Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor A.G. McKay


Ovid's characterization of women has long been recognized as revealing an understanding of the female psyche. This is shown not only in his love poetry, but also in his depiction of women in the "Heroides" and "Metamorphosis." The "Heroides" in particular offered considerable scope for the portrayal of women in a state of crisis and for an exploration of their anxieties and conflicts. The verse letters reveal Ovid's interest in portraying women at an early point in his literary career, an interest which he continued throughout his writing careeer and which again finds expression in the "Metamorphoses."

While Howard Jacobson's study (Princeton, 1974) treats all the single letters, Florence Verducci (Princeton, 1985) has restricted her work to five of the fifteen single letters. Little attempt has been made to trace Ovid's depiction of women from the "Heroides" into his later works. This work investigates the characterization of Medea, Dido, Ariadne and Deianira as they are initially portrayed in the "Heroides" and as they are later depicted in the "Metamorphoses."

Each chapter details early accoutns of the heroines, followed by an exploration of the characterization in the "Heroides" and "Metamorphoses." It is shown that, while Ovid's knowledge and use of his predecessors is apparent, his ability to adapt the mythological details concerning his heroines creates an entirely new depiction; his portrayal varies from the "Heroides" to the "Metamorphoses" due to the demands of the respective genres and to the emphasis which he wishes to place. Despite the familiarity of his figures, Ovid has created divergent, yet coherent, interpretations of psychological and emotional crises.

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