Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Caiullus 61 to 68 have not received the attention they deserve. Critics have either analysed the poems in isolation or attempted superficial and selective examinations of the group as a whole. By scrutinizing the poet's use of recurrent vocabulary in poems 61 to 68. it is possible to see a definite cyclic progression throughout the poems. and a clear development of the various themes relating to love and marriage.
Poem 61 presents, on the surface at least, a positive view of marriage. Certain negative elements are subtly introduced (the bride's hesitation, the potential infidelity of the groom, the role of the gods) which create some tension in the poem; but at the end, the marriage is consummated. Poem 62 brings the underlying tensions of poem 61 into the open. The boys' legalistic view of marriage overcomes the girls' emotional outcry against it; but it is the intensity and imagery of the girls' stanzas that remain in the reader's mind.
Poem 63 plunges the reader into the world of mythology; but the presentation of Attis' relationship with Cybele in terms of a marriage follows logically from poems 61 and 62. The violence associated with Attis' negative "marriage" with Cybele causes the vox poetae to condemn such a relationship and wish it away from his experience.
Poem 64 is a lengthy reflection on every aspect of love and marriage presented so far in the cycle. The apparently positive marriage of Peleus and Thetis is contrasted with the negative non-marriage of Theseus and Ariadne. Imagery found in the three previous poems is recalled here; the connotations associated with it eventually alter the reader's (and the poet's) perception of the outer story from positive to negative. The vox poetae returns to condemn all ages, all relationships.
The vox poetae also opens poem 65, in which the poet begins to rework the material and themes from the previous poems. The death of his brother, following logically on the deaths caused by Achilles in poem 64, colours the poet's ability to write; but his devotion to his friend overcomes his inability and a glimmer of hope emerges in the cycle.
Poems 66 and 67 present the opposite extremes of love: the ideally happy marriage of Ptolemy and Berenice, and the scandal-ridden relationships mentioned by the door-bride.
Poem 68 stands as a coda or summary of the entire cycle. As in poems 65 and 66, the poet is able to overcome his inability to write through the influence of his friend. He recalls the happy days of his relationship with his goddess-bride; but the allusion to the Laodamia myth is unfortunate, as it reminds the poet for the third time of his brother's death. Moreover, the details of the myth underscore how dangerous and potentially disastrous is his own relationship with his beloved.
Poems 61 to 67 show that no relationship, no marriage can be truly happy. As poem 68 concludes, the poet reassesses his attempts to idealize his relationship with his beloved. He finally accepts her faults and resolves to love her on her terms.
Parker, Michael Phillip, "The Cyclical Unity of Catullus 61 to 68" (1991). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3505.