OVID, METAMORPHOSES X

CfAR (April 2015)

 by Lee Fratantuono

Bloomsbury (2014) p/b 256pp £14.99 (ISBN 9781472522900)

Book 10 of the Metamorphoses begins with Orpheus and the death of Eurydice, and continues with the stories of Pygmalion, Myrrha, Venus and Adonis and Atalanta among other shorter tales. One of F.’s main editorial points is that we should not excerpt individual stories as is often done, but read the book in its entirety to appreciate the way in which Ovid has crafted a sequence as a whole.

This is an edition for the specialist or advanced student as it does not contain a lot of help for the intermediate reader (no running or complete vocabulary) and the text is not divided into helpful sections. The complete Latin text is given but in a clean form, lightly punctuated and without annotation. Everything is carried in the commentary which again is presented in a plain, uncluttered form; every line is given again in Latin at the head of a brief paragraph of commentary with individual words and phrases picked out in italics. Sentences are written out in full in a literary critical style rather than brief philological notes, with frequent reference to other editions and further reading in articles, as well as comparisons to other texts such as Lucretius and the later books of Virgil’s Aeneid. Textual issues are not discussed at length and the OCT is usually followed.

The main focus of attention in the introduction and commentary is on such contemporary issues and controversies as social and political thought, intertextuality, narrative technique, and gender and sexuality. The way the stories enfold each other and relate one to another is drawn out in the commentary as in the story of Pygmalion, for example, which is examined in relation to the incestuous story of Myrrha which follows it, and the way the Atalanta story is included in the Venus and Adonis episode. The darker elements of the eroticism are emphasised, perhaps at the expense of the lighter ironic Ovid seen by other readers.

Complete books of the Metamorphoses tend to lack modern commentaries, which makes this edition a necessary addition to the library of anyone reading the whole book or at least some of the better-known stories extracted from it. Intermediate students or general readers reviving their rusty Latin are likely to need a more reader-friendly edition beside them if they wish to read this fundamental text.

John Bulwer

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