Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This thesis offers a consideration of Ovid’s portrayal of Medea - in Heroides 6 and 12, Metamorphoses 7, and in Tristia 3.9. Although several scholars have examined the myth as Ovid presents it, no one has yet offered a literary appreciation of Ovid’s various accounts of the myth – one that examines his use of characterization, humour, audience response, and one that treats his Medea as a consistent, albeit complex, character.
The first chapter focuses on the sources for Ovid’s Medea, the ways he makes changes and, as far as we can tell, innovations to his predecessors. The second begins with a general introduction to the Heroides, followed by a close reading of Heroides 6, showing how this letter is an oblique reference to Medea’s letter and myth, and I point out the links between the two poems, arguing that Hypsipyle’s letter must be read as a foreshadowing of Medea’s. The third chapter examines Heroides 12 – Medea’s letter - where I concentrate on Ovid’s characterization of Medea and specifically look at elements of black humour and foreshadowing. The fourth – and longest – chapter deals with the Medea of the Metamorphoses, where I propose that the real metamorphosis of this story is Medea herself, who moves from the state of an innocent young girl to that of a witch, yet noting that all of the changes take place within a work that is marked by its sense of playfulness – its perpetua festivitas – and note Ovid’s use of wit and irony even as his characterization appears to grow dark. The fifth and final chapter deals with the Medea in Ovid’s Tristia, where I place the Medea of this work within the context of Ovid’s exile poetry, while showing that he is working with a complex character and is in no way contradicting himself.
Russell, Stephen C., "Reading Ovid's Medea: Complexity, Unity, and Humour" (2011). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5427.
McMaster University Library