was so popular at the time that it was written? Can you think of any comparative activities in your own life or society?