Howling: Hecuba in Ovid’s Metamorphoses XIII and Beyond
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Hecuba, the ill-fated Queen of Troy, appears in significant literature from Homer’s Iliad to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While the Hecuba of Euripidean tragedy has warranted much attention, Ovid's rendering of her in epic poetry is rather overlooked; this thesis appraises both Euripides’ and Ovid’s version of the Hecuba narrative. By codifying heroic vagueness in the Euripidean tragedies, Hecuba and the Trojan Women, and analyzing the differing depictions of Hecuba in each, the first chapter establishes why Hecuba has remained a compelling figure. Next, by noting Ovid’s change from tragedy to epic, the second chapter considers the influences on the Ovidian approach in Metamorphoses 13.399-57 and compares this approach directly to Euripides’. Through a close reading of the text in Latin, the third chapter discusses the three-fold identity of Hecuba through her three slaughtered children: Hector, Polyxena, and Polydorus. Finally, by considering other instances in Roman poetry, the fourth chapter evaluates the importance of the transformation of Hecuba into a dog in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 13. This thesis concludes that this beastly transfiguration, and the Ovidian Hecuba narrative as a whole, can be read as a commentary on maternal grief, female rage, and feral madness.